16.22 – Anger makes our response to a problem a bigger problem than the problem itself
When someone wrongs us, it is natural to feel angry. Yet just because it is natural doesn’t make it desirable.
Of course, neither is it desirable to be passive amidst injustices; we need to be assertive and do what we can to set the situation right. But our response should alleviate the problem, not aggravate it.
And anger almost always aggravates the problem. When we become angry, we frequently lose control of ourselves. Or more precisely anger takes control of us using a provocative situation as a front.
And then anger makes us do things that we would never do normally. Things that may break others’ hearts. Things that may become lifelong wounds in our relationships. Things that we may regret for years.
In addition to all these long-term fallouts, anger extracts a heavy cost in the short-term too. After giving us a fleeting feeling of control and power, anger abandons us, embarrassingly and distressingly ensnared in a predicament worse than the original problem.
In fact, anger sometimes does worse than worsening the existing problem. Anger may create an entirely new problem – a problem that is bigger than the original problem. The original problem may might have been an unpleasant situation, but our angry response that starts off as a justified expression of displeasure (“I can’t tolerate such uncleanliness”) soon transmogrifies into a heart-breaking character attack (“You are a lousy fool, a shameless rogue, a wretched curse in my life”).
No wonder the Bhagavad-gita (16.21) cautions that anger is one of the gates to hell – it propels us into hellish situations even in this world. Therefore the next verse (16.22) urges us to meticulously avoid the insidious influence of anger and thereby become free to act in our enlightened best interests.
The man who has escaped these three gates of hell, O son of Kunti, performs acts conducive to self-realization and thus gradually attains the supreme destination.