Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Path to Anger and the Path to Peace

I have been working on this model for the path to anger for a number of months, and have shared it with a few people. I would like to admit that in the past, I had a problem with anger and I often expressed it in a passive-aggressive way. With the help of Heavenly Father, I have overcome this tendency almost entirely. This model has helped me tremendously, and I believe it will help you.

Everyone of us experiences anger to some degree or another, and we express it and deal with it in different ways. If you think about it, anger is usually rooted in or grows out of one or more of these four feelings:

  • Frustration
  • Unfulfilled desires
  • Unmet needs
  • Injustice

There are other possibilities, of course, but these four are typical. These feelings, when we accept them at face value, often lead to us anger.

Then the path to anger usually follows this pattern, starting from the endpoint of anger and going backwards:

  • We don't feel anger towards another person unless we first blame them for something they have done or not done that has affected us negatively in some way.
  • We don't blame them unless we first judge them.
  • We don't judge them unless we first feel some form of pride or defensiveness.
  • We don't allow pride into our hearts unless we first betray ourselves.
  • Self-betrayal is accepting some belief or behavior in ourselves that is outside of our standards or values.

Now let me show you the whole model.

  • Self-betrayal. Self-betrayal is accepting a behavior in ourselves that is outside of our standards and is based on a false belief or assumption. Joseph Smith said: "The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power" (Teachings, 181).
  • Pride. Pride enters in and starts us down the path of self-deception and anger. Here is what the Lord says about pride: 
    • "The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee" (Obadiah 1:3). 
    • "Only by pride cometh contention" (Proverbs 13:10). 
    • "He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife" (Prov. 28:25).
  • Judgment. In our pride and growing anger, we judge others. But we are warned against this:
    • "Judge not that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). 
    • "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things" (Romans 2:1).
    • "Judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
  • Blame. After judging another, then we blame. This is so common! We blame in order to dodge responsibility. As long as we are blaming others, we are in a defensive pattern, trying to deflect attention from our own mistakes and weaknesses. 
  • Anger. At this point, anger can take over our minds and hearts. But the Lord asks:
    • "Doest thou well to be angry? (Jonah 4:4).
    • "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools"(Ecclesiastes 7:9).

I have been that fool, though more rarely now than ever.

While Satan tempts us to take the path of self-betrayal, the Lord invites us to take a path that starts with self-awareness. When we are self-aware, we recognize more readily what is going on inside—the whys and wherefores—and we will know how to make better choices.

Both paths are parallel, and they go as follows, step by step. The left side is Satan's counterfeit path to resolving difficulties and the right side is Heavenly Father's way:

Self-betrayal vs. Self-awareness
Pride vs. Humility
Judgment vs. Tolerance
Blame vs. Personal responsibility
Anger vs. Peace of mind
Division vs. Unity
Dissolution vs. Resolution

Our self-awareness is a humble reflection of our choices, comparing them to Heavenly Father's commandments. This self-reflection leads us to obedience and good choices, and patience and tolerance of others. Instead of blaming others, we take personal responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and choices which lead to positive action. Then instead of anger we feel peace of mind. Our mind is clear as is our path. We are at peace with heaven and earth.

When we take this path, we become unified with those we love—our spouses, family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers.

As the Lord says, "I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27).

Instead of the dissolution of relationships, we are led to resolution and all the fruits of the Spirit—"love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22–23).

When we are aware of where anger starts, we can recognize that we have a choice. It's never too late to choose a new path, to start again.

3 comments:

  1. This reminds me of a book that I really love. It is called, "Bonds that make us free". It goes right along these lines. If you haven't read it, you might really like it. It has helped me a lot with my own anger issues.

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  2. I have not read the book The Bonds That Make Us Free, but I am familiar with the term "self-betrayal" thanks to that book and books from the Arbinger Institute. A powerful term! I have met the author of Bonds—he lives in our daughter's ward!

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  3. He lives in Amy's ward? He was Joey's boss at Education in Zion. We had a book club about Bonds That Make us Free and he came, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for this post Daddy!

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