This morning in family scripture study we read part of 1 Nephi 2. Verses 18-19 touched me and reminded me of of some lessons I have been learning over the years–especially in recent years–and thought I would jot down some of my thoughts about dealing with anger, hurt and sadness.
When I was growing up, anger was sometimes modeled as a way to deal with conflict. That led me to never want to resolve problems with anger. But when I grew up, I discovered that I hadn’t learned quite what to do when feelings of anger bubbled up and wanted to burst out. I could see that when I get hurt, I needed have to find helpful ways to deal with my emotions.
I’m grateful for the Book of Mormon and other resources that have been illumanting my path to learning how to deal with anger and other negative emotions. Nephi, as demonstrated in our morning study, showed that when someone acts out in anger towards me, I might grieve over that experience. I can go to God with that grief just like he did. God can speak peace to my heart just like he did to Nephi’s.
I had an experience wth this just recently. I was in a situation where someone made some comments that I felt very sad about. It was a deep sadness at first, but I knew the person wasn’t deliberately trying to hurt my feelings. So I prayed for help. Help came to my heart. Healing, inspiring thoughts came to my mind. I cried about it. I told Heavenly Father about it. I talked to my husband about it. I let myself hurt for a while. Then the next day I went to church. There was a talk that someone prepared that I knew was inspired just for me. I’m sure it blessed everyone else, too, and maybe there were others who needed to hear specifially what was said, but I knew that Heavenly Father had sent that person–who had no idea of my recent experiences–to speak comfort to my heart. Other kindnesses and tendermercies followed that week that ministered to my heart. I knew Heavenly Father was sending the love, healing and comfort I had prayed for–even more than I expected!
Following are a few more of the lessons I feel like Heaven has been trying to teach me over the years. I’m still practicing and trying to learn. I’m such a novice, so I am not at all suggesting you use me as a model of patience, love, forgiveness and kindness! But here are my thoughts (quotes that have influenced my thinking will follow the ideas I list):
- Anger is a choice. Being offended is a choice. Staying angry, offended or hurt is a choice. This reality came to me as a surprise. I knew it was true when I could switch from being upset with a family member to hearing the phone ring and answering the call with a cheerful, happy voice! I saw that I could control my emotions and responses much more than I was. While I don’t choose the things people say or do to me, just like we don’t always cause an injury we receive, I get to decide how to deal with that injury. I can get the help I need to begin the healing process immediately, or I can wait, allow something to fester and enlarge and get infected. That’s the wonderful part of emotional hurt! I can be healed from it, because Christ is right there on hand always. He’s like a personal EMT. I can start getting help as soon as someone does something hurtful! Isn’t that amazing?
- The way we view others has everything to do with how we respond to potential offenses. When I believe that someone isn’t truly intending to hurt me, I can frame their “junk” or unkind behavior in a way that allows me to emotionally detach myself from their behavior and not take it as a a personal attack. This seems to be the rational way of looking at a problem. Since becoming a parent, it has become easier to see that a problem always has at LEAST two sides. So, as a parent, it is easier to objective (rational, logical) when I have two children at odds with each other. If I can distance myself from the hurtful behavior, and view the other person as someone who is struggling themselves, it makes it easier for me to love, forgive, and treat them with kindness.
- We all mess up. No one is perfect. We all say things that are thoughtless or could be misconstrued. I know I have offended others without even knowing it! I may have excluded someone that we should have included. I do dumb stuff. When I began to see myself as someone who messes up and hurt others, too, and not just as a victim, I started watching my own behavior more so that I could repent of stuff I did wrong and began feeling more compassion for others when they mess up.
- If I think someone has been offended by me, I need to go to them and ask what happened and apologize sincerely. It can be very humbling to think that I might have been the reason why someone is hurting and being rude to me, if that makes sense. So when I have tried to reach out in love to family members or friends when there is tension in the relationship, I have learned that I do have reasons to apologize. Again, this is humbling. I’ve learned that there are LOTS of reasons to be humble!
- If someone has hurt me, and I need healing, I can go to the Savior, who always has my back. He doesn’t take sides, and He loves everyone. He knows how to minister to both parties and how to tailor the prescriptive healing. If I will do my best to reach out in love and forgiveness to the person who behaved in a potentially hurtful way, He can begin to heal and strengthen me immediately.
- With God’s help, I can address a problem with someone–if it’s truly needed. If I have a problem that I feel I really need to address with someone, I can prepare spiritually and approach them in a spirit of love and earnest desire to understand, and God will help us to work things out. This doesn’t mean that every problem gets resolved immediately. I have found that resolution might take hours, days, weeks, or even years to happen. I have to put my personal agenda and impatience aside. I can’t have a pity party. It can’t be “all about me.” Sometimes there is a need for frank, open discussion and sometimes there is a need to hold my tongue. I have learned that it never helps to speak unkindly to someone. I tried that one time recently, venting my hurt and anger on the offender. I left feeling worse than ever. I realized that I hadn’t done things in the Lord’s way, which is always better. Thankfully, God is patience, tolerant and forgiving, so He helped me see that the next time I had a beef with someone, I needed to go to Him first and try kindness, service, tolerance, and long-suffering. He keeps a balance sheet so we don’t have to. We can focus on loving, no matter how hard it is.*
- The way we communicate about a problem matters. Yelling, criticizing, name-calling, or any other unkind behavior is never the way to solve a problem. Kind words, soft voices, patience, deep breaths all make a big difference.
- LOVE IS POWERFUL! The patience, kindness, gentleness, soft answers, tendermercies that I have felt from God through others on earth has taught me that I don’t want to be a person is holds onto anger, to hurt, to bitterness. I’m still learning, but I love to be around people who are loving. I want to be one of those people. I want people to feel accepted, to know that they are important because they are, to want people to know that I love them. What would I do without loving people who have treated me thus?
(*This is not to say that if I were in an harmfully, abusive situation that I would need to stay. We can stand up for ourselves and seek the help we need, which might even mean leaving a circumstance. But in circumstances where someone or some people are just being unkind or hurtful, I am learning that I can be stronger than I know and humbly try to work out problems.)
It has been so humbling for me to recognize how much Heavenly Father loves EACH of his children! He loves the ones who are hurting and the ones who are causing the hurt–on purpose or not! I have had opportunities to feel that He wants each of us to come to His Son to be healed and to get the help we need. It really helps if I focus on myself and let Him worry about fixing the ones who are struggling in a way that feels hurtful.
SCRIPTURES AND QUOTES
Here are some of the scriptures and quotes that have helped me learn about developing emotional control through agency, repentance, forgiveness, and healing through the atonement of Jesus Christ:
“Having compassion on those who are hurting for whatever reason and then translating the response of the heart into the needed act is truly ministering as God would have us do.” (Joy F. Evans, “Lord, When Saw We Thee An Hungered?“)
“It is reported that President Brigham Young once said that he who takes offense when no offense was intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense was intended is usually a fool. It was then explained that there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.” (Elder Marion D. Hanks, “Forgiveness“)
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
Proverbs 15 contains a real key to problem-solving in the Lord’s way, in my experience:
“1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.”
Matthew 17:21 helps me remember that I have to prepare spiritually before trying to resolve something that feels huge to me:
“20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
This scripture in 1 John 4:20 always gets me:
“20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
These two verses in Matthew 5 or 3 Nephi 12:23-25 helped me to recognize that if someone has done something hurtful, I’m not supposed to run to them and tell them off. But if someone seems to have an issue with me, I need to approach them to find out what I can do to resolve the situation with kindness and love. Again, it is that focus on “What do I need to do to repent?” instead of the Law of Moses “an eye for an eye” way:
“23 Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—
24 Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purposeof heart, and I will receive you.”
I love this passage of scripture in D&C 50 that helps us recognize that we need to have the Spirit with us when we do anything, including seeking to resolve problems, or we aren’t doing it in the Lord’s way:
“13 Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?
14 To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforterwhich was sent forth to teach the truth.
15 And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified?
16 Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.
17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
20 If it be some other way it is not of God.
21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoicetogether.
23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
24 That which is of God is light; and he that receivethlight, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
25 And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;”
We can recognize when we have contention in our hearts instead of the Spirit by the way we feel. I love this description in Elder Robbins’ talk “Agency and Anger,” which was a game-changer for me:
“Satan is the “father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Ne. 11:29; emphasis added). The verb stir sounds like a recipe for disaster: Put tempers on medium heat, stir in a few choice words, and bring to a boil; continue stirring until thick; cool off; let feelings chill for several days; serve cold; lots of leftovers.”
In my experience, any time I try to correct a situation ourselves by telling someone what they are doing wrong, I am probably not being motivated by the Spirit of God!
Mostly likely, that is my desire to exercise “unrighteous dominion” over someone, whether it is my husband, a child, a family member, or a friend!
These verses in D&C 121 have helped me understand this idea:
“34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kickagainst the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fightagainst God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when movedupon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”
I feel like when I am trying my very best to love as the Savior loves and forgive and keep his commandments–albeit imperfectly–He will fight my battles for me:
“37 And I, the Lord, would fight their battles, and their children’s battles, and their children’s children’s, until they had avenged themselves on all their enemies, to the third and fourth generation.” (D&C 98)