The Path to Anger and the Path to Peace

I have been working on this model for the path to anger for a number of months, and have shared it with a few people. I would like to admit that in the past, I had a problem with anger and I often expressed it in a passive-aggressive way. With the help of Heavenly Father, I have overcome this tendency almost entirely. This model has helped me tremendously, and I believe it will help you.

Everyone of us experiences anger to some degree or another, and we express it and deal with it in different ways. If you think about it, anger is usually rooted in or grows out of one or more of these four feelings:

  • Frustration
  • Unfulfilled desires
  • Unmet needs
  • Injustice

There are other possibilities, of course, but these four are typical. These feelings, when we accept them at face value, often lead to us anger.

Then the path to anger usually follows this pattern, starting from the endpoint of anger and going backwards:

  • We don’t feel anger towards another person unless we first blame them for something they have done or not done that has affected us negatively in some way.
  • We don’t blame them unless we first judge them.
  • We don’t judge them unless we first feel some form of pride or defensiveness.
  • We don’t allow pride into our hearts unless we first betray ourselves.
  • Self-betrayal is accepting some belief or behavior in ourselves that is outside of our standards or values.

Now let me show you the whole model.

  • Self-betrayal. Self-betrayal is accepting a behavior in ourselves that is outside of our standards and is based on a false belief or assumption. Joseph Smith said: “The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power” (Teachings, 181).
  • Pride. Pride enters in and starts us down the path of self-deception and anger. Here is what the Lord says about pride: 
    • “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee” (Obadiah 1:3). 
    • “Only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10). 
    • “He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife” (Prov. 28:25).
  • Judgment. In our pride and growing anger, we judge others. But we are warned against this:
    • “Judge not that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). 
    • “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Romans 2:1).
    • “Judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
  • Blame. After judging another, then we blame. This is so common! We blame in order to dodge responsibility. As long as we are blaming others, we are in a defensive pattern, trying to deflect attention from our own mistakes and weaknesses. 
  • Anger. At this point, anger can take over our minds and hearts. But the Lord asks:
    • “Doest thou well to be angry? (Jonah 4:4).
    • “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools”(Ecclesiastes 7:9).

I have been that fool, though more rarely now than ever.

While Satan tempts us to take the path of self-betrayal, the Lord invites us to take a path that starts with self-awareness. When we are self-aware, we recognize more readily what is going on inside—the whys and wherefores—and we will know how to make better choices.

Both paths are parallel, and they go as follows, step by step. The left side is Satan’s counterfeit path to resolving difficulties and the right side is Heavenly Father’s way:

Self-betrayal vs. Self-awareness
Pride vs. Humility
Judgment vs. Tolerance
Blame vs. Personal responsibility
Anger vs. Peace of mind
Division vs. Unity
Dissolution vs. Resolution

Our self-awareness is a humble reflection of our choices, comparing them to Heavenly Father’s commandments. This self-reflection leads us to obedience and good choices, and patience and tolerance of others. Instead of blaming others, we take personal responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and choices which lead to positive action. Then instead of anger we feel peace of mind. Our mind is clear as is our path. We are at peace with heaven and earth.

When we take this path, we become unified with those we love—our spouses, family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers.

As the Lord says, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).

Instead of the dissolution of relationships, we are led to resolution and all the fruits of the Spirit—”love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23).

When we are aware of where anger starts, we can recognize that we have a choice. It’s never too late to choose a new path, to start again.

Recipe for a Boy Scout

Dedicated to John Thatcher

Place one tender, enthusiastic, eleven-year-old boy on low heat, preferably a campfire. Add the following:

24 overnight camps
24 scary campfire stories told at overnight camps
137 knots, well-tied
70 to 100 miles of hiking
3 summer camps
14 swims in ice cold water
563 .22 long rifle rounds
1 very close call with an axe
2 late night trips to the camp infirmary
17 blisters
3 gallons of perspiration
1 dozen very bad smelling socks
1 pilgrimage to the High Uintas
517 reminders from mom
7 rank advancements
3 Scoutmasters
4 assistant Scoutmasters
21 merit badges, minimum
1 uptight dad
1 prayerful mother
A dash of chutzpah
937 small miracles
162 medium-sized miracles
1 great miracle

Mix well. Slow cook for 4 to 7 years. At just the right time, remove one man, well-done.

Five Important Lessons

Over the last five years, I have learned many lessons. The ones I’ve listed here certainly aren’t all the lessons I’ve learned, but they are among the most important. Let me share them with you.

1. Nothing encourages others to change more than our constant, unconditional love. When someone feels genuinely loved and supported, and accepts that love, nothing could motivate them more. Sometimes it takes time for them to feel loved, to let the light of love shine through, but once they do, miracles always happen.

2. No one gets an exemption from trials, not you, not me, not the prophets, not even our Savior. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing your best, keeping the commandments or living as close as you can to the Spirit: trials will come. There is no way around this. And it is through trials that the greatest learning takes place, and our capacity to love grows the most. Trials bring humility, and this opens the door to our eternal education. This is one of the grand purposes of life.

3. When you are carrying a burden and you bring it before the Lord during a visit with your bishop or stake president, you feel so much better and you can’t understand why you’ve waited so long to unload your cares! Here are the sweet words I have heard over and over in the bishop’s office: “I feel so much better!” We always feel so much better when we turn to the Lord in humility and faith. When we release ourselves from bondage by confessing before the Lord and His appointed servants, we look up and find the tree of life standing before us—the love of God (1 Nephi 11:25).

4. Forgiveness, both of self and others, is the path to peace. Letting go of grudges and past hurts brings us into harmony with God and others. Interestingly, forgiveness seems to be more of a blessing to the those who forgive than those who are forgiven! We are commanded to forgive all men, even if they are not repentant or have not asked for our forgiveness (D&C 64:8–10). A person who forgives all is truly free, and it is impossible to be completely happy if we hold back our forgiveness—from ourselves or from others.

5. Respect and trust are the foundation of love. The more we respect others, the more they will trust us, and the more they know that we respect and trust them, the greater will be their love for us. Lasting relationships can rest on no other foundation. A family relationship that could not be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, that is not built up on mutual respect and trust—and the love that flows from these virtues—cannot endure.

Brothers and sisters, these are some of the most valuable lessons I have learned while serving as your bishop. I still have so much to learn, but these lessons have been a great blessing to me. I have learned them from you, by working with you, and they are among the most precious gifts I have received in this life. Thank you all for your examples of love, service, forgiveness and unselfishness. You have enriched my life forever. I will always be grateful to you and love you.