UA-44334008-1

Anger

9

Last week I was playing basketball with the kids in the pool and really whacked my head. Hard. It hurt, and I almost blacked out. A valiant effort to not curse, and some time lying down with an ice pack and I was soon back up and at it. It was the day of my daughter’s wedding open house in our home, and I surely couldn’t take the afternoon off.

There was a small goose egg on my head, and it hurt, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I was a little “foggy” though. No, I didn’t get it checked by a doctor. No, I didn’t get x-rays.  I’ve been hit on the head before, and this one didn’t scare me.

But it did concern me. Especially after we were running some errands and I turned right when I should have turned left. Twice. It was then I figured I probably shouldn’t be driving. I felt a little funny, and I could tell that something was a little wrong with my noggin. (This is also the reason that there was no blog post last week, for the three of you that might be wondering.)

By time the open house rolled around, I was pretty sure that I had sustained a small concussion, but I did not let it interfere with a terrific evening of friends and family. I was social and did my best to appear normal. (No wisecracks, please.) One thing I noticed: My EC and those that know me best could tell that I was not quite 100%. Something was off – but they knew I had hit my head and checked on me often.

I woke up Sunday morning with a headache, but with less fuzziness. By Monday morning I was feeling pretty good. I went to work and lady who I have worked with for over twenty years asked me how I was feeling. I told her I felt fine, but then asked her, “Why do you ask?”

“Well, Saturday night you didn’t seem right. Something about your eyes.” She replied.

That was unexpected, because I had not told her about banging my head, or the suspected concussion. She just knew me well enough to sense that something was wrong.

I’ve thought about that a lot this past week – how a relatively mild whack to the head can cause a subtle behavior change that most people wouldn’t notice. Only those who know me well could sense it. Even I had some trouble sensing if something was wrong, and how serious it was.

This got me thinking about the subtleties of the Spirit. What type of blow does it take to cause a Spiritual Concussion? You know, what kind of spiritual “hit” can cause a tiny change in our behavior. The influence of the Holy Ghost can be hard to discern at times, and the lack of the Spirit can also be tricky to diagnose. If a knock to the head can cause a change in the way I feel inside, and how other’s see me, surely a shot to the Spirit can have a similar result.

Wanting more specifics, I did some searching to find instances where the brethren have called out behaviors as causes of Spiritual Concussions: More specifically, things that we do that drive away the Holy Ghost. I found a bunch from General Conference talks.

• Getting Angry or Feeling Hurt

“Yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost. Those emotions must be eliminated, or our chance for receiving revelation is slight”. Elder Richard G. Scott

“Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away.” President Ezra Taft Benson

This was an obvious one to me, because I have experienced it: I have literally felt the Spirit withdraw from me as I have become angry. What I didn’t expect is how Elder Scott teaches that our response to other people’s anger can cause the same Spiritual Concussions.

The Prophet Joseph Smith for example, could not receive any inspiration from the Lord unless he had the right feelings toward everyone. One morning he became upset about something his wife had done. Later, when he tried to translate some of the Book of Mormon he found he could not. Concerned, he went to an orchard and prayed, and then he came back to the house and asked Emma’s forgiveness. Only then was he able to translate. (link)

Like my physical concussion, often our Spiritual Concussions are discernible to those who know us best, or have a stewardship over us. We don’t live in a vacuum – even spiritually.

• Abusing our bodies – both physically and morally.

“We must never do anything to drive away that Spirit. Specifically, we should avoid pornography, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and always, always avoid violations of the law of chastity. We must never take things into our bodies or do things with our bodies that drive away the Spirit of the Lord and leave us without our spiritual protection against deception.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks.

I found this one extra interesting because just this past week I heard a podcast where someone made the argument that a cup of coffee is no big deal when there are so many “bigger fish to fry.” In essence, why worry about little things like the Word of Wisdom when bigger things like loving our neighbors are so important?

Obedience is not a “zero-sum game.” We don’t have the luxury of picking and prioritizing which commandments we want to obey. Elder Oaks makes it pretty clear that a cup of coffee does have the power to cause a Spiritual Concussion. And if one cup of coffee can do it – imagine what the regular consumption can do. Same goes for chastity-related things including pornography and modesty.

• Media Consumption

“Do we allow influences into our homes that drive the Spirit from our homes? The type of entertainment that we permit into our homes will certainly have an impact on the power of the Holy Ghost. Much of the entertainment of the world is offensive to the Holy Ghost. Surely we should not watch movies or television shows that are filled with violence, vulgar language, and immorality.” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.

It is naive to think that we can enjoy a hyper-violent movie and the presence of the Holy Ghost at the same time. Elder Wirthlin makes a far better case for what to watch that any Hollywood ratings board – but much more stringent. I recently saw another article floating around justifying R-rated movies. I have yet to know of one that does not meet Elder Wirthlin’s description. Is a two-hour Spiritual Concussion worth it?

I wrote a post about a young couple who felt like their home was possessed by evil spirits that is applicable. Here is the link: “Our Family Temple.”

• Being Crass

“Vulgarity and profanity offend the Spirit. Just as immodesty seems to be more common, so does vulgar and profane language. It used to be that only in certain places and with certain groups would we hear the name of the Lord taken in vain or hear vulgar words and crude humor. Now it seems to be everywhere and, for many, socially acceptable, where once it was not.” President Henry B. Eyring

I hate to admit it, but if I could actually see the Holy Ghost sitting next to me, I would probably tighten up my vocabulary a bit.

• Being Critical of the Church, the Brethren and each other

“Faultfinding, evil speaking, and backbiting are obviously unchristian. The Bible commands us to avoid “evil speakings.”  It tells us to “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you.” Modern revelations direct us to avoid “backbiting,” “evil speaking,” and “finding fault one with another.” 

We are given these commandments for a reason. The Apostle Paul advised the Saints to “grieve not the holy Spirit of God” by evil speaking. Of faultfinders, President Brigham Young said, “The Spirit of God has no place in such persons.” (Journal of Discourses,8:13.) The primary reason we are commanded to avoid criticism is to preserve our own spiritual well-being, not to protect the person whom we would criticize”. Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Basically, when we trash someone (maybe even online?) we give a hit to the Spirit and He leaves.

I posted five, but there are a lot more ways to cause Spiritual Concussions. Feel free to add more in the comment section – but be sure to include a reference.

Since I watch football, am a Steve Young fan, and have four sons, I know a little bit about concussions. One thing that is a little scary is that the more often you get a concussion, the easier it gets, and the longer lasting the effects can be.

I can’t imagine that it is any different with Spiritual Concussions. Repeated blows to the Spirit will have the same result: It gets easier to do, and the results are longer-lasting. In both cases the damage can be devastating.

The companionship of the Holy Ghost is one of our great treasures to help us as we roll through this life. So many of the things we do to lose HIs companionship are completely avoidable. I imagine there are times when He feels pummeled – I can hardly fault him for taking a break.

“From the time we receive the Gospel, go down into the waters of baptism and have hands laid upon us afterwards for the gift of the Holy Ghost, we have a friend, if we do not drive it from us by doing wrong. That friend is the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, which partakes of the things of God and shows them unto us. This is a grand means that the Lord has provided for us, that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark.” (Lorenzo Snow In Conference Report, Apr. 1899, p. 52.)

“Several years after the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young and shared this timeless counsel: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful and [be] sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits. It will whisper peace and joy to their souls, and it will take malice, hatred, envying, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 98).(link)

I need to make a better effort to stop taking shots at the Holy Ghost. I can’t afford it.

Additional resources:

The Holy Ghost as Your Constant Companion.” Henry B. Eyring (General Conference)

The Voice of the Spirit.” James E. Fauset (BYU Speech)

12

Yes, it is true: I have cancer. But before you set up a GoFundMe account for me, let me explain: I just have a little bit of cancer. More specifically, it is a little bit of skin cancer. Everybody’s doing it.

I have this sore on my shoulder that just never seemed to heal. I finally went to the doctor and he said, “Looks like you’ve got a ‘Basal Cell Carcinoma‘ – let’s take a piece of it and see.” He got some tools, dug out a chunk for a biopsy, and sent it off to the lab.

A few days later, I got a phone call from the doctor’s office. A chipper little voice said, “Hi Mr. McBride. We got your lab results back – it is cancer. We want to refer you to a dermatologist to get it taken care of.” The happy tone of her voice was in direct contrast to what I heard.

Ugh. That word “cancer” is a gut punch – even if you are pretty sure that it is not a big deal. I had already researched what a BCC is, and knew that it is the most common form of skin cancer, and the most easily treated. Even so…it is still cancer, and when your dad died of Melanoma… You get the idea.

Met with the dermo. Gonna get it cut out. No big deal.

Unless… I don’t get it cut out – then it can become a bigger deal. So, I am gonna get it done, which is a pretty easy decision.

The word cancer is a powerful word. It is also a bit strange. There is not a verb form of the word cancer. However, there is a similar word that has the same origin that can be used as a verb as well: Canker.

When I was growing up, I was afflicted by canker sores in my mouth and throat. Wicked little things. As I grew I began to realize what an important metaphor cankers and cancers can be for spiritual illness and injury.  Case in point:

A few years back, a buddy of mine decided he wanted to make some money in real estate. He bought a property and then rented it out to a tenant. Being a landlord was not his cup of tea. He was very protective of his property and started to really resent his tenants for the way they treated it.

Eventually it became a fixation, and he would talk about it all of the time in the most negative way. He would get in squabbles with the tenant and the would get angry with each other. It wasn’t a good situation for either party.

One day he asked me what I thought about the situation (looking for support). I told him that he probably didn’t want my opinion. He insisted, so I said, “I feel like this whole landlord thing is cankering your soul.”

He looked shocked. “Man, that’s a little harsh, don’t you think? What do you mean?”

I said, “To me, you seem totally consumed by this. It is all you ever talk about. You seem so unhappy all the time. You look intense and angry all the time. I can’t imagine that it is worth it.”

He was quiet as he chewed on the accusation that I just leveled on him. After a minute he surprised me by saying, “Yeah. I think you are probably right.”

A definition of the verb Canker is “to corrupt; destroy slowly.” (link)

A definition of the noun Cancer is “any evil condition or thing that spreads destructively; blight.” (link)

Both are applicable to spiritual blight.

One of the great scriptural metaphors for faith is Alma’s description of the seed which, if nourished, will eventually grow into a wonderful tree, bearing wonderful fruit. (Alma 32)

What we rarely talk about is how these same principles work for bad seeds as well. If you plant a bad seed, and nourish it, it will eventually grow into a great big weed, and it won’t bring forth anything of worth.

My gardening experience has taught me that it is much easier to grow weeds than it is to grow fruit-bearing trees. Weeds also have a remarkable ability to spread and replicate themselves in a cancerous manner with very little effort on my part.

Finding something to get mad about is not too difficult in today’s world. All you need to do is look around and I guarantee there is something out there that has the potential of setting you off. I know a couple of guys who are not happy with the current political state, and make it a point to tweet the most hateful things. Every. Single. Day. It has gotten so that the vast majority of their social media activity is vitriolic, and it has begun to define who they are online. They didn’t start out that way, but contention has become their hobby,

President Russell M. Nelson addressed this in Conference all the way back in 1989 – and it has definitely gotten much worse since then. He said:

“My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention. How easy it is, yet how wrong it is, to allow habits of contention to pervade matters of spiritual significance, because contention is forbidden by divine decree:

The Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another. (2 Ne. 26:32.)”

As we dread any disease that undermines the health of the body, so should we deplore contention, which is a corroding canker of the spirit.”  (link)

There is that word again – did you catch it? Contention is a corroding canker of the spirit. (One of the great ironies is when people argue about doctrinal issues.)

There is so much contention out there. To many, it is a way of life, to others it is a hobby. I wrestle with it as well. It is so easy to get mad and – even worse-  share it. It is so easy to nourish those seeds of contention until they grow into big, ugly weeds that are hard to manage, and even harder to kill. Contention truly is an “evil condition or thing that spreads destructively”

Back to my cancer: My solution? Gonna get it cut out of my shoulder. That is the best way to prevent it from growing, spreading or doing any permanent disfiguration or lasting damage. I’m lucky that it is still small – it will be much easier to deal with, and much a much simpler (and less painful) procedure.

It is the same when contentious feelings come into our hearts and minds. If we pluck them out and get rid of them quickly, and before they have time to take root, it is a much easier procedure, and they are less likely to cause any permanent spiritual disfigurement or lasting damage.

How do we do it?

#1: Forgive. President James E. Faust said this:

“If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,” which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes “that forgiveness … is a liberating gift that people can give to themselves.” (link)

Interesting: Forgiveness heals both soul and body.

Christ taught “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14–15.)

The Lord doubled down on this idea in D&C 64:9-10, when He said, “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (I re-read this passage several times and could not find any exceptions for being angry with people with names like Trump, McCain, etc.)

#2: Own it, then get rid of it. Don’t forget what Elder Lynn G. Robbins taught about anger: “Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. We choose!” (link)

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Ne. 11:29–30). How to get rid of it?

#3: Ask the Lord to soften our hearts and grant us charity.  Nephi found success through prayer: “I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart” (1 Nephi 2:16)

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 things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”  (Moroni 7:45)

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren (sisters too!), pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love…” (Moroni 7:48)

#4 Check our focus. “What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my father would say: “Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.” President Gordon B. Hinckley. (Link)

I am planning on getting my cancer removed in the next couple of weeks. Now as for the things growing in my heart that need removed, that can happen today, if I am willing to do it.

Years ago I discussed some ideas that tie in with this post. You might want to check it out if you are new to MMM. “The Tarzan Principle.

19

shaking fist

Have you ever felt abandoned by God? Not everyone has, but in recent days, I have had the opportunity to visit with some people close to me who have, or do. I found the conversations both sad and hopeful at the same time. One reason I am happy to talk about the subject is because – brace yourselves – I have felt abandoned by God. Even beyond feeling abandoned, I have been angry at Him as well. I don’t recommend it, but it can happen.

The most personal and specific example in my life was a stretch of time earlier in our marriage when my EC and I had four young kids in the home, ranging from two to eleven years old. During an eighteen month period we had a non-stop run of heartbreak and challenge. I say this knowing full well that to some of you, our challenges will look difficult, yet to others, they will look like a walk in the park. Everyone faces their own challenges, and they can be wildly different. Our challenges were kicking my butt.

To start off the stretch, we lost a baby to miscarriage. A few months later, my father-in-law passed away from a painful illness. Three months later, my mother died unexpectedly. Shortly afterwards, my father suffered a massive stroke that rendered him invalid. Finally, a few month later, my EC suffered a life-changing leg injury that left her confined to a hospital bed for three months, unable to walk for six.

It was during this last event that I remember how I felt. My wife was stuck sleeping on her back in an extra room in  a rented hospital bed, fuzzy from pain medications. The kids were upstairs asleep when I decided to go outside for a walk. I was so tired. Tired from playing nurse, tired of trying to keep a business afloat, and tired of taking care of a houseful of kids. I was still mourning my mom and dad, and just trying to keep my own head above water.

I vividly remember standing in our driveway that night and bursting into tears. Not tears of sadness, or exhaustion, but tears of anger. I was angry at God for abandoning us. I was angry that he allowed all of these life-crisis to pile up on us without even time to mourn or breath before the next gut-punch came. I felt cheated that our reward for doing our best to live righteously was to be repeatedly pummeled by tragedy. I felt alone and cheated.

It was an unfamiliar feeling to me.

As I tell this, I’m sure that many of you are nodding your heads and saying, “Been there, done that.” I also know that many of you are taken aback because you have never grappled with those kind of feelings. I do guarantee that someone you know and love has walked this path.

One of them is the prophet Joseph Smith. When he was suffering in Liberty Jail, his frustration and feelings of abandonment bubbled up, as recorded in scripture. He pled:

O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? (D&C 121:1-2)

He went on to offer God a list of suggestions of how He could better do His job, but mostly his plea was full of questions. Where are you? Why aren’t you helping? Way aren’t you listening?

The greatest example of feeling abandoned in the scriptures is from the Savior’s own lips. As he hung on the cross, suffering more than any man ever would, or could, he called out to God.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt 27:46)

Apparently it happens to the best of us.

The danger in harboring feelings of abandonment or anger towards God is not in that moment, but what it can lead to if unchecked. Something has to stop the slide before we find ourselves hurtling into the abyss of atheism or agnosticism. (Think of Tom Cruise sliding off that skyscraper in Shanghai.)

It would be both trite and naive to suggest that we just “snap out of it.” These challenges are real and can run deep. What I can suggest are some ways that we can stop the slide and climb back into a healthier relationship with God.

– Find something to grab onto to stop the slide.

Might I suggest this thought: Anger towards God is a personal testimony that you believe He is real and that He lives. You wouldn’t be angry if you didn’t believe in Him, right? Grab onto that basic, pure testimony that He does live, and begin to work your way back. As frightening as it is to think God has abandoned us, it is more frightening to think that He doesn’t exist. He does.

– Find a sense of proportion.

Nobody, and I mean nobody wants to be told that things could be worse, and I would suggest that you never, ever do that to someone who is suffering. Yet that is exactly how God responded to Joseph Smith when he called out to Him from Liberty Jail.

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job”. (D&C 121:7-10)

It was a gently rebuke, looking at the bright side – but then the Lord came back again, gave him a dose of proportion and dressed him down:

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8)

– Find a sense of eternal perspective.

The Plan of Happiness does not always mean “Instant Happiness.” it is a plan for playing the long-game. Studying that plan, and what God desires for us, helps us weather the inevitable storms life brings. The immediacy of our current struggles sometimes overwhelms the reality that this life is indeed a “blip” on the eternities. While that perspective does not reduce the pain, it can make it a little more tolerable. It helps to know that God is aware, and that he loves us – even when we can’t tell.

President Boyd K. Packer taught, “Do not suppose that God willfully causes that which, for His own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and the purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven” (link)

– Find some blessings.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but the concept is sound. When we focus on gratitude, we become humble. Humility helps us in the next step:

– Find some grace.

President James E Faust: In the many trials of life, when we feel abandoned and when sorrow, sin, disappointment, failure, and weakness make us less than we should ever be, there can come the healing salve of the unreserved love in the grace of God. It is a love that forgives and forgets, a love that lifts and blesses. (link)

As the Lord pointed out to Joseph Smith, “the Son of Man hath descended below them all,” placing the Savior in the remarkable position of having total empathy, understanding and compassion. Turn to Him. By seeking healing through the atonement of Jesus Christ we can mend our strained relationship with God.

I testify that the Savior invites all of us to come and partake of His Atonement. As we exercise our faith in Him, He will lift us up and carry us through all of our trials and, ultimately, save us in the celestial kingdom. (Elder Evan A. Scmutz)

– Find common ground through prayer.

Standing in the driveway that night, I had a one-sided conversation with God, and it wasn’t pretty. But at least I was having a one-sided conversation with God. Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite plays/films. The lead character Tevye, walks through his life in a constant running dialogue with God. It is not only funny, but exemplary. I’ll admit standing in a driveway – full of tears and rage – is not the best way to converse with God, it is at least an honest attempt, and the best I could muster at the time. The next step would be to dial it back, and search for a two-way communication that involves much less complaining, and much more listening and searching for understanding.

Elder Bednar added this counsel: “Discerning and accepting the will of God in our lives are fundamental elements of asking in faith in meaningful prayer. However, simply saying the words “Thy will be done” is not enough. Each of us needs God’s help in surrendering our will to Him.

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” Humble, earnest, and persistent prayer enables us to recognize and align ourselves with the will of our Heavenly Father. And in this the Savior provided the perfect example as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. … And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:42, 44).

Ultimately, when we are angry at God, or feel abandoned by Him, we are focusing on the idea that we know better – that things should run according to our plan. Until we let go of this false sense of control and actually submit our will to His, we will be at odds with God. It is a lifetime challenge, and tougher to embrace when we are mired in struggle.

To those who are suffering, I feel for you and hope you can stop the slide and climb out. To those of you who have never experienced the feelings of abandonment and frustration with God, I am happy for you, and hope you never do.

God does live, and He does love us – even though sometimes we can’t see it.

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23

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.

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* 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.”

 

24

Knife in Back

It is inevitable: Some person is going to say something rude, condescending, judgmental, or mean to you. Maybe even today. People can be cruel and thoughtless. Feelings get hurt. If you don’t believe me, hang out on Social Media for a bit – you will read how people have had terrible things said and done to them. You will also find articles and comments about how mean and judgmental people can be. It is all around us on a regular basis.

How do we react when these things come our way? I decided to help. I have taken it upon myself to make a flow chart we can follow when taking offense for something someone says, or does.

All we have to do is start at the top of the chart, and choose our responses. Easy-peasy!

In addition, for your reading pleasure, I have numbered the different steps, and included supporting documentation from prophets and scriptures to back up each step. (You can click on the chart to make it bigger and easier to read.)

Good luck!

Final Flow Chart

 Here is some supporting documentation – there is much more…

*1 Choose to Be Offended

“When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not acondition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.

“You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.”

Elder David A. Bednar “And Nothing Shall Offend Them

 

“The Lord said, “Thou mayest choose for thyself.”

I promise you, as you choose not to be offended or ashamed, you will feel His love and approval. You will know that you are becoming more like Him.”

Elder Neil A. Anderson “Never Leave Him.”

 

“It is reported that President Brigham Young once said that, ‘He who takes offense when no offense was intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense was intended is usually a fool.’

It was then explained that there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.

Elder Marion D. Hanks, “Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love.”

*2 Become Angry

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Nephi 11: 29-30)

“Anger is a yielding to Satan’s influence by surrendering our self-control. It is the thought-sin that leads to hostile feelings or behavior. It is the detonator of road rage on the freeway, flare-ups in the sports arena, and domestic violence in homes.

Understanding the connection between agency and anger is the first step in eliminating it from our lives. We can choose not to become angry. And we can make that choice today, right now: “I will never become angry again.” Ponder this resolution.”

Elder Lynn G. Robbins, “Agency & Anger.”

 

*3 Retaliate

“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheekturn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)

“The Prophet Joseph Smith demonstrated this courage throughout his life. Though he “suffer[ed] severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious” he did not retaliate or give in to hatred. Like all true disciples of Christ, he stood with the Savior by loving others in a tolerant and compassionate way. That is Christian courage.

When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is Christian courage.”

Elder Robert D. Hales, “Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship.”

 

“Whether accusations, innuendos, aspersions, or falsehoods are whispered or blatantly shouted, the gospel of Jesus Christ reminds us that we are not to retaliate nor contend. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “Pure Religion.”

 

*4 Pass Judgement on the Offender (Becoming the Offender)

And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (3 Nephi 14:1-5)

 

“The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, said that those who pass judgment on others are “inexcusable.” The moment we judge someone else, he explained, we condemn ourselves, for none is without sin.”

“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!

It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy.”

*5 Complain About the Offense to Others

“Gossip is the worst form of judging. The tongue is the most dangerous, destructive, and deadly weapon available to man. A vicious tongue can ruin the reputation and even the future of the one attacked. Insidious attacks against one’s reputation, loathsome innuendoes, half-lies about an individual are as deadly as those insect parasites that kill the heart and life of a mighty oak. They are so stealthy and cowardly that one cannot guard against them. As someone has said, “It is easier to dodge an elephant than a microbe.”

President N. Eldon Tanner, “Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged.”

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go andtell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

“A little tendency to gossip can lead not only to bearing serious false witness, but more often to malicious whispers which, unfortunately, “memory will warehouse as a shout.”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Settle This in Your Hearts.”

*6 Refuse to Forgive

“I the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:10)

“Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.”  President Deiter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy.”

“I submit that it takes neither strength nor intelligence to brood in anger over wrongs suffered, to go through life with a spirit of vindictiveness, to dissipate one’s abilities in planning retribution. There is no peace in the nursing of a grudge. There is no happiness in living for the day when you can “get even.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Of You It is Required to Forgive.”

 

*7 Be Held Accountable Before God

“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.” (D&C 64:9)

“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14–15.)

*8 Enjoy the Peace of a Personal Victory

“If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,” which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes “that forgiveness … is a liberating gift that people can give to themselves.” 

“The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. For all of us who forgive “those who trespass against us,” even those who have committed serious crimes, the Atonement brings a measure of peace and comfort.”

President James E. Faust, “The Healing Power of Forgiveness.”

“There is no peace in reflecting on the pain of old wounds. There is peace only in repentance and forgiveness. This is the sweet peace of the Christ, who said, “blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt. 5:9.)

President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Of You it is Required to Forgive.”

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