Anger can easily take over one’s mind and behavior. Rather than simply a trait to casually change, anger must be seen as dangerous, a trait we must try to uproot at its source. Why?
Nothing in the universe happens by chance. Every event is an extension of Hashem in the world and a reflection of His Will. Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi ztk’l teaches the only reason a person loses his temper is because he fails to see Hashem in everything. Thus, essentially it is a lack of emuna that leads to anger.
Chazal compares anger to idol worship. Every person is made by Hashem in His image and has inside a tzelem Elokim mimal. Becoming angry at others reflects an act of rebellion towards Hashem by uprising against His creations. Becoming angry at events reflects a failure to see or remember that Hashem controls all events. Hashem orchestrates the events that upset us and causes us to experience a loss of control in order to test us.
When a person is angered, essentially he is serving another ‘god’ – himself and his own needs – as opposed to serving Hashem. Anger is the strongest indicator of arrogance, which is why the Torah teaches, “I [Hashem] and he cannot live together in the same world”.
Hashem is slow to anger and we are instructed to emulate His ways. Let us pay close attention: it does not say Hashem does not get angry, because He does! It is rather that He is SLOW to anger, and thus His anger is more deliberate and controlled, to teach us and help us avoid sin. King Shlomo teaches that we must train ourselves to be gentle-natured because “the words of the wise are heard with gentleness” (Kohelet (9:17). Torah therefore guides us to be patient, to be ‘bendable as a reed’, to work towards inner calm and to strive to be in self-control.
This training does not happen without a strong will and effort. It is a lifelong commitment to “remove anger from your heart and thereby put evil out of your flesh” (see Kohelet ,11:10). However, consistent training of our middot, Torah study and prayer may B”H help us to gradually move away from acting on impulse with anger to a more gentle and G-d-like response. We can fire up our will to overcome any angry outbursts by reminding ourselves that this training of our middot will benefit us not only in this world but more permanently and importantly in the World to Come.