Who Are You Mad at Today?
Written by
Sheryl Sorrentino
February 2013
Written by
Sheryl Sorrentino
February 2013

I have been doing a great deal of Internet research on Islam for my upcoming fourth novel, Stage Daughter. Aziz, one of three main characters, is a Muslim man, so I have been undergoing a crash online course to better understand how he might think, feel, and react in different circumstances. When not worried about dark-suited CIA agents appearing at my doorstep, I have learned some rather interesting things.

Naturally, all religions have their more bizarre teachings and their more extremist followers (a fringe element of virtually every religion will always twist the so-called “word of God” to suit their petty needs and perspectives). But one edict of Islam struck me as particularly sound: The “three day rule.” If I understand correctly, Muslims are taught that they should not argue or avoid one another for an extended period of time. If two people have a disagreement, they can observe a brief “cooling-off period.” But after that, “The better of them is the one who is the first to greet the other.”

There is great wisdom in this edict. Even during my most heated arguments with my husband, I have found it physically and emotionally impossible to fuel my anger for longer than three days. It takes a lot of energy to stay mad, and we hand over our precious inner peace with the effort of maintaining our grudges, however justified we may perceive them to be. Anger gives the other person dominance over us; we grant them that power by harboring acid in our guts and throttling our hearts with resentment. Nine times out of ten, the other person doesn’t feel culpable and doesn’t especially care; when I simmer in my fiery juices, it is a stew purely of my own making.

I have read that hatred can make us internally ill, and I believe it. It has become fairly well established that happiness is a necessary component of good health, and it is impossible to be happy while fuming. We squander precious time and energy being angry, dreaming of revenge, and blaming others while remaining blind to our own failings. Because this is a shared human frailty, I can only imagine the ripple effect we could have on the planet if we each made today’s goal the elimination of bitterness from within our individual hearts. “When we open our hearts and pardon others, we are granting ourselves an inner peace.” “We think that hatred is a means of revenge against those who have harmed us, but by begrudging them we are only harming ourselves.” “Our enemies will never feel our anger, because they live contently as we suffer.”

Stage Daughter is all about forgiveness. Every character in my story must forgive and be forgiven. Just as my twelve-year-old protagonist, Razia, is not quite ready to “revert” to Islam to appease her Muslim father, neither am I about to jump on this—nor any other—religious bandwagon. However, in researching Muslim views on forgiveness, I am grateful to have stumbled upon these very sound and beautiful quotes, among others. At a time when religious conflict is at an all-time high (and Muslims are the target of a collective national angst), Islam’s simple philosophy of tolerance and absolution provides a much-needed reminder of the basic humanity we all share in common.


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