A sage with his disciples
By Salma Tahir
June 3, 2023 05:16 PM
A sage, with his disciples, was taking a morning stroll by the Ganges River and chanting the holy names. There was a couple at a distance, they were distressed and shouting at each other. It turned out, that the man’s wife had lost her gold necklace while taking a dip in the Ganges. Her husband unleashed a flurry of filthy slurs and she was shouting back no less irate.
The Saint turned to the couple, smiled and asked. “Why are you shouting in anger?”
The couple thought for a while, one of them said, “Because we lose our calm, we shout.”
“But, why do you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell her what you have to say in a soft manner,” asked the saint.
The husband and wife were baffled, groping for some satisfactory answer but had none to offer. Anticipating their exasperation, finally, the Saint explained, “When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover the distance they must shout to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that distance. What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at one another rather talk softly, because their hearts become very close. The distance between them is either very small or nonexistent.”
The saint continued, “When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. That is how close two people are when they love each other.”
He looked at the couple and said, “So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant. Do not say words that distance each other more. Or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.”
The communication and the closeness of the hearts is a fine analogy in the story. Studies show that yelling and shouting are tantamount to verbal abuse that breaks down social interactions. The effects of a spouse yelling at his or her counterpart lead them to believe that their feelings are no longer valued and important. In any relationship, screaming at your partner exhibits sheer disrespect which ultimately turns into a frenzied mutual sour relationship.
The basis for any relationship has to be based on love and without respect, how can love blossom? We tend to shout when we do not feel heard. The louder our voice gets, the louder the respondent must speak to be heard. This triggers the snowball effect whereby the shouting match becomes like a challenge with both parties trying with all their might to yell louder in a bid to be heard. I greatly relate to and appreciate this insightful story. Being gentle and kind in demeanour and the spoken word is mandated in Islam too where the Holy Quran states in 1.19 “Be modest and lower thy voice. Indeed, the harshest of voices is that of a mule.”
Christ was not indignant even when crucified on the cross. Buddha did not get cross when he was spat at. Does this imply that the torment they were subjected to was just; was right or somehow clearly apt? Certainly not. There was a hidden message of tolerance and peace as to why all the greatest saints, messengers and messiahs shunned anger to choose to calm above everything else. Peace and harmony is said to be the only true religion.
Yelling is a topic relevant to every person on this planet because we all are guilty of raising our voices in anger during our lifetime. Some people yell when provoked whilst there are others who yell on a regular basis without any stimulation. Look around you. We shout and rant when we are angry to the extent that we do not wish to hear what the other person has to say. When in love, we can do with soft caressing whispers because the other person is listening to us intently, thereby deepening the bond. The core reason of us losing our temper is rooted in fear; a fear that our perspective or in other words the paradigm that the other is offering, as we see it, is threatening to ours.
As a consequence, we then distance ourselves and strive to prove the other wrong, bad or even evil rather than honouring the other person by merely listening and trying to interpret their stance. We have this tendency to then hold the other responsible for the unpleasantness and blame them without taking responsibility for our end of the communication. It takes two to tango, right? Anger is basically a person’s boiling point. Take the example of water in a bowl on the stove for which boiling shall be the natural outcome. What does one do to cool down this water, we turn off the stove flame. Similarly, when our lid is let loose on enragement, we hold the regulator within us. If someone is trying to fuel our anger, it is us though, who have the power to turn the knob to control the anger barometer. We have it in our control to either remain warm, lukewarm or boiling hot.
However, when someone is constantly yelling at us in life, they are displaying emotional tyranny over us. Their goal is to gain an upper hand in the situation and the yelling is their means of gaining control over us. It is a form of intimidation. The yelling may work temporarily. However, the long-term sustainability of the results from yelling is not healthy. Because it is a way of bullying someone into getting them to do what the yeller wants to be done. Yelling is not healthy for relationships, in fact, it breaks down healthy communication and the closeness of relationships. Some argue that anger is the other side of love. Well, this is not really true. Anger is actually the flip side of acceptance and the opposite of peace.
One gets angry when we are not at peace with ourselves. Only two extreme emotions, that of love and hate, can be accurately and conclusively described and expressed, and it has been that way since the beginning of time. Love is the foundation of our being; love is what sustains us. Our identity is derived from love. We may attribute our getting angry and yelling a lot to ever-increasing stress levels of the challenges that life throws at us.
There are ways to react to a yeller that will help diffuse their temper rather than continue to escalate the situation. A peaceful heart can choose to practice listening wholly as the only way to put a stop to this yelling match as one committed listener can choose to act sensible, listen quietly and then respond in a calm manner. Therefore, one committed unemotional listener can quieten the yelling party. However, any warranted or unwarranted anger should ring an alarm bell, a warning signal that something in your life needs to change. Victims who experience emotional abuse because of yelling with the perpetrator showing no sincere effort to stop doing so, they then need to stand up for themselves and clearly communicate to the abuser that such behaviour is intolerable.
If victims give in to such abuse on a long-term basis, they are acting as enablers rather than setting in the realisation that such behaviour is inappropriate and how it negatively impacts their relationship, creating an emotional chasm between partners/spouses. If they respond with “that’s just who I am” let them know that this is not acceptable and they shall have to change their behaviour. Professional medical help such as therapy, counselling, or anger management classes is available for people who have issues with yelling. They need to recognize that the problem is affecting their relationship and change is needed in order to heal the relationship.
Speaking with love can have a long-lasting relationship and make bonds stronger than speaking harshly. It takes years to form relationships and trust, but one small action is taken in the heat of the moment to break them.
Losing our temper is when our reptilian brain, the reactive, irrational part of our brain is in action. We yell, throw in the kitchen sink, have difficulty listening to what the other person says and find it hard to be consoled. It rarely goes well. No wonder the wise say the best answer to anger is silence!