To begin, it’s important we take away the shame from anger. The goal of this article isn’t to tell you your anger is wrong or that you are lacking as a person because you experience anger. Anger is a natural emotion with useful purposes when channeled correctly. Anger can:
- Be the starting point for change
- Motivate us to create & protect boundaries
- Help release pent up emotion
- Notify us something, somehow is wrong
However, we have a habit of glorifying and even worshipping our anger when the heat of it seems to be the only thing to keep us warm in a cold world. It makes sense. If we feel figuratively dead anger can make us feel alive. It gives us a sense of purpose in the face of the senseless. It feeds us when we hunger for justice.
The problem? When not refined through the power of Jesus Christ and purposeful actions, anger quickly becomes corrosive, most of all to the soul. Anger is not something to be ashamed of, but it is also not something to revel in. It is also not something we can excuse because of the actions of Christ at specific points during His ministry.
Jesus Christ Cleansing the Temple
Many people often use the scriptural example of Jesus Christ cleansing the temple to justify a wide range of angry reactions and the actions that follow.
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. – Matthew 21:12
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. – Mark 11:15
And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought. – Luke 19:45
And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers ofsitting: And when he had made a of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables. – John 2:13-15
Reading through these scriptures, it is natural to think, “Jesus was angry.” It is even more natural to think if Jesus literally threw chairs for a holy cause, that gives us license to do the same. However, when we take a closer look at Christ’s teachings and especially His invitations to us as His disciples, a different path emerges.
Christ’s Perfect Control
While we want to be able to connect with the humanity of Christ, namely that He experienced emotions and faced a mortal existence, it is important to remember He was in perfect control. He also had a perfect perspective of His Father’s plan. Christ wept at the loss of Lazarus, but it is not the hopeless, bitter tears we often experience in the face of tragedy. Similarly, Christ’s anger was not like the anger we experience. It was not blind rage that burned hotter and hotter the more tables He overturned. Christ was always perfectly in control. Can we say the same about ourselves? In our fallen state, should we allow anger to burn within us and affect our actions when we are not like Christ in regard to our ability to control ourselves?
A close study of the scriptures above reveals Christ is never said to be angry or acting in anger. His disciples, upon seeing the event, remember a prophecy about the “zeal” of the Savior. Zeal is best defined as having great energy or enthusiasm for something. If we can transform the embers of anger within us into zeal, we will find ourselves empowered by God and our self-discipline.
Christ Had Stewardship
It’s great to look beyond ourselves and be touched by the experiences of others, especially those who are different than us. Still, we should remember our stewardships. Stewardship is something we’ve been given the authority to care for. Parents are stewards of their children, teachers are stewards of their student’s education, and bishop’s are stewards of the temporal and spiritual needs of their ward.
Jesus Christ has stewardship of many things, but He has special stewardship over His and His Father’s house. He had the authority to state what should be happening in the temple and to take charge of any misconduct found there. In our own lives, do we allow anger to affect how we treat those things under our stewardship? Do we allow our anger to overstep boundaries to impact things not in our stewardship? Consider this quote from Elder F. Enzio Busche:
“Never judge anyone. When you accept this, you will be freed. In the case of your own children or subordinates, where you have the responsibility to judge, help them to become their own judges.”
Both ancient and modern-day teachings are clear: we need to put away anger and stop it from affecting our agency. Christ said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shaltthy , and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, your , them that you, do to them that you, and for them which despitefully use you, and you; That ye the of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth on the just and on the unjust. For if ye them which love you, what reward have ye?”
President Thomas S. Monson taught: “To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. 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.”
So, how we do turn our natural anger into righteous zeal? Here are a few ideas:
- Pray for revelation about righteous actions you can take to correct injustices.
- Examine how you think about others, how you talk about others, and how you treat others, especially your enemies. Do they reflect the teachings of Christ?
- Study the life of Jesus Christ. Ponder on how He reacted to negative situations.
- Never relinquish your agency. Satan would have you believe you have no control over how you feel or how you react to strong emotions.
As we learn to refine the natural man, we will find ourselves in holier places and with greater abilities to share the cause of Christ with all the world.