I mowed the lawn with my son on Wednesday. (One of the joys of living in the desert – year-round lawn mowing.) We were getting the job done, when the mower started to make strange noises.
My son stopped mowing and let go of the release bar so the engine would stop. It ground to a halt, but not without making ugly noises. He and asked me if I could hear it. I definitely could, and it sounded bad, like the blade was whumping against something, and might even be coming loose.
(Here is where the story suddenly becomes fiction)
He asked me what he should do. I said, “Start it back up and finish the yard.”
“Really? Are you sure? Don’t you want to look at it?”
“Nah, just keep mowing.”
“What will we do if it explodes?”
“If it explodes, Then we’ll need buy a new one!”
“Probably Sears, or Lowes.”
—Does anyone buy this story? Me neither.
It does sound ridiculous that I would ignore the problem at hand, and instead talk about how to pick up the pieces after the disaster. But that was a curious thing I noticed a couple of weeks ago.
I wrote a post requesting marriage advice for my son and his new bride. Here’s the link: Share Your Secrets to a Happy Marriage.
Lots of fun and good advice, but of the 142 comments, by far the biggest discussion and the most repeated advice was…
#1 “Don’t go to bed angry.”
#2 “It’s OK to to bed angry.”
…Well, there you go, best of luck to the new couple!
In the dozens of comments about going/not going to bed angry, nobody really gave the really important advice: Don’t get angry.
It is possible, and if there is anything needed in a marriage, in all our dealings, and especially in an election year, it is the ability to not get angry. If we can get to that point, then the decision about whether to go to bed or not will never need to be made.
What does going to bed angry, or not going to bed angry have to do with exploding lawnmowers? Anywhere besides this blog, there is no connection, but I’ll give it a shot.
• If my son and I are discussing where to buy a new lawn mower, before we even look to see what is wrong with it, we are dumb.
• If the discussion is about whether or not to go to bed angry, then we’ve already blown it.
What should the discussion about the lawnmower be? Stop, take a minute and figure it out how to keep it from exploding.
What should the discussion about fighting with your spouse be? Stop, take a minute and figure it out how to keep it from exploding.
You might be saying, “No way – that’s crazy talk.” or “Yeah right. Like that is even a possibility.”
Difficult? Sure. Impossible? No.
Here is an important perspective: The moment anger enters the discussion, IT (the anger) instantly becomes THE problem, not the original issue that provoked it – no matter what the original issue was.
Let me copy and paste that so you will have to read it twice (I’ll even put it in bold): The moment anger enters the discussion, IT (the anger) instantly becomes THE problem, not the original issue that provoked it – no matter what the original issue was.
When we realize that, the dynamic changes.
What happens when we get angry? President Thomas S. Monson said, “To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.” (“School Thy Feelings, O My Brother,” October Conference, 2009)
In the Joseph Smith translation of Ephesians 4:26, Paul asks the question, “Can ye be angry, and not sin?”
So, whether the fight with my EC is about something big, or something petty, the moment I feel anger enter into my heart, I know that I am entering a state of sin*. That changes everything.
Suddenly, the issue is not about who is right and who is wrong, it is about how quickly I can humble myself and repent for the sin I have embraced.
I’m 54 years old. I’ve been a husband for almost 30 years, and a father for 28. I know myself pretty well by now. I know exactly when, and what it feels like when anger enters my heart and mind.
• I am aware of it physically – I can feel my body respond – pulse and BP elevate, etc. (And at my age…)
• I can recognize it mentally as the wheels begin to spin faster and the gentleness leaves my voice.
• I can recognize it spiritually, if I am living in tune, because the Holy Ghost will not hang around with an angry person.
There are times that I notice these transformations and am able to pull back before they manifest themselves. Sadly, there are times when I embrace them and let them take me where they will.
But the honest truth is that I do know when anger is bubbling up. At that moment my agency kicks in and I can ignore it, or I can embrace it. That is the moment of truth.
There are some things that can interrupt the process:
Looking deeply into my EC’s eyes and remembering that she is the most important person on the earth to me. (And when I do that I recognize that she sees I am flirting with sin, and that calms me down quickly.)
Distance. Taking a break is helpful for me. Taking a walk or doing something physical can be helpful. But the most helpful break I can take when I am feeling anger coming on, or I have already embraced it is to take a break and get only knees and repent. Because if I am angry at my wife, I am in sin. Even if I am right.
There is an expression that floats around sometimes when talking about marriage: “It is better to be happy, than to be right.” When it involves anger, I believe that saying to be correct. It is better to be repentant, clean and forgiving – happy – than to consider myself the victor of some petty argument.
There is a wonderful preventative measure mentioned in the scriptures. Resisting the urge to be angry is called being “not easily provoked.” And there is a lot of provoking going on in this world, and in our homes.
It comes from a Moroni’s teachings about charity: “And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all thngs, hopeth all things, and endureth all things.” ( Moroni 7:45)
If we ask for charity, and live to deserve it, that specific gift can act as a first line of defense so that anger doesn’t happen. When it does, a happy man (or woman) repents fast, and forgives faster.
The world right now is a seething hotbed of anger. So many people are trying to live Christ-like lives, but we can get so caught up in anger- in sin – that it will bleed into every other area of our lives.
I don’t want to deal with deciding to go to bed angry or not.
I don’t want the “Natural Man” to win, and drag me into sin.
I don’t want to live without the Holy Ghost until the election is over because I am angry about the people and the process.
And I don’t want my lawnmower to explode.
So MY advice to my newlywed kids? Focus on learning how to not get angry – not the sleeping arrangements for after you’ve blown it.
* There are some who would teach that emotions are neither good nor bad, and that we should embrace and feel anger instead of repressing it. Dangerous false teachings. One of our purposes on earth is to learn how to deal with our “Natural Man” instincts. If you think that embracing your anger to maintain “emotional integrity” is “honest,” merely substitute the word “lust” for “anger” and see if your theory still holds water.
Don’t go to bed angry. OK, go to bed angry. Nevermind, I’m gonna go mow the lawn.Anger is not a new topic for me. If you would like to read any back articles, here are some links: