The danger of anger

Anger. Danger.

Except for one letter, these words are the same. As in spelling, so it is in life: anger, added upon, becomes danger.Anger, left uncontrolled and allowed free rein, may lead us into dangerous situations physically, socially, emotionally and, perhaps most perilously, spiritually.

If we act out of anger, we run the risk of endangering our own or someone else's physical safety. If we speak in anger, we might bring to a bitter end social ties we once cherished. If we allow anger to drive our minds and emotions, we might discover it has overrun our spiritual inclinations.

There may be times we feel that giving voice or action to our anger is justified. If so, let us remember the counsel of Brigham Young:

"We often hear people excuse themselves for their uncouth manners and offensive language, by remarking I am no hypocrite,' thus taking to themselves credit for that which is really no credit to them. . . . When my feelings are aroused to anger by the ill-doings of others, I hold them as I would hold a wild horse, and I gain the victory. Some think and say that it makes them feel better when they are mad, as they call it, to give vent to their madness in abusive and unbecoming language. This, however, is a mistake. Instead of its making you feel better, it is making bad worse. When you think and say it makes you better you give credit to a falsehood. When the wrath and bitterness of the human heart are moulded into words and hurled with violence at one another, without any check or hindrance, the fire has no sooner expended itself than it is again re-kindled through some trifling course, until the course of nature is set on fire;and it is set on fire of hell." (Journal of Discourses, 11:255.)

President Young also counseled: "Do not get so angry that you cannot pray; do not allow yourselves to become so angry that you cannot feed an enemy - even your worst enemy, if an opportunity should present itself." (JD 5:228.)

In more recent years, President David O. McKay said:

"One chief purpose of life is to overcome evil tendencies, to govern our appetites, to control our passions - anger, hatred, jealousy, immorality. We have to overcome them: we have to subject them, conquer them, because God has said: `My spirit will not dwell in unclean tabernacles, nor will it always strive with man.' " (October 1950 general conference report.)

With the goal before us to become perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect, some of us might try to justify acting upon our anger by citing references to the Savior's demonstrations of His righteous indignation. Yet but once or twice only did He give rein to righteous anger. Both occasions were when He drove from the temple desecrating money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals. (See Matt. 21:12-13, Mark 11:17, and John 2:14-15.) The scriptures contain numerous references to the anger of the Lord being kindled against the unrighteous, but we are told specifically that vengeance is His alone. (Rom. 12:19 and Mormon 8:20.) The expression of anger, apparently, is one emotion the Lord reserves for Himself.

In many instances, anger surfaces unprovoked. Alexandre Dumas demonstrated this in one of his novels of the 19th century, The Three Musketeers, in which he wrote of the leading character: "D'Artagnan considered every smile an insult, and even a look a provocation. Therefore, his fist was doubled [during his journey] from Tarbes to Meun; and, from one cause or another, his hand was on the pommel of his sword ten times a day. . . . Even the slightest smile was sufficient to rouse the anger."

In the book Gospel Standards, President Heber J. Grant recounted an experience in which he, as a young man, became angry when he was paid much less than what he should have been paid for work he had done for a man. He mentioned the incident to an older friend, who asked, "Did that man intend to insult you?" President Grant said he replied, "No. He told my friends he had rewarded me handsomely."

To this the friend replied, "A man's a fool who takes an insult that isn't intended."

We are told, "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." (Prov. 16:32.)

Anger is a dangerous tool, one that is used to destroy rather than to build. Let us learn to control and subdue it, or, better still, not even give it life.

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