Recently, an email friend sent me a sad letter about some hard things going on in her home. She related how anger and temper issues with her dad are causing her fear and heartache. As a teen, she doesn’t know what to do. But she feels the weight of the imbalance in the family.
I guided her to President Thomas S. Monson’s talk titled “School Thy Feelings, Oh My Brother”, and prayed that peace could replace turmoil.
We all feel angry and upset at times. But how we choose to react to those feelings brings the joy of self mastery, or the poison of spreading contention.
Specifically today I am thinking of the blessings received when we master our anger, and refuse to allow temper to pound away at relationships.
Learning to better ourselves in any subject is much like attending classes at school. We know little at first. But as we are tutored in concepts and terms and do our homework, we become trained for higher spheres.
Our mortal schooling allows us to practice. Sometimes harder to ‘ace’ than classes in math, science, and the like, topics on feelings, emotions and attitudes fill many of our earthly tutoring sessions. Like anger management.
Don’t pitch a fit
Pitching a fit as a little one does not morph well into teen years or adulthood.
And while parents deal with little feelings, guiding their babies in this important schooling, no one enjoys seeing – or dealing with- a peer, parent, child, or friend who has lost their temper.
Losing our temper infers that we put it somewhere and forgot where we put it. Or that we set it aside, neglecting to note the importance of ‘keeping’ it. Anger replaces temperance, and kindness is ripped apart with wrath. It doesn’t make for a joyful, or a good, laboratory for our fellow classmates!
Psalms 37:8 advises us to “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath.” Temper- and the keeping of it- seems a generic topic worth doing additional homework on, if our current grade is lower than it should be.
Often, folks are much kinder to strangers or acquaintances than to their own close circle of loved ones. Does that mean that, when deliberately chosen, folks can opt to toss out their own impulsiveness instead of words or objects? Replace passion and fury with reason and thoughtful consideration? Oh, how much my email friend yearns for a shift in her own home’s “classroom”!
I love the following story about a little boy whose wise father helped him learn to control his temper.
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally one day the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said “you have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.”
Closing the Wounds
As they say, you can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. None of us wants gaping holes in our relationships. We wouldn’t choose to live with regrets. We want to build love, and sense godliness, and grow goodness. It doesn’t happen magically, but with prayerful effort, time and tutoring, focusing on the prize of “perfect love” that comes with the constant gift of the Holy Ghost. [Moroni 8:26.]
King Solomon wisely offered these words that each of us, on occasion, may want to keep in the front of our files during this earthly school: “ A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Prov. 15:1). If any of us is dealing with the grievous issue of temper’s damage, it is my prayerful hope that we will take on an extra course, doing the homework [in the most literal sense] in order to school our feelings.