Questions and Answers

Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I can’t control my temper. I try to, but people often do such irritating things that I just lose control. I can’t seem to help it. Is it really wrong to get angry when you’ve got a good reason to do so? If it is, how can I stop?

Our Answer:

This world is full of irritations. You share the planet with billions of other people. And each is capable of doing countless human, annoying things. Fortunately, you’ll never come in contact with 99.99 percent of them. Unfortunately, that still leaves plenty of people in your family, your school, and your community who can do things that irritate you. If you let them.

Your temper is not something you were born with. Your temper is a part of you. When you control it, you are controlling yourself. When others control your temper through their actions, they are controlling you. Where is your agency then?

A person with a hot, uncontrolled temper is like a bottle of nitroglycerine. Everyone treats it with fear, avoiding it when possible, walking softly around it when they can’t avoid it. And that certainly doesn’t do much to build friendships or comfortable, trusting family relationships.

Uncontrolled tempers often lead to profanity, violence, and emotional and physical abuse of others. These things prevent us from enjoying the gifts of the Spirit as we otherwise could.

Is anger ever justified? The scriptures do tell us that God gets angry at wickedness and at unrepentant sinners. Yet his anger is never an uncontrolled outburst.

We should hate sin, too. And things like drug pushing or child abuse deserve our cool, rational anger. Getting angry whenever other people do something stupid is a negative emotion, like lust or greed. We must also overcome it if we are to progress spiritually.

So, how do you learn to control your temper? Here are some suggestions:

  1. 1.

    Simply calm down. Whatever it is, ignore it. It isn’t worth it. When you feel provoked, there’s an exercise you do with your body that is great for your spirit. It’s called a shrug.

  2. 2.

    Prepare in advance. Decide before you get up in the morning, or before you get behind the steering wheel of a car, or before you go to school, that you are not going to react badly. Visualize the situations that usually irritate you and see yourself acting calmly.

  3. 3.

    Look at yourself. You’re mortal and probably do some stupid, irritating things yourself. Give others the same room for error that you expect from them.

  4. 4.

    Develop your sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself, and learn to dismiss other people’s silly mistakes as just that—silly mistakes. In fact, even when people appear to be deliberately rude or thoughtless, humor can be an excellent defense.

  5. 5.

    Above all, seek the peace and love that come from the Spirit. Fast. Forgive. An attitude of forgiveness helps keep us from being easily offended. Pray daily and have a constant prayer in your heart. Read the scriptures and do everything else you have been taught to do in order to have the Spirit.

One more thing. We have really only discussed the kind of anger that is called “temper.” There are other kinds of deep, ongoing anger that can result from the sins of others or from serious wrongs that have been done to us or those we love. If you feel this kind of anger, we urge you to seek the help of a trusted adult such as a parent or your bishop.

Youth Answers:

I understand your problem. Anger is a strange thing, and it’s a shame that we are sometimes victimized by our emotions. We each have weaknesses to overcome and grow from. Let me share with you some suggestions that helped me: (1) Delay your reactions. Count to ten, leave the scene that caused the feeling before you erupt, or take some deep breaths. (2) Identify the anger. Where is it coming from? How was it caused? And how can it be avoided? (3) Go someplace where you can be alone, get on your knees, and tell the whole thing to Heavenly Father. (4) Ask the Lord for help. Pray that he will take the anger from your heart and replace it with peace and forgiveness. He has promised in Ether 12:27 that if we are humble before him, he will “make weak things become strong.”

Elder Thomas F. Smith, 19 Birmingham, Alabama

Anger is an emotion everyone is subject to at one time or another. The difference is that some people learn to control their anger while others don’t. If you lose your temper, then you’re not in control. Satan is.

Something that helped me was to watch other people to see what they looked like when they lost their tempers. When I saw how foolish other people looked, I made a promise to myself to practice self-control and not lose my temper. I am learning patience.

Kurtis Hyde, 19 Lovelock, Nevada

The actions you take when you are angry can be damaging to others. Instead of yelling and throwing things, you should take time out and think over the problem. Did you overreact? Was that person feeling well, or was there something wrong with them? Were you in a bad mood? Staying angry isn’t good. The best thing to do is talk it out, forgive, and forget.

Vicky M. Brugger, 14 Rochester, New York

I’ve got a real bad temper, too. People used to irritate me with the littlest things. Sometimes it got so bad that I’d yell at someone just for touching me. The worst part about it was that it was usually my family. But I found that I have a vitamin deficiency that was causing me to be irritable. I also realized I needed to learn to love. The Savior loved everyone, even those who betrayed him.

Believe me, my little brother gets so irritating I want to kick him. But I asked my Father in Heaven not to make him be nice to me, but to help me be nice to him. And it really works. He’s not less irritating, but I’m less sensitive about it.

Sheila Webb, 17 Sunnyvale, California

I’d like to start by saying I have the same problem, but I’ve learned to control my problem. Every one in a while I may burst out and get angry at someone, but later I apologize. Honestly, I think you can learn to control it. Until then, pray and think about how you are hurting the other person.

Tammy Booth, 14 Geneva, Alabama

We all get mad for one reason or another. That’s normal. But getting angry at someone doesn’t solve anything. It only worsens the situation. Think before you lose control. Stupid or silly acts are committed by those who don’t think. Some people try to make you mad. Disappoint them and respond nicely. You may need to count from one to ten and back again to gain composure before you say anything, but don’t give in to thoughtless action. In time, you’ll master your temper, and you’ll learn a lot about patience. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

Tonya Stock, 20 Sandy, Utah

I have had personal experiences with ineffectively coping with irritation. A year ago my temper overcame me, and I ended up breaking my hand on a wall. Two months after I got my cast off, I broke the same hand on another wall. As a result of my immaturity, I lost the cherished respect of family and friends.

When you get angry, don’t lash out at people or things. Calm down and realize that the world is not going to end. Rarely will you experience righteous indignation as Jesus Christ did when he overturned the tables in the temple. People judge you by the way you react to stress, and who likes someone inclined to temper tantrums? Self-control is requisite for progression in the Lord’s eternal plan.

Max Booher, 16 Bellingham, Washington

There are positive ways to channel those frustrated feelings. I like to talk it out. I find the best way to do this is to talk to myself or a good friend about what is bothering me. When talking to myself, I like to take a walk or ride a bike. This time by myself gives me time to really ponder and ask myself why I am so angry. This always works for me and leaves me with a softer heart and a calm spirit. Then I can approach my problem and see it more clearly once the rage has stopped clouding my vision.

Another method is to talk with a friend. The most comforting friend with the best advice and most attentive listening ear is our Heavenly Father.

Letitia Donahoo, 20 Rexburg, Idaho

We all do irritating things sometimes. Next time someone irritates you, you should just be calm and ignore him or her, because we all make stupid comments.

Chad Fisher, 14 Denver, Colorado

I’ve had many problems with my temper. I used to yell at people because I thought they were such idiots. I would easily and quickly lose my temper. The way I overcame this was by reading the Book of Mormon, writing my feelings down on paper, and making a conscious effort to change. After about a week, I could tell that I wasn’t getting angry at people nearly as often.

Elder John O. Leyer, 19 Indianapolis, Indiana

[photo] Photography by Steve Bunderson