Often when we’ve been hurt, our first response is to get angry; to want to punish someone as much as we feel we’ve been hurt, but Baha’u’llah teaches:
Anger doth burn the liver: avoid [it] as you would a lion.1
I used to think this meant I shouldn’t feel anger at all, but I don’t think that’s what it means. If we just ignore the lion (our anger), it will attack! If I’m in a jungle and I see a lion, I would be foolish to deny its existence. No – first I say: “There’s a lion, what should I do now?”
The idea of comparing anger to a lion is a really good analogy and one can draw a lot of parallels, so I Googled “How to Prevent a Lion Attack” and this is what I found:
Preventing an Attack
1. Be alert and pay attention
First we have to know the terrain we’re travelling through – if it’s lion country (known catalyst for anger attacks), we might want to take a guide with us (the Baha’i Writings).
We’re told to read the Writings morning and night and there’s a reason for that. It plants the right ideas and thoughts in our hearts so that we can call upon them when we need them.
The Word of God may be likened unto a sapling, whose roots have been implanted in the hearts of men. It is incumbent upon you to foster its growth through the living waters of wisdom, of sanctified and holy words, so that its root may become firmly fixed and its branches may spread out as high as the heavens and beyond.2
2. Pen your livestock at night and put up an electric fence
How do we ‘pen’ ourselves up against other people’s anger?
Abdu’l-Baha gives us some good ideas:
If you seek immunity from the sway of the forces of the contingent world, hang the ‘Most Great Name’ in your dwelling, wear the ring of the ‘Most Great Name’ on your finger, place the picture of Abdu’l-Baha in your home and always recite the prayers that I have written. Then you will behold the marvellous effect they produce. Those so-called forces will prove but illusions and will be wiped out and exterminated.3
This prayer is the best way I can think of to erect a protective perimeter:
O Lord! Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed. Verily, Thy protection over all things is unfailing.4
3. Do Not Feed the Animals!
There’s a wonderful story going around the internet, and it goes like this:
An old Cherokee told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”
The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.” ((The Nanticoke Indian Tribe))
Abdu’l-Baha tells us what to do with angry thoughts:
When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love.5
4. Install motion-activated security lights to discourage them from staying
People don’t have a reason to fight back if they feel they are heard, and there’s no better way to let someone feel heard than to choose your words carefully, and make them as mild as mother’s milk.
Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible… Therefore an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility.6
Anger alerts us to an injustice, so that we can recognize it and take action. It’s there so we can pay attention to something that needs to change. So there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle anger:
If he exercises his anger and wrath against the bloodthirsty tyrants who are like ferocious beasts, it is very praiseworthy; but if he does not use these qualities in a right way, they are blameworthy.7
We’re allowed to defend ourselves:
A hitherto untranslated Tablet from Abdu’l-Baha points out that in the case of attack by robbers and highwaymen, a Bahá’í should not surrender himself, but should try, as far as circumstances permit, to defend himself, and later on lodge a complaint with the government authorities. A statement in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian indicates that in an emergency when there is no legal force at hand to appeal to a Baha’i is justified in defending his life.8
There is a difference between how an individual is to react to an injustice (forgiveness, pardon); and how an institution is to do the same (protect and administer justice):
Then what Christ meant by forgiveness and pardon is not that, when nations attack you, burn your homes, plunder your goods, assault your wives, children and relatives, and violate your honour, you should be submissive in the presence of these tyrannical foes and allow then to perform all their cruelties and oppressions. No, the words of Christ refer to the conduct of two individuals toward each other. If one person assaults another, the injured one should forgive him. But the communities must protect the rights of man.9
When it’s all over, we have a right to ask the appropriate institutions to intervene:
A Baha’i should not surrender himself, but should try… to defend himself, and later on lodge a complaint with the government authorities.10
If I was to sum up what I’ve learned about the parallels between anger and lions it would be:
use a Guide; be alert; take measures to keep yourself safe; take the right kind of action; and get help from the authorities.
- Baha’u’llah, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460 [↩]
- Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p.93-94 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, Lights of Guidance, p. 520 [↩]
- The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 133 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 29 [↩]
- Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 172-173 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 320 [↩]
- Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 117 [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, pp. 270-271 [↩]
- Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 117 [↩]