Anger, Suffering, and the Fourth Precept

"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small."

The Fourth Precept as interpreted by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Speech is powerful.  It can be both very constructive and unfortunately, very destructive.  Mindful speech can bring happiness; undmindful speech can wreak havoc or kill.

I have anger issues.  There is a lot of pain stored in my mind from years of suffering.  My anger is often unintentionally released and communicated to the most loved people in my life. My relationships suffer.

Speaking while you are angry can be dangerous.  You may say hurtful things that create suffering and harm in your relationships.  Holding in our suffering can be just as dangerous.  I held in my suffering for years and it has bottled up and become a problem in my life.

I have learned that deep breathing and minding my feeling-tones allow me to calm down and return to a level of sanity.  Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which slows our heart rate and reduces our stress levels. Using these practices, we are addressing our anger and touching the suffering with mindfulness, but not ignoring it.  I find that Loving Kindness Meditation assists even further in reducing my anger. It is after this that I should address conflicts, when I feel safe and am less likely to use unmindful speech.

Mindful communication is crucial and takes courage.  I hope that we all take a few moments daily to review the fourth precept and use our speech to mindfully improve our lives, our communities, and the world.

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