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Anger and ego stop people from building meaningful relationships.
That extends far beyond interpersonal relationships. Loved ones, friendships, professional and communal – even your relationship with yourself is limited by anger and ego.
Here’s how the Dalai Lama describes the problem in his book How to practice:
On every level – as individuals, and as members of a family, a community, a nation, and a planet – the most mischievous troublemakers we face are anger and egoism. The kind of egoism i refer to here is not just a sense of I, but an exaggerated self-centeredness. No one claims to feel happy while being angry. As long as anger dominates our disposition, there is no possibility of lasting happiness. In order to achieve peace, tranquility, and real friendship, we must minimise anger and cultivate kindness.
Your ego, at its worst, limits your understanding of the world. It narrows your perspective, filtering everything through your own needs and impulses.
Anger, when unrestrained, serves only to protect you from anything that could be perceived as a threat. That, combined with an inflated ego, will set you up for failure every time.
Everyday examples of ego and anger
It can take a lifetime to truly unravel the whys and hows of juiced up ego and anger but, in the short term, sincerity can help.
Here’s an example. You make something, you’re proud of it, and show it to someone you admire. They offer some constructive criticism.
Now, you didn’t expect that – you’re proud of what you’ve made. So, instead of explaining your perspective or needs (or just politely ignoring the feedback), you dismiss it and insult this person you admired.
Your ego stopped you from taking the criticism in stride. And, acting out of anger, you’ve potentially soured a relationship.
Or, maybe, your partner or a friend just plain does something you don’t like. Maybe they ordered some food you don’t care for. Instead of asking if you could order something else (or just rolling with it), you get pissed off at them and say something cruel or get real cold towards them all night.
That’s ego – “how could they ruin my night like that?” – and anger.
Things can change. Sincerely, sincerity.
Those examples might sound banal but they’re common examples of anger and ego holding people back. They’re so pervasive because it’s simple to live that way.
Let’s be real: lashing out in anger is a lot easier than being earnest and honest about why you’re angry. And living in your ego is infinitely more simple than taking a moment to be sincere with someone (even yourself).
It’s much harder to be honest, both with the people around you and yourself. There aren’t many questions more unsettling than “What have I done to get myself in this situation?” if you’re prepared to be real about it.
Sincerity and honesty call for vulnerability and, honestly, courage. Both things that are anathema to ego and anger.
Protection can set you back
Every action has a point. When you act out of ego or anger, you’re often looking to protect yourself.
Maybe you’re using your anger to reestablish dominance over a situation. Maybe you’re using your ego to brush aside someone’s worthwhile critique of something you’ve done.
Maybe you’re afraid. And, rather than approaching that fear with openness, you say “nah”. Indignation and arrogance it is.
That might keep you safe in the short term. But it’ll hold you back from all kinds of growth, both personal and interpersonal. And, more often than not, it’ll lead to worse outcomes down the track.
Sincerity and honesty are your path forward
Your relationships with yourself and with other are, at the end of the day, some of the only things that really matter in the world. No matter your goals, relationships will help you achieve them.
That means working for them. Facing your troubles with honesty and sincerity is the best way to solve them. Doing so will help you build meaningful relationships, improve yourself and create better work.
It might even help you love.
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