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Voices

Let go of your anger and live a happy, contented life

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MARTIN ZAGNOEV

When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, American President Bill Clinton phoned him and asked if he hated the people who kept him in detention for so long. Mandela said no, if he hated them they would still be controlling him.

Faribels (grudges) are more prevalent among South African Jews than they are elsewhere, even though holding onto them makes no sense and makes us miserable.

As we approach the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when we seek and grant forgiveness, it is worth looking at why we tend to hold onto resentments and not want to forgive others.

The “More to Life Weekend” (a life skills course) teaches that there are payoffs for holding onto resentments but there are also costs which make these payoffs costlier than they are worth.

Some of the payoffs are as follows: We get to feel superior over the wrongdoer; we can speak about or even harm them in return and almost feel that we are right; we get sympathy and empathy from others.

We can blame them for our problems and underperform while trying to make it the other person’s fault. We don’t need to be nice, etc.

The costs include stress, bitterness, people avoiding us, loneliness, underperforming and whining.

They rob us of joy and happiness. They create health problems. (Doctors are learning more and more how stress causes disease). Resentments also harm us spiritually; most religions encourage people to love each other. In extreme cases these negative thoughts could break up families and even lead to wars.

It is thus easier to let go of these burdens and to forgive. After all the perpetuator has moved on leaving us to carry the baby or pay the rent. Thus to forgive is almost selfish – it means that we are no longer willing to be weighed down with this hatred. The oldest living person is a Holocaust survivor who decided to let go of his anger.

Forgiveness does not mean that the wrongdoer was right or that we have to remain friends with him. It does mean that we are willing to move on with our lives.

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