"Speak when you are angry,
and you'll make the best speach you'll ever regret!"
Dr. Laurence Peters
Today was not a good day!
I had a customer this morning who was very angry with me. To start with, they called on the phone and wanted personal information. I can not give that information over the phone. It has to do with privacy laws and it is something that is just not done. She got angry on the phone and started yelling at me and telling me how rude I was. Then she came into the office. It just escalated from there. She would not let me say why I couldn't tell her. She would not let me explain. She just proceeded to tell me how I obvously don't like my job, I have no business being in customer service, and I must be a truly miserable person.
This has bothered me all day. I love my job. I love being in customer service, and I don't think I am miserable (at least, not most of the time).
In thinking about this today, I can't help but wonder how many times does my own personal state of mind, my own attitude, impact how I approach others and what I say to them (especially when they might be telling me something that I don't want to hear).
I believe that getting angry is one of Satan's most effective tools. It is a cunning part of his strategy to dissociate anger from free agency. He works at making us believe that we are victims of an emotion that we cannot control. We often hear, “I lost my temper.” To “lose something” implies “not meaning to,” “accidental,” “not responsible”, we might be careless perhaps, but “not responsible.”
“He made me mad,” is another phrase we hear, also implying lack of control or agency. This implies that someone else is accountable for your feelings. No one "makes us" mad. No one "makes us" angry. There is no force involved. Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision. By virtue of the fact it IS a choice, we can also make the choice not to become angry. We get to choose!
To those who say, “But I can’t help myself,” there was an article in Reader Digest by author William Wilbanks. He responds: “Nonsense. Aggression, … suppressing the anger, talking about it, screaming and yelling, are all learned strategies in dealing with anger. We choose the one that has proved effective for us in the past. Ever notice how seldom we lose control when frustrated by our boss, but how often we do when annoyed by friends or family?” (“The New Obscenity,” Reader’s Digest, Dec. 1988, 24). Mr. Wilbanks then went on to tell the story about when he was in his sophomore year, he tried out for the high school basketball team and made it. On the first day of practice his coach had him play one-on-one while the team observed. When he missed an easy shot, he became angry and stomped and whined. The coach walked over to him and said, “You pull a stunt like that again and you’ll never play for my team." For the next three years he never lost control again. Years later, as he reflected back on this incident, he realized that the coach had taught him a life-changing principle that day: anger can be controlled.
By this short true-story, we learn that we really are dealing with learned behavior, either our own or someone elses. Anger is simply yielding to Satan’s influence by surrendering our self-control. It is the direct cause of road rage on the freeway, flare-ups in the sports arena, and violence in our communities and our homes.
Unchecked, anger can quickly injure tender hearts and feelings. In our last stake conference, I heard a reference to one of or past Prophets, President David O. McKay. He spoke on this subject and once said,
“Let husband and wife never speak in loud tones to each other, ‘unless the house is on fire’” (Stepping Stones to an Abundant Life, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay , 294).I love that phrase! I wish I could say that I have never raised my voice in my home. I am working on it though. It matters to me how I sound to those that I love the most! I can control many things. But I cannot control someone else's perceptions. I can't control their happiness, or their misery, I can't control whether other's like me or not. I can't control how they perceive my phone messages, or what they say to my employees. The only thing I can control are those things that I am directly responsible for. I can control my own tone of voice (although I can't control what anyone else "thinks" they heard). I can control my own response. I can control the fact that I am angry. We can choose not to become angry. And we can make that choice today, right now. I can let go of the anger and move on.
"Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame."