We see the heart-breaking, smiling image of a little child who has been shot and killed in a road-rage incident.
We see airline passengers or store customers restrained or arrested because they could not discipline themselves.
We see wrathful, partisan politicians wanting to discredit or destroy someone who has the temerity to disagree with them.
We see people belittled, ridiculed, and taunted on social media when their ideas do not agree with mainstream thinking.
If you read the news each day, you quickly learn that there is a lot of anger out there. People get mad about one thing or another, and many people are mad about several things all at once.
When their anger boils over, it can lead to tragedy, injury, or loss.
People get mad for reasons ranging from true injustice to trivial annoyances. Maybe they were beaten or robbed, they were treated unfairly because they are members of some minority group, they were cheated by somebody they trusted. Or maybe they’re just mad because their morning latte wasn’t prepared the way they like it.
Uncontrolled anger that brings tragedy and spreads venom doesn’t solve any problem. It is the rational, measured response that gets results.
Most of us will acknowledge that uncontrolled anger is not a good thing. But many people will say, “I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am.”
This is an excuse. You can help it. You can change. It may not be easy. Most of us, including me, face one kind of challenge or another that we need to acknowledge and deal with. This takes work. But the alternative is to live a diminished life because we won’t make the effort necessary to change.
None of us, including me, likes to acknowledge this truth. But the longer we go on avoiding it, the more we cheat our best selves.
Anger is damaging in human relationships and cultures not only for what it causes but also for what it prevents. It keeps us from making a better world.
A devil would want us to be angry all the time so that we don’t make the effort to fix what is wrong, whether it is in us or in our circumstances. A loving Father would want us to spend time instead making needed changes so He can bind up our wounds. The doctrine of Christianity is: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). Other faith traditions also teach in their doctrines that controlling and eliminating our own anger gives us greater spiritual and intellectual power.
There is a lesson in modern, revealed scripture that illustrates this. In the Book of Mormon story, a family is warned by God to leave Jerusalem before the Babylonian conquest. As they wander in the wilderness, led by a prophet named Lehi, they must hunt food to survive. When the prophet’s son Nephi—evidently a principal hunter for the group—breaks his fine bow, their situation looks bleak. His brothers become angry at him, angry at their father for leading them into the wilderness, angry at God for their situation. Even Lehi, the leader, becomes discouraged and complains about their circumstances. This changes nothing.
But Nephi’s response is different. He finds some good wood, makes a new bow and arrow, then asks his father to ask God where he should go to hunt for food. God answers. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 17:18-32.)
Nephi showed faith and willingness to act, and God responded to his need.
God knows there will setbacks in life. They are part of our mortal journey. He wants us to overcome them. But there is little He can do to help us when we’re mad and taking our anger out on the rest of the world. In that emotional state, we aren’t able to hear what He would whisper to us through His Holy Spirit.
After decades of experience in mortality, I am still learning that if I will repent of my anger and humbly ask for His help, He will speak to me in the way best suited to my needs. It may be through someone else, but He will hear and help me.
What about you? What are you so mad about? Would you like help with your problem, or do you just want to go on pouting about it? Are you willing to change?