The Story of the Angry Man

This is one of my favorite stories that I’ve told clients over the years, as they struggle to manage their anger at others or at the world in general.  Every time I tell it, I get the same reaction from the client that I felt when I first heard it. It seems so simple, yet we humans have a way of really complicating things:

One day Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake.”

Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead, he asked the young man “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”

The man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me because I bought the gift.”

The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger.

If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you.

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So when you find yourself grappling with anger, I hope you’ll remember this story, and that regardless of what the situation involves or what the person has done, the anger belongs to YOU. Even though you have no control over anything or anyone else, you are the one who must decide what to do with that feeling. You can decide to use it against others; to stuff it so that it will come up again the next time something goes in a direction you didn’t intend; or you can allow yourself to feel it all the way through and then make a rational decision as to whether you’re ready to let it go, or put that energy to use it for a more constructive purpose.