Minute #584: Pressure Cooker

“I’m not feeling well, and when I ask for something it means I need it right away,” Mr. Braun said to his spouse. “It’s not easy being laid up in bed, but if no one helps it’s even worse!”

“I’m sorry, dear,” Mrs. Braun said, hiding the hurt she felt inside.“I’ll try to do better next time.”

She’d taken off from her job in order to stay home and care for her husband, yet he didn’t seem to appreciate her sacrifice. If this were an isolated incident, perhaps she would have been able to absorb the complaint without getting hurt. But it seemed that every time her husband was under pressure, overtired, or in a bad mood over a matter totally unrelated to her, she became the victim of ona’at devarim, hurtful verbal abuse. Today’s behavior was not surprising, but it was emotionally painful.

The Torah forbids hurtful speech and our Sages speak of the seriousness of the transgression. Keeping words under control presents a constant challenge. When one is weakened by circumstances, one’s patience may be reduced to a bare minimum. But even so, halachic leniencies are not permitted. Nowhere is there an allowance for not feeling well or being in a bad mood. The emotional and physical condition of the speaker is no justification for causing pain to another.

The best solution is a training program. Just like an athlete can’t train when feeling under the weather, so too, a Jew can’t work on keeping control when in a mood not conducive to patience. The best time to work on “word control” is when you are relaxed and in a good mood. Learn to hold your words a split second longer before releasing them into the atmosphere. Try to apply “verbal brakes” when someone says something with which you don’t agree. Then, when weak, be especially attentive to the words you choose before actually speaking them.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

A good way to cure anger is to fine yourself whenever you get angry. It might be monetary, or it might be denying yourself some treat. This method is sure to make anyone think twice before becoming angry. (Reisheet Chochmah, Shaar Ha’anavah, chap. 3)