Be Slow to Anger

ElRay L. Christiansen


My brothers and sisters, I am in complete harmony with every word that Elder [Marion G.] Romney has just said to us, and with that which was said in the meeting this morning by our prophet leader, and by those who followed him in speaking the truth of the everlasting gospel.

I desire now to speak, if I may, for a few minutes of a matter that concerns each and every one of us. This is a simple subject but it is one that bears our watching.

When Solomon declared: “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), he knew that individual spiritual development cannot be realized without self-discipline.

Someone has said, “The size of a man may be measured by the size of the things that make him angry.” How true that is! To become upset and infuriated over trivial matters gives evidence of childishness and immaturity in a person.

We are constantly exposed to irritations as we mingle with others—and even when we are alone. How we react to these irritations is a reflection of our personalities and temperaments. It would seem reasonable to believe that in order to develop a healthy, pleasing personality and to become useful and an influence for good, one must avoid being easily provoked to anger. Not only would we show, thereby, more maturity, but we would also be able to resolve disturbing situations more intelligently, because seldom, if ever, is any good accomplished while persons are in a rage. Anger does not contribute to good. It is a destroyer, not a builder.

Not only does intemperate anger affect us physically and mentally, in a negative way, but at the same time it also destroys wisdom and sound judgment. When we become upset, reason is suppressed, and anger rushes in. To make decisions while infuriated is as unwise and foolish as it is for a captain to put out to sea in a raging storm. Only injury and wreckage result from wrathful moments.

When anger rules, tempered judgment flees. Actually, the person who is composed has a distinct advantage over one who is angered. Somewhere I read this statement: “When one is in the right, he need not lose his temper; and when he is wrong, he cannot afford to.”

Ungoverned anger is seen too often in daily life. President Spencer W. Kimball, in his excellent book The Miracle of Forgiveness, tells us in effect that anger is “a sin of thought” which, if not controlled, may be the forerunner of vicious and violent acts.

Anger against things is senseless indeed!

Because a wrench slips and we bruise our hand is no reason for throwing the wrench halfway across a wheat field. Having a flat tire on a busy downtown street will not be remedied by a tirade of words.

Anger against things is bad enough, but when it is directed against people and it flares up with white-hot fury and caustic words, we have the makings of tragedy! For example, let some selfish driver cut in too close in front of another car as he passes, and then let the offended driver fail to reduce his speed and angrily “tailgate,” or do something else “to get even”; then a tragedy is in the making.

Even in our families, situations may arise that could cause irritations. It is then that parents must be calm and exemplary. The man with an uncontrolled temper is like an undisciplined child—he expresses his emotions explosively or by sulking, and disregards the feelings of those about him. In the home, anger should be controlled and love should abound. When, in his most impressionable years, a child experiences ugly situations that result from uncontrolled tempers, when he hears unkind words exchanged between his father and mother, and when he sees contention crowd out an atmosphere of kindness and mutual respect—when these conditions make a child’s environment, what chance has he to become refined and noble? The minds of children are like the sensitive plates of a photographer; they record every incident, good and bad. Our children may forget what is said, but they never forget that which they are made to feel.

Someone has said:

“Parents may tell
But never teach
Unless they practice
What they preach.”

The words of President Brigham Young ring out to us. In regard to this, he said, in appealing to husbands and fathers on behalf of their wives and children: “Cease your anger, and sullenness of temper. … Do not get so angry that you cannot pray. …” (Discourses of Brigham Young [Deseret Book Co., 1941], pp. 268–69.)

And I think I have read somewhere where he also said, If you don’t feel like praying together, get on your knees and pray until you do feel like it. I believe that is good counsel. (See Discourses, p. 46.)

A few years ago, President David O. McKay made this appeal to fathers and mothers: “Never set an improper example before them [your children]. … Never let them hear a cross word. You should control yourself! He is a weak man who flies into a passion … whatever he may be doing. …” (Improvement Era, December 1964, p. 1082.)

“A little explained,
A little endured,
A little passed over,
And the quarrel is cured.”

Frustrations often offer us the means of progression, for by overcoming them harmoniously, we grow and become more Christlike.

As with most all strong emotions, anger is manifest both in righteousness and in unrighteousness. Righteous anger is an attribute of Deity, whose anger is everlastingly kindled against wickedness.

Likewise, an inspired man might be led to speak or act in righteous anger, as did Moses when he broke the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written by the Lord.

But to lose our temper, to explode, to become ugly, punitive, and hateful when faced with frustrations is inexcusable!

Why is it inexcusable to explode with anger and become vindictive? Simply because the power has been given us to control and to overcome such tendencies. If not curbed, such tendencies soon lose for us the respect and love of others.

Jesus set the example in personal conduct regarding anger when, although he had been falsely accused and made the subject of railings and mockery, he stood majestically and completely composed before the perplexed Pontius Pilate. He did not retaliate in anger. Rather, he stood erect, poised, unmoved. His conduct was divine. What an example for all of us!

Listen to these marvelous words of the Savior, the master teacher:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt. 5:43–44.)

I agree that this is not naturally easy to do, but, my brothers and sisters, we must each conscientiously work at it if we are to achieve our purposes in life.

“Angry words, oh, let them never
From the tongue unbridled slip;
May the heart’s best impulse ever
Check them ere they soil the lip.”
(R. H. Palmer, Deseret Sunday School Songs, 1909.)

If we will do this, we will be more greatly blessed as individuals and our homes will reflect the sweet spirit of love and harmony and peace. To this I testify, and pray for the help of the Lord in bringing this about, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.