Most of us have been angry at one time or another or have been around someone else that became angry. Many of us have seen or heard of the results of groups of people becoming angry. Many people in the world have the understanding that anger is an acceptable reaction to situations we do not like and that violence and revenge are acceptable ways of dealing with anger. I am writing this essay in the hopes that all of us can learn better ways to recognize and overcome our angry feelings. We all must learn to control these powerful emotions in order to enter God's kingdom.
The scriptures teach us that the Lord does not approve of anger. The Apostle Paul taught, "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Jesus Christ taught the Nephites, "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another
"Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away" (3 Nephi 11:29-30).
President Howard W. Hunter, fourteenth President of the Church, said: "We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ … for that is the way God loves us" (Ensign, May 1992, 61).
Anger is a natural human response, but it can be harmful to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We must learn to overcome anger in order to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Imagine a world where there is no anger. In such a world we would see disagreements being solved more easily. We would see people enjoying more peace and spiritual strength. We would find happier families and neighborhoods, fewer violent crimes, less abuse, little or no divorce, no riots, and possibly no wars.
In learning to control our angry feelings, we must remember that anger is a secondary emotion. We feel something else before we feel anger. We might feel embarrassment. We might feel that we have been treated unfairly. We might be upset because we are not getting our own way. We might be confused or misunderstand the situation.
The important thing that we must understand about anger is that we have a choice on how we will respond to anything. No matter what the reason is that we become angry, we can control how we will act or react.
The scriptures give us counsel about handling anger. "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." (Proverbs 16:32).
"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth" (Colossians 3:8).
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
"For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).
There are several possible ways of dealing with anger. 1) We can choose to wait before we say or do anything. We can count to ten or one hundred or higher if necessary. We can take ourselves out of the area. This gives us an opportunity to think about the situation and possible reasons why something happened. It also gives us an opportunity to calm down. 2) We can talk it out with someone. If we are angry with a person, we should talk with that person if at all possible. We should stay calm but direct. 3) We can pray and ask Heavenly Father to help us deal with the situation. We can also ask him to take away our anger and help us forgive the person or people who have hurt us. I remember a time when I took a problem to the Lord, and the Lord replied with these words, "Think about how _____ feels." 4) We can exercise. Doing a physical activity releases the tension that comes from anger. I remember vigorously vacuuming when angry and feeling great by the time I finished.
One important point that we must remember is that we will gain more satisfaction from controlling our anger that we would seeking revenge or expressing anger in other negative ways. We are each responsible to control our own behavior, and we should let the Lord take care of those who have wronged us.
We can help other people control their anger when we control our own anger. "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).
We must learn to overcome our anger if we want to be more like Jesus Christ. The first step is learning to control our actions when we get angry; the ultimate goal is to learn not to become angry in the first place.
Some people justify their anger by saying that even God becomes angry. The scriptures speak of the wrath or anger of God. Other scripture tells us that Christ was angry when He drove the money changers out of the temple (see Mark 11:15-17). The Lord was totally in control of himself; He did not show any hostility or seek revenge. God's "anger" is sometimes called "righteous anger," and its purpose is to bless God's children, manifest truth, and destroy wickedness.
Jesus Christ is the perfect example of how to act when faced with a difficult situation. Elder ElRay L. Christiansen, who was an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles, stated: "Jesus set the example in personal conduct regarding anger when, although he had been falsely accused and made the subject of railings and mockery, he stood majestically and completely composed before the perplexed Pontius Pilate. He did not retaliate in anger. Rather, he stood erect, poised, unmoved. His conduct was divine. What an example for all of us!
"Listen to these marvelous words of the Savior, the master teacher:
"`Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
"`But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.' (Matt. 5:43-44.)" (in Ensign, June 1971, 38).
The words to the hymn entitled "School Thy Feelings" (Hymns, no. 336) were written in 1869 by Charles W. Penrose, who later became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Penrose had been serving in the presidency of the
Conference of the Church, and he had brought his own furniture to use in the
office. When he was released from the
calling and took his furniture home, he was accused by another Church member of
stealing furniture belonging to the Church.
This accusation hurt Elder Penrose's feelings and made him angry toward
the other man. Elder Penrose initially
wanted to get back at the man, but instead he wrote the words to this hymn to
help himself calm down and control his anger. The words of this hymn can assist us in
learning to control our own angry feelings. (See George D. Pyper, Stories of Latter-day Saint Hymns ,
158-60; see also Orson F. Whitney, `A Hymn with a History,' Improvement Era, Oct. 1924, 1109-12.) England
School thy feelings, O my brother; Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother, But let wisdom's voice control.
School thy feelings; there is power In the cool, collected mind.
Passion shatters reason's tower, Makes the clearest vision blind.
Chorus: School thy feelings, O my brother; Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother, But let wisdom's voice control.
School thy feelings; condemnation Never pass on friend or foe,
Though the tide of accusation Like a flood of truth may flow.
Hear defense before deciding, And a ray of light may gleam.
Showing thee what filth is hiding Underneath the shallow stream.
Should affliction's acrid vial Burst o'er thy unsheltered head,
School thy feelings to the trial; Half its bitterness hath fled,
Art thou falsely, basely, slandered? Does the world begin to frown?
Gauge thy wrath by wisdom's standard; Keep thy rising anger down.
Rest thyself on this assurance: Time's a friend to innocence,
And the patient, calm endurance Wins respect and aids defense.
Noblest minds have finest feelings; Quiv'ring strings a breath can move;
And the gospel's sweet revealings Tune them with the key of love.
Hearts so sensitively molded Strongly fortified should be,
Trained to firmness and enfolded In a calm tranquility.
Wound not willfully another; Conquer haste with reason's might;
School thy feelings, sister, brother; Train them in the path of right.
I know that we must learn to overcome anger if we want to mature spiritually and become more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know that we can pray for Heavenly Father's help in overcoming anger. I encourage all of us to use positive responses the next time we feel angry.