In the waning seconds of a championship game following a furious comeback by his team, a coach ensures a loss by exploding at the officials who whistled a player for an infraction.
A husband, receiving a poor evaluation from his work supervisor, carries his frustrations home and verbally assaults his wife and children.A series of childish pranks against his property drives an elderly neighbor to commit a grievous crime.
What do all these situations have in common? In each case the reaction exceeds the situation itself. All - the loss, the assaults - are the direct result of anger unchecked and run amok.
Anger is Satan's tool for halting our eternal growth, for separating us from the Spirit of the Lord.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, that Satan has great hold upon their hearts; he stirreth them up to inquity against that which is good; . . . Satan stirreth them up, that he may lead their souls to destruction. . . . Yea, he stirreth up their hearts to anger against this work. . . . (D&C 10:20, 22, 24.)
Some things are bound to upset us - that's part of living. Things don't always go or turn out the way we planned or envisioned. But if we don't learn how to keep our tempers under control, our explosions into a rage - like the examples cited above - could have dire consequences not only for others, but also for ourselves.
Anger unchecked leads to a loss of reasoning and judgment. It also isolates us from others. Who wants to be around a person who is "blowing up" at the least little thing?
One way of avoiding anger is simply to avoid those places and situations that raise our emotions to the boiling point. But if we can't avoid them, we need to learn better self-control by focusing on the positive aspects of our surroundings and shutting out the negatives - as far as is humanly possible.
Even our Lord and Savior expressed his anger on occasion, but it was a different kind of anger. His was not a raging fury as a result of situations or events. His anger - measured and meted out with purpose - was reserved for those who were violating the sanctity of the temple, who were blaspheming their Father in Heaven, or who made a mockery of sacred things.
Righteous indignation has its place. We have an obligation to defend our religious liberty and our freedom to worship from unwarranted attacks launched by thoughtless elements in society. We should abhor cases of injustice against fellow human beings or abuse against spouses and children. We are mindful that rebukes of inappropriate behaviors should be "followed by an outpouring of love" to a brother or sister. That helps us focus on wrong behavior while at the same time reaffirming the goodness of individuals.
Another way to avoid anger is to channel it to some constructive purpose. Elder Charles W. Penrose, an apostle and later counselor to Joseph F. Smith, turned a false accusation against him into a poem, which later became one of our hymns: "School Thy Feelings," (Hymns 336.)
Reflecting on the event that led to his penning the words, Penrose wrote: "This hymn was not intended for singing; it was written for myself. . . . I had been insidiously accused, not openly, but certain things had been said about me and my presidency of the Birmingham Conference . . . and this touched me to the heart. I did not know how to bear it. Weltering under these feelings I sat down and wrote that little poem, right from my soul, and intended it for my self. . . . President Brigham Young . . . later told me that he had it read to him several times when he had a deputy marshal guarding him in his house." (Our Latter-day Hymns, pp 323-24.)
Later Elder Orson F. Whitney, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, expressed this thought: "Here was one who knew himself to be
falsely, basely slandered,' pleading not with his accuser but with himself against the passing of condemnationon friend or foe.' Except for the infamy of his act, I could almost thank
the accuser of the brethren' for thatquiet slander' which wounded the poet's sensitive soul and gave us as the indirect and unintended result this beautiful hymn."
School thy feelings; there is power
In the cool, collected mind.
Passion shatters reasons tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind.
Wound not willfully another;
Conquer haste with reason's might;
School they feelings, sister, brother;
Train them in the path of right.