Recognizing No One Owes Me Anything
Some of my past anger would be anger at people who behaved me in an unjust manner.
“This person shouldn’t have said that to me,” I would think. Or, “That person shouldn’t have behaved so rudely toward me.” I would harbor anger toward those people and expect an apology or two before I would consider rekindling the friendship or re-establishing contact.
However… after realizing that anger at other people solves nothing, and that the person I damage the most when I’m angry is myself and not anybody else (as I shared in part 2), it got me thinking about how I should immediately work on releasing anger that I was holding toward others, as there was nothing to gain from fuming by myself.
As I pondered for a way to release that anger, I suddenly came to a realization that – hey – there is actually nothing, no reason, no basis, for me to be angry with those people, or anyone in this world for that matter. Why? Because no one owes me anything. Everyone has his/her right to do whatever he/she pleases, and there is no reason why I should expect him/her to behave otherwise.
Meaning, if so-and-so person rebukes me rudely, there is nothing for me to feel angry about because it’s not like he/she has a responsibility to be polite to me. If so-and-so person does me wrong, sure it wouldn’t feel pleasant at all for me, but there is nothing for me to feel angry about because it’s not like he/she has a responsibility to do me right.
So does that mean that I should let people treat me poorly? No, not at all.
It simply means that (a) instead of fuming at random people for one or two petty incidents, I should stop being angry at them and just move on with my life, and (b) I should learn from those encounters and not let them happen again.
So if the original problem was that X person rebuked me, I should learn to stand up for myself (with zero aggression) the next time that happens. Or if the problem was that Y person did me wrong, then I should be more mindful with him/her the next time, and not let him/her back in until that trust is regained. These actions are way more constructive than sitting around, fuming to myself about said individuals and expecting them to apologize, when they don’t owe me any apologies.
The last part of the equation is to stop being angry at myself.
I’ve observed that much of my anger is usually anger at myself for letting certain “atrocities” happen to me.
For example, let’s say I’m angry at a random Y person for being rude to me. While on the surface it may appear that I’m angry with Y, I’m actually really angry at myself for allowing someone to be rude to me. I would feel that I have failed myself, because I have not properly shielded myself from the negative agents of the world. I have not done a good job of protecting myself.
However, is it my fault then? Is it my fault that I had “allowed” Y, or anyone for that matter, to be rude to me?
No, it isn’t. I have simply done the best that I could in that incident. That Y was rude to me, and perhaps hurt me in one way or another, was just an unfortunate outcome. Even if I didn’t stand up for myself during the incident, it would be because of one reason or another, each of which would have its own justification, like not wanting to hurt Y’s feelings and not wanting to be misappropriate in my conduct. Each reason would be justified in its own right.
Rather than hold myself responsible for what had happened and be angry at myself when I had been acting in my best interests, I should work on forgiving myself instead. Whatever it was that I did or didn’t do, I had simply been doing what was best for the situation. There is nothing to be angry about because I had done the best that I could have done in that situation. There was no other way it could have panned out.
Funnily, when I forgive myself about something, I stop feeling angry at the other things and/or people in question. My anger at them have merely been been projections of my anger toward myself all along.
By Brian Nadon