Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. — Proverbs 29:11
Imagine two people who are both bitten by a poisonous snake. The first man takes his knife and cleans out the area of the wound, getting rid of all the venom. This man lives. The second man takes his knife and chases after the snake in order take his revenge and kill it. But before the man can reach the snake, the venom has done its damage, and the man dies.
This story serves as an allegory for how we can deal with hurt and anger in our lives. Proverbs teaches: “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” Only a fool lets anger literally get the best of him. The foolish lash out in rage, and more often than not, say or do something they later regret and can never take back.
A wise person, on the other hand, will go to the source of the wound, examine it, and clean it out. Instead of striking out at others, the wise turn inward, finding the source of the hurt through introspection and prayer. They heal themselves, without hurting others in the process. The wise person turns his or her pain into peace.
Another illustration of this idea involve the two main characters in the book of Esther. The Persian official, Haman, was angered and hurt when Mordecai the Jew refused to bow down to him. In his fury, Haman plotted to kill all the Jews and created gallows on which to hang Mordecai. In the end, Haman’s plan to kill the Jews, the very people to whom Queen Esther belongs, worked against him. Instead, Haman and all his sons are hung on the very gallows he intended for Mordecai.
In contrast, Mordecai and his fellow Jews were also hurt and pained by the unfair deal Haman had arranged with the king to destroy the Jews even though they had committed no crime. However, instead of lashing out, under the guidance of Esther and Mordecai, the Jews turned inward. They engaged in soul-searching, repentance, prayer, fasting, and self-improvement. Ultimately, they were saved and Mordecai became the vice premier of Persia.
We can all benefit from this lesson of turning inward instead of lashing out when angry. Don’t be the guy that hurts himself by trying to get even. Instead, be the one that turns hurt into healing, bringing more peace and deeper understanding of our own souls.
Words spoken in anger last just a minute, but their effects can be felt for a lifetime. A few minutes of restraint can prevent a lifetime of regret.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President