Exploding Lawnmowers and Going to Bed Angry

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Exploding Lawnmower

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!”

“From where?”

“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!

Monkey

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.

Hulk

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 provokedthinketh 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.

MMM-logo-small

* 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:

Anger. We’re in the Wrong Business.”

Temper, Temper.

Anger: Mission Impossible?

Clearing Things Up.”

The Orange Juice Story.”

 

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Another dimension of needing to be “right” is that you automatically put your EC in the position of being “wrong.” It is possible for each of you to be “right” if you take the time and show your love as you explore the feelings that are dividing you. If you choose not to be angry and refrain from needing to be “right,” you can move forward to understanding and helping each other.

    Great ideas! Thanks! Wish my EC and I, as newlyweds, had learned these essential skills!

  2. Huzzah! I agree with about 95% of what you’ve said, and I’m going to ponder the other 5%. (Still working on the natural ma’am.) I didn’t fight with the children’s father. I just buried my feelings until they became depression. Also didn’t fight with Beloved. I took charge of the bulk chocolate order because he was busy dying. When he saw the order firm, he very politely informed me that I’d bought the wrong kind. Instead of getting mad (or depressed), I took a quick breath and reminded him that we were OK for money and that I would be happy to buy the kind he preferred next time we were at Costco, and then we *both* laughed. One of my best moments as a human being. I’m sure that if he’d lived longer, there would have been discussions on other topics. But it was a year of mutual respect, mutual kindness, and mutual striving to become one.

  3. Great post! Regarding your comment about teacings about accepting all emotions–as a social services provider for children and families under stress–one of the best tools I learned in training is that anger really ISN’T an “emotion”. It is a reaction to an emotion. So instead of teaching the children “It is alright to feel angry” we tried to show them what their underlying emotion was–maybe sadness, rejection, fear, etc. That really worked with one little boy who exploded a lot. When he started learning about emotions, he would verbalize those. “I think I am sad that he took my truck.” Couples can do that, too. What is the real emotion and how do we deal with that?
    Again, thanks for the post.

    • Thank you Deborah for clarifying how anger isn’t an emotion , but a reaction to an emotion. I have only just recently been learning about the difference between BEING sad, emotional, disappointed, elated etc, and FEELING sad, emotional, disappointed, elated etc… So to begin with I balked at MMM’s final comment about the notion that emotions are neither good nor bad is false – because I’m only just trying to wrap my head around the concept that they are. If anger isn’t an emotion per se, but a reaction to an emotion, this is actually very helpful! I am struggling to learn to express my emotions openly and honestly, because my entire life I have been taught that ‘negative’ emotions were ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’, so if I felt them I was wrong or evil. As a consequence of that, I would just walk away from conflicts, and they would never be resolved. I totally agree that being angry is a choice though, and that it drives away the spirit. Thank you again for the clarification!

      • I am really glad if that helped you, Jojo. I know it helped me enormously in both my work and personal life when I learned that. When we can label and understand our emotions, we are so much more able to face the situation and work it out. The other piece that often works is the “When this happens, I feel. . .” (once you have identified your emotion) when you are talking to someone that you need to express yourself or defend yourself with. Then you aren’t accusing anyone, just stating the situation and how you feel. Another great tidbit I learned!

        • Early on I realized there were things that created a huge internal reaction inside of me and had NO effect on my sweet hubby. It was liberating the day I finally mustered the ability to explain that (fill in the blank) is important to me, and I understood that it wasn’t to him. I understood he didn’t understand why it was important to me and it was ok that he didn’t understand, but to please realize that it was a big deal in my world. He looked so funny and said, “huh, I had no idea. Yeah, I don’t care either way we can do that.” Sure made me love him so much more. Not requiring the other to completely understand the inner workings of our minds, but accepting, respecting it, and moving on is such a great feeling. There have been many times I didn’t get in his world, but returned the acceptance and moved on.

  4. Great post!! I have found that one of the best ways to prevent getting angry is being sure I get enough sleep! Being rested, well nourished and well hydrated are all really important mood stabalizers. With that in mind, if you’re feeling angry, you’re probably sleep deprived. So, go to bed! 😉

  5. Long ago I realized that some people are addicted to adrenaline. We usually use the term ‘adrenaline junkie’ to describe people who indulge in extreme sports where the danger of the enterprise creates the rush of adrenaline they crave. But anger also creates a rise in adrenaline. Those who seek out opportunities to indulge in anger, usually identifying it to themselves as righteous indignation, will explode at the slightest excuse. A song in Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Gondoliers’ describes such a person.
    “On the day that I was Wedded” is available in a number of versions on YouTube.
    I did not offer MMM’s son and daughter any advice because I am still pondering what I might’ve done in a marriage where my husband often acted like the Duke of Plaza Toro as described in the song. I believe that marrying such a person is the problem. Trying to solve it after you’re married can damage your soul.

  6. I loved this post!! I think you have really nailed an important truth (again) about relationships, and loved reading it!

    However, I have a comment about one of your “post scripts”… and I’m not sure what you’ll think about it 🙂 A couple of years ago I went to counseling to address some emotional baggage that I had buried from my childhood and an emotionally abusive father who left our family when I was 11. It was an important step in the healing process for me, largely because I sought to stay close to the Lord through this process. At one point in the counseling, I felt a great deal of anger towards my mother (my good, kind, sweet, faithful mother) because she had allowed my father to treat us the way he did. I don’t know that I was trying to “embrace” the anger, but I firmly believe that I had to allow myself to feel it. Every time I started defending my mother in my head, I could feel my emotions shutting down again, just as they had been for years. I knew that I needed to allow myself to feel angry – temporarily. Because I knew it was unjust, I did not call and talk to my mother about it. I did not vent to anyone about it. I just acknowledged that it was there and wrote in my journal about how I felt. It took about 3 days to finally pass. As I wrote and processed how I was feeling, I eventually realized that my mother HAD protected us by seeking counseling herself and eventually becoming strong enough to ask my dad to move out.

    And so while I wasn’t trying to embrace my anger, I did need to let myself acknowledge it. I think there is a significant difference in this type of anger and the anger you’re referencing in the post.
    1) I wasn’t being prideful. I was deeply hurt.
    2) I didn’t “vent” or take out my anger on anyone.
    3) I wasn’t trying to let my anger fester. I wasn’t feeding it, but trying to work through it so I could let it go.

    I would hate for anyone going through a similar situation as mine (which was a very real grieving process) to feel added guilt for feeling angry in the first place, yet you labeled ALL anger as a sin. And I know that it was a necessary step for me to get to the point where I could allow Christ’s Atonement to heal me.

    • I think you are spot on when saying you acknowledged your anger vs. embracing your anger. Part of that acknowledgment is recognizing that when angry we are yielding to the influence of Satan (per Pres, Monson) Call it sin or not, but yielding to Satan ain’t a good thing. The bright spot is that acknowledging it can/should lead to repentance.

    • And, again, I think maybe the “anger” you are referring to might be able to be labeled by emotion–in fact, you did label it–deeply hurt. The fact that you were able to control it, work through it, and not let it spill out on your mom says a lot about you, Anita.

  7. Very wise advice for newlyweds and oldweds as well! “I chose to respond with anger” is the truth behind “You made me mad.” because we are moral agents. If we acknowledge our agency and take responsibility for our decisions (reactions) that keeps us from being victims and helps us deal with the issues at hand with clarity. It is the same with “I lost my temper.” Really, we did not “lose” our temper, it is right there for everyone to see and dread! It implies we do not have control of our actions. We actually do have power over our feelings and choose our reactions. 33 years of marriage and raising eight kids has given me daily lessons in applying this. Practice, practice, practice!

  8. I remember learning somewhere in my life that anger is always a secondary emotion. There is always something else happening before anger starts. For those concerned with repressing emotions, the healthy approach is to take a step back and figure out what the primary emotion is. Often it is something like embarrassment, frustration, hurt, loneliness, isolation, rejection, and so on. Seems to me that you are spot on with claiming anger to be a sinful behavior, but the emotions you feel before the anger are not sinful. I have observed that the scriptures teach we will be judged for our thoughts, words, and deeds, but I’ve never read that we will be judged for our feelings. (I know thoughts and feelings are closely related, but I do think there is a difference—just because I am frustrated with someone doesn’t mean it is wise to entertain thoughts of punching him in the nose!)

  9. I heard Elder Holland speak at a special meeting in Atlanta recently. He said that perhaps one of the Savior’s greatest trials was to wait (suffer long, endure all things, bear all things) when He knew all He had to do was to ask and legions of angels would be at His command. The temptation to get it all done now must have been great, and had He allowed anger to enter in to His life at any time, He would not have been able to complete His mission. If He can do it, then He can give us the power to do it as well. What a joyous thought that is!

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