Advantages of Self-Control

There are many astonishing secrets surrounding the human being which is equipped with two great powers: reason and will. Reason is the light which specifies the fate of the human soul in this life. It is considered the representative of man’s factual personality. and is a shining light that illuminates the pages of life. Therefore, without the guidance and supervision of reason we cannot advance on the ever-complex avenues of life.

Man is required to endeavor to control the various feelings which he finds in himself, thus preventing excessiveness or under estimation of these feelings. Reason is the power that demonstrates to us the reasonable method of applying healthy feelings, and from allowing the mighty lusts to lead us into obeying their orders.

In reality, if the light of reason shines on our feelings’ hemisphere it is then guaranteed that the rays of happiness will illuminate the heavens of our live. On the contrary, if we are enslaved by our cravings and captives of our lusts we will be weakened, which would result in our defeat in all walks of life.

As for man’s will, which is one of the most influential moral factors and the strongest way of achieving good intentions and noble hopes, it has strong correlation to the basis of man’s happiness. Man’s will also protects his personality from the reach of filth and the lowliness of life. A strong will is a determining factor in a happy life, it allows man to resist events which can have influential consequences on his life.

The more effort we implement toward strengthening this vital power, the more vigor we achieve in order to obtain moral excellence and to avoid corruption. Our souls, then, become tranquil and protected from disarray.

A western thinker commented on this subject with the following:

“‘There is a beautiful definition of reason, that also implies its balance. This definition is: Reason is the organizing power. This power which like a new type of steering mechanism for cars, prevents both men and women from colliding with each other. It is a system which absorbs great shocks which result from sudden collisions or road irregularities; it offers passengers comfort and assurance even on the toughest roads.”

Crimes are manifestations of unbalanced personalities. When an individual looses control over his reason; he also looses control of his will and over himself. Not only does a person, not ruled by reason lose his role as a productive element in life, but he also turns into a dangerous social member.

Anger makes man like a small stream running between mighty mountains making loud noises Noble men, who enjoy moral excellence, are like great rivers running between swamps and into seas without creating turbulence.

Rough natures need strong wills in order to prevent them from overpowering the soul; or they can force the individual to make hasty decisions at moments of pain or when under pressure, hence leading him into an unnecessary fate.

The Diverse Consequences of Anger

A psychological state which leads one’s nature to divert from its natural path is anger. When it controls and besieges man, anger takes the form of arrogance and removes the barriers which prevent it from entering into man’s will, hence instigating him to harm his opponent without any considerations. The veil of anger blinds the mind and can turn a man into an animal which lacks any realization of reality. This allows him to commit crimes then have everlasting consequences on his life. Yet, when he realizes his mistakes, it is usually when he faces uncalled results and falls in the hole of misery.

This evil trait leads only to sorrow, for its peak does not recede save when the “Blaming Soul” prevails, and turns the person’s lowly deeds into the rage of anger thus causing him to lose his credibility with the judgment of reason and conscience. When the consequences of the judgment of reason appear on an angered man, waves of sorrow coupled with intense pain appear in the heart. Even the body is vulnerable to the adverse consequences of anger, because it is the abode of comfort for the soul.

It should be understood that the power of anger is essential in its correct proportions. Within those proportions, anger is an element of strength and young age. The type of anger which allows man to resist oppression and defend his rights is a humanistic characteristic.

Seeking revenge, which is often associated with anger, fills life with gloominess. If we intend to treat evil with evil at all instances, and revenge from our foes by uttering impolite insults, we would have to waste most of our lives in arguments and controversies. We moreover loose the power of will and bear the humility of weakness.

Man is always subject to error and forgetfulness. Therefore, if our actions instigate someone to become angry, then the best method to obtain his forgiveness is by admitting our mistakes to him.

According to Dr. Dale Carnegie:

“If it becomes clear to us that we deserve punishment or reprehension, then isn’t it better for us to admit our mistakes? Is the reprehension which we direct at ourselves more appropriate and bearable than that which others direct at us? Thus, let us start by admitting our objectionable actions so as to deprive our foes of their weapons. In this manner, we can guarantee up to ninety percent that we will obtain forgiveness and willingness to overlook our mistakes.

Everyone can easily conceal his shortcomings, but it is a noble man who finds a unique sense of honor and pride when he willingly admits his errors; When we are sure that righteousness is on our side, it becomes incumbent on us to prepare a suitable atmosphere to win others to our side. On the other hand, if we are in error, it is our moral obligation to immediately and clearly admit so. After we admit our mistakes, not only do we obtain the excellent results of doing so, but acquire more of a sense of enjoyment than if we had sought revenge.

Man’s heart inherits the light of real happiness and waves of noble feelings from forgiveness. We even prevail over our foes and force them to submit by forgiving their mistakes. It also grants us confidence in ourselves and others, and the light of love and harmony shine from it. Forgiveness leads archenemies to harmonize with each other and overlook disagreement and dissension.

Knowledge is a mean of reducing violence and improving manners. The more a man’s circle of knowledge increases the more the horizon of this thinking increases, giving him more power to resist the traps of lusts. So he becomes patient and more forgiving.

Guidance from the Leaders of Religion

The most effective cure for the disorder known as anger is adherence to the teachings of the Prophets and Imams. The conclusions and studies conducted by physicians, psychologists and philosophers are not totally useless, but they are not comprehensive in removing this disorder.

The leaders of religion have brought our attention, through their wise words, to the dangerous consequences of anger, and the fantastic advantages of suppressing it. Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) said:

“Avoid anger for it brings about reprehension.”

Dr. Mardin has elaborated on this point by saying:

“An angry man (whatever the reason for his anger) realizes the meaningless of his anger after he calms down, and in most cases he feels that he should apologize to those he has insulted. If you accustom yourselves to admitting the uselessness of anger when it occurs, you will reduce the degree of its unwanted consequences.”1

Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) has said:

“Anger is annihilation of the heart of the wise, he who can not control his anger cannot control his mind.” 2

Anger and the frustration which occurs as a result of it have dangerous effects on one’s health. According to health specialists anger can cause sudden death if it reaches certain levels of intensity.

Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) said:

“He who does not restrain his anger, speeds his death.” 3

Dr. Mardin says:

“Do those with weak hearts realize that some frustration can cost them their lives? They may not know it, but should realize that many healthy individuals are victims of instances of intense anger which caused them to die of heart attacks.

“Anger also causes loss of appetite, indigestion, and disturbs both the muscle and the nervous systems for hours or even days. Anger adversely affects all bodily and spiritual functions of the body. Even the nursing mother’s anger can cause dangerous poisoning of her milk.” 4

Dr. Mann says:

“Scientific investigation regarding the philosophical effect on anxiety revealed changes in all the body members; the heart, veins, stomach, brain, and internal glands all change their natural course of functioning during moments of anger. Adrenalin plays the role of burning fuel in moments of anger instead of other hormones.” 5

Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) said:

“Avoid anger, for its beginning is ludicrous, and its end is sorrow.

He also said:

“Anger is a raging fire, he who suppresses it extinguishes the fire, and he who sets it free is the first to burn in it.” 6

The Commander of the Faithful, Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) recommended patience as a tool for resisting anger and avoiding its harmful consequences. He said:

“Guard against the severity of anger, and equip yourselves with patience so as to counter it.”7

And: “Self-control at the moments of anger safeguards you from moments of perdition.” 8

It is even possible for a person to commit murder during moments of anger:

Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) said:

“What is more evil than anger? Surely man can be angered and in turn kill a soul which is prohibited by Allah.”

According to John Markoist:

“Some individuals (with certain psychological problems) minds encounter crime scenes as fast as cinema films. A characteristic of such patients is that in one instant they are thinking about committing a crime and the next they have committed it without hesitation. They are, in other words, instant killers.”9

The Messenger of Allah (S) commanded the following at moments of anger:

“...Therefore, if one of you finds some of this (anger) in himself, if he is standing he should sit, and if he was sitting he should lay down. If he is still angry, he should perform ablution with cold water or bath, for fire can only be extinguished with water.” 10

Dr. Victor Pashi says:

“If a child gets frustrated without you harshly reprehending him, you can suppress his anger by washing him with cold water or wrapping him in a wet or damp cloth.” 11

Dr. C. Robbin has also said:

“Cleanliness of the body has great effect on behavior. Bathing with warm water every morning and evening cleans and relaxes the body and removes boredom and the loss of appetite. It also suppresses any anger which might have been caused by the daily routine. Thus, we may stress the importance of it for the body and for the mind.” 12

As we have previously stated, the leaders of religion have set great examples for us in the following story which was narrated by Ibn Ashoub in his book.

Mubarad and Ibn Aisha narrated that a man from Syria saw Imam Hasan (a.s.) riding a horse and started insulting him. Imam Hasan (a.s.) did not reply to the man. When the Syrian stopped, Imam Hasan (a.s.) proceeded towards him and after cheerfully greeting him said:

“Old man, I believe you are a stranger. Maybe you have confused me with another person. If you ask forgiveness, it is granted to you. If you ask for a means of transportation, we shall provide it for you. If you are hungry, we shall feed you. If you are in need of clothes, we shall cloth you. If you are deprived, we shall grant you. if you are being sought, we shall give you refuge. if you have any need, we shall fulfill it for you. And if you wish to proceed with your caravan be our guest until you leave, it would be more useful to you, for we hold a good position, great dignity and vast belongings.”

When the man heard the words of al-Hasan he cried and said:

“I testify that you are Allah’s heir on His earth. Allah surely knows to whom He assigns His Message. You and your Father were the most resented of Allah’s creatures to me, but now you are the most beloved of Allah’s creatures to me.

The man then directed his caravan and became their guest of the town until he departed while believing in their love. 13

  • 1. Pirozi Fikr
  • 2. Usul al-Kafi v.2, p. 305
  • 3. Ghurar al-Hikam p. 625
  • 4. Pirozi Fikr
  • 5. Usule Ravanshinasi
  • 6. Ghurar al-Hikam p. 71
  • 7. Ghurar al-Hikam p.131
  • 8. Ghurar al-Hikam p. 462
  • 9. Chi Midanam.
  • 10. Ihya’ al- Ulum v.2, p. 151
  • 11. Rahi Khoshbakhti
  • 12. Chi Midanam.
  • 13. al-Manaqib v.4, p. 19