Friday, February 20, 2009

Beware of Anger

6 And now, as the Amalekites were of a more wicked and murderous disposition than the Lamanites were, in and of themselves, therefore, Zerahemnah appointed chief captains over the Lamanites, and they were all Amalekites and Zoramites.
7 Now this he did that he might preserve their hatred towards the Nephites, that he might bring them into subjection to the accomplishment of his designs.
8 For behold, his designs were to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites; this he did that he might usurp great power over them, and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage. (Alma 43-5-8)
In the verse 7 above, Zerahemnah wanted to preserve the Lamanites’ hatred towards the Nephites in order to bring the Lamanites into subjection so that they would do what he wanted them to do. He wanted to get the Lamanites mad at the Nephites so that they would fight the Nephites and bring them into bondage.

What this teaches me is that I need to watch out for people who have an angry disposition. It is really hard for an angry person to keep from venting their anger and trying make other people just as angry. Have you ever seen someone try to stir other people up to anger? I’ve seen it a lot. There is a recitation of injustice and unfairness and normal avenues of conflict resolution are portrayed as ineffective or insufficient. (In the Lamanites’ case, no doubt violence was called for at this stage.)

I’ll tell you a few common times I’ve noticed that people are stirred up to anger. How about feminist criticism? In literature, feminist criticism is a way of viewing the literature and pointing out how women were treated or portrayed. Often it turns into a recital of the oppressions against women, and anger is aroused.

Or how about Native American studies? Often it turns into a tale of the oppression and subjection of native peoples that recited and it arouses anger. My husband and I went to the Heard Museum in Phoenix a few years ago and along with the displays of pottery and dress and crafts there was a lot said about how badly they were treated.

Personally, I think this kind of thing is useless. You can’t seek redress from characters in a book. And what’s the point of getting mad at people who are dead and gone? It could be argued that it is important to recite the oppressions of the past to realize the blessings of the present, and that is a valid thing to do. But I hardly ever see people doing this in academia.

At one point in the Book of Mormon, Alma tells his son Helaman to remember the captivity of his fathers.
2 I would that ye should do as I have done, in remembering the captivity of our fathers; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he surely did deliver them in their afflictions.
3 And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 36:2-3)
However, I must point out that Alma does not tell Helaman to remember the captivity of his fathers in order to make him angry, but to point out that it was God that delivered them and that God would deliver him too if he kept the commandments. The offenses of the past were used as a lesson to provoke gratitude for the present and teach good behavior. I wish there was more of this in school.

I seem to have gotten off the topic, a little bit, but maybe that’s okay here. My point is that it is important to notice when someone is trying to make us angry at other people so that we can keep our heads and act, instead of just reacting. Often we may feel that if we don’t get angry, then something is wrong with us, but in these cases it is far better to be rational than rash, because it is too easy to overreact. I’ve always found fact-finding to be a great way of cooling down. And if that doesn’t work, prayer does. We can overcome the past with gratitude for the present and teaching positive lessons.


In The Doghouse said...

Great things to ponder and think about. Isn't it interesting how anger was used to keep them in bondage. This is really quite interesting especially after just getting over the rhetoric of the elections. Perhaps our anger as an American people may just be one way we will be in bondage to things like debt, etc.
All the ranting that is done on the Internet, in hope of gaining readers, is also another way we are continually stirred up to anger. I believe the press does that to us as well.
We simply have situations presented to us from every angle in which we could become angry.
Learning to control those feelings and redirecting them to do good is simply part of the growing process of the gospel.
Great insights.