Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. –Buddha
September, for me, is still filled with the childhood feeling of fresh starts. When I was young, it meant new notebooks and a new teacher. As an adult, I continue to sense an opportunity to reboot come September.
In the New York Times, Carl Richards wrote an eloquent piece called “The Cost of Holding On.” He starts with a story about two monks who encounter a rude woman on their journey. The young monk stews and ruminates about how poorly the older monk was treated until finally, hours later, he spoke about it. The older monk said, “I set the woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?” Richard adds:
There is an actual cost to holding onto things we should let go of. It can come in the form of anger, frustration, resentment or something even worse. The question is, can you really afford to keep paying the bill?
Now, as the summer fades, is as good of a time as any to really acknowledge what we have been holding onto from last year or yesterday or earlier this morning that is no longer serving us.
Where do you carry your anger? Your throat, chest, hands, jaw, stomach?
What tools help you let go? Exercise, meditation, music, talking, writing?
Who gets the brunt of your anger? You, strangers, or someone you care deeply about?
What are some things that you are still holding onto? What is the actual cost?
Anger is energy, and it can be exciting even if it is only harming us. But Richards is right: there is a real cost to hanging on. With every exhale we have an opportunity to let go of something we have been holding onto. That will create space for God to rush in with healing and new life. September can feel like a fresh start indeed.