I've always wondered what I would sound like when I finally got frustrated enough to let loose. Frankly, I was a little disappointed.
I've normally been one to reserve my emotions considerably. Occasionally, I would express frustration within a small circle of close friends and family, perhaps, but never to the point where I would say things I regret, or lose control of my better judgement. I never swear, much to the amazement of old high school friends. I used to tell them that swearing too much lessens the value of swearing; I explained that because swearing was so common for them, they'd have no vulgarities to express themselves when they were really feeling frustrated. Everyone knew that if they heard me swear, it would mean that I was extremely angry, because such language had never been heard from my lips before. Fortunately, no one ever had to hear it, because nothing ever angered me enough to even raise my voice. All those years of reserved emotion made me unsure as to whether I could even express myself if I needed to.
It finally came crashing down last week, after the pressures of sustaining a half million dollar project by myself caught up with me. And when I got to that point, unloading all that had accumulated, I was rather surprised at how polite it all was. Still apologetic, my voice no louder than ever before, I worried that my faint plea for help lacked the urgency that raw anger brings with it. It almost felt like a waste, that even in my worst moments, I still came across as quiet and reserved. I had seen others explode before; yes, they would say stupid things, but they were definitely heard. At the very least, it was always a spectacle to see the energy and passion that came from those outbursts, even if the consequences were ultimately against their favour. My own outburst was almost laughable in comparison.
An impending flight cut short my rant, which was probably for the better. I didn't say everything I wanted to, but perhaps I would've let something regrettable slip in if given the time. As I struggled to find sleep over that flight, I thought to myself, was my sorry excuse for frustration even worth it? What was I so upset about anyway? Reviewing all that I had gone through, it all seemed so trivial and inconsequential. Even my weak expression of exasperation seemed overdone and unnecessary.
Anger can only get one so far. It's an emotion that has a powerful reach, channelling energy we didn't know we had, but it is nearly always destructive. There are the rare people who can translate their anger into positive action, but the majority of us let it consume ourselves. It brings out the worst in us.
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him once said, what could be loosely translated as the strongest man being not the best wrestler, but the one who controls himself when he is angry. It's true. Anyone can develop physical strength, but the passion of rage will conquer that strength every time. Someone who can conquer that rage, to suppress that passion, has done something far more difficult, far more worthy of respect. That restraint will win more battles than rage ever will. Just ask Bruce Banner.
An old mentor of mine once advised me strongly, do not get angry at people. He said that no matter what a person may do to push your buttons, always look for the good in that person. No matter how hard you have to dig, no matter how deeply it may be buried, there is at least some good in everyone, and our job as Muslims is to find that good, and to wish well for that person. That hidden iota of goodness may, after all, be what changes that person forever. The Prophet salAllaho'alayhi wa salam saw good in 'Umar radhiAllahu'anh, for example, even when Umar's sworn mission was to kill the Prophet. Thus, at no point should we hold a grudge against anyone, or wish harm upon anyone, because we never know what good may be found in that person. Our Prophet was sent as a Mercy to the worlds, and consequently this ummah is also one of mercy; we are not an ummah of revenge or vindication. Whether our anger is justified or not, whether it is grave or trivial, conquering that anger with patience will always yield better fruits than succumbing to it.
My own weak outburst left me only mildly satisfied at the time, and is proving now to have been a big mistake. In retrospect, the hour I spent narrating my frustrations will probably cost me a few points in my performance review, and I'll regret it if I get passed up for promotion. One Day, our entire lives will be subject to a performance review, and each moment that we held malice or unwarranted anger in our hearts will likely cost us a few points again. On that Day, however, "promotion" is eternal, and there's no "waiting until next year" if we are passed up.