Tuesday, March 2, 2010

School Thy Feelings, O My Brother

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

School Thy Feelings, O My Brother, by President Thomas S. Monson

I'm in the middle of listening to an interview discussing parenting (link). Near the beginning, the interviewee mentions a study where children were exposed to fighting parents, and the responses recorded. Here's what he said:

Normally when a kid watches a fight between parents, an argument, a quite heated conflict, that kid will then lash out afterwards or during it and act aggressive. But there's one thing that happened in those experiments that makes all that aggressive behavior in the child go away: it's watching the fight get resolved, it's watching your parents work it out in a constructive way.

I can see that, if given the choice, it is preferable to have children learn how to peacefully resolve conflicts over seeing only escalation with no conclusion. However, what isn't mentioned (at least not that I've heard yet) are studies of parents teaching their children to school their feelings and not even get angry to begin with.

Does this sound impossible?

I'm reminded of the life-changing (hopefully) observation that Elder Robbins made in 1998: "Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. We choose!" (link to talk)

President Monson agrees:

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 guess it's not impossible. In fact, President Monson continued, "I testify that such is possible."

In a recent church lesson, we were discussing anger, and I asked, "We read of righteous indignation; is anger ever justified?" After some great discussion, we concluded that, No, anger is not ever justified.

If our goal is to always have the Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77, 79, the sacrament prayers), then perhaps the following question can help more than our lesson discussion:

I ask, is it possible to feel the Spirit of our Heavenly Father when we are angry? I know of no instance where such would be the case.

Unfortunately, I know all of this, but I still fail. It seems that every night my personal prayers have a significant portion where I admit that I have failed, again, and plead for help to do better. While Elder Andersen would say, "Don't be discouraged. If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting," (see his talk this conference) I still live with disappointment every time I choose to be angry (previously termed 'lose my temper'). Perhaps I'm on the right track.

This I know, I want to do as President Monson taught. In fact, just tonight, as we were having family scripture study, my son said, "Daddy, I love President Monson. I wish he could be president forever!" As I continue to work on improving my choices, I hope to remember President Monson's charge:

May we make a conscious decision, each time such a decision must be made, to refrain from anger and to leave unsaid the harsh and hurtful things we may be tempted to say.

1 thought:

Clark Siler said...

To be fair, I finished the interview, and regarding consistency in parenting, the interviewee said, "I learned to just calm down and make sure I'm being consistent and talk calmly to [my children] and not lose my cool or lose my temper or not be offended when my kid, you know, does something wrong."

So, while he acknowledges the importance of not choosing to be angry, apparently there aren't studies on it.