Many published Church manuals make the point that we have free agency in regards to our anger and that most adults use anger as a tool to abuse others and to exercise unrighteous dominion. It follows that the more educated or responsible the adult, the worse the sin of the abuse.
In reflecting on that point, I found three perspectives from which we can view and learn about anger.
The first is the eternal or broad principle perspective. The second is the material or present concern perspective. The third and last is the "nuts and bolts" or daily living perspective.
From an eternal perspective of broad principles, it is important to remember that we must "bridle all your passions" that we may be "filled with love." Alma 38:12 That is, in order for the power and light of God to flow through us, for the knowledge and charity of God to purify us, for true intelligence and grace to sanctify us, we must exercise our free agency and choose to control and curb our passions -- including anger.
From the perspective of the material world we should remember that "Judgment is mine, sayeth the Lord" and that "I will forgive whom I will forgive" D&C 64:10 and that "God is not mocked." Galatians 6:7 Letting go of our anger does not cut short the reach of justice nor give a benefit to anyone other than ourselves. For those who have wronged us and who have not repented, there is far more than our anger, for their sufferings shall be sore "how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not." D&C 19.
Indeed, regardless of our intent in forgiving and eschewing anger, "in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire" on those who have done you wrong. Proverbs 25:22; Romans 12:20. The material man and the present concerns can ask for no more.
Finally, there are the "nuts and bolts" of anger. The practical and direct matters that can be applied in day to day living.
II. DIRECT PERSPECTIVES
A. The gospel directly discusses anger.
..."let every man be ... slow to speak, slow to wrath. For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
B. The spirit of anger is subject to our free agency.
1. Selected scripture references:
"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty..." (implies moral superiority coming from choice or actions).
"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication...."
2 Nephi 28:20
"woe unto all those who tremble and are angry..."
3 Nephi 11:30
"this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of the children of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away."
Always remembering Alma's warning that in the resurrection, "that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." Alma 34:34 (also, cf Alma 3:27).
2. Practical steps:
One way we can deal with the force of our own anger and the anger of others is to exercise and discharge the tension. Taking time to "cool down" or to "work off" anger is a valuable tool in dealing with anger.
Another method, and one often discussed in the scriptures and the guidelines is to talk with those who wrong us. While many of those who exercise unjust dominion have absolutely no desire to talk to anyone about their wrongs (other than to assure that no retribution is sought), many times our anger comes from misunderstanding.
Often our anger comes from our blindness, misunderstanding and sin. In such cases, talking to others in humility can often aid us in repenting and healing.
When faced with anger it is often wise to wait and to delay making any response. Letting things grow "old and cold" before tackling them is often a good way to reduce the emotional force behind them. Waiting often goes hand in hand with the use of exercise to reduce the mental and emotional pressure.
Finally, we can pray and seek divine strength and guidance. The yoke of anger is like iron and drives one to destruction. Christ's yoke is easy and his burden light and it leads to life eternal.
C. The anger of others is most often unrighteous dominion.
Ensign, February 1980, p. 10, Burton Kelly.
"The primary function of anger is to control others. Some people have learned this art very well. They get what they want by becoming loud and angry.... Anger thus has the unrighteous goal of attempting to diminish the freedom of others."
We should feel no guilt or responsibility for the sins of others -- especially when those sins are indulged in for the purpose of manipulating our emotions and our will.
By recognizing what the anger of others is, we can begin to deal with it properly and to improve our lives in spite of that anger.
E. There are alternatives to anger.
"...thou shalt love ... bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"
See also D&C 121:7-11.
"In your patience possess ye your souls." Luke 20:19.
Many people respond with depression, anxiety, fear or confusion instead of anger. Anger is just one of many responses that can be used as a response to almost any stimulus.
Better than any of those responses is patience, gentleness, kindness and love. See D&C 121:41-42 and 1 Corinthians 13:4.
The secret of the sons of perdition is the use of force to get gain. By all manifestations of anger, even to murder, they abuse the righteous, the peacemakers and the children of God. We may choose to join the masters Mahan (cf Moses 5:31) or we can follow Christ in rejecting anger in our own lives, except under extremely controlled and limited guidelines (cf D&C 121:43; D&C 60:2, 63:32, 84:24; Mark 11:15-17).
Like all things in our lives, how we deal with anger is a choice we must make with glory added forever and ever upon the heads of those who chose wisely. Abraham 3:25-26 vs. Alma 40:13.
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