Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tempering Our Temper

A young girl came into the house with a tear in her pants. Her mother was exasperated, as this had happened too many times before. At her wits end, she said to her daughter, "Now you go into your room, take off those pants, and sew up that tear!" The poor child had never held needle and thread in her life.

So understandably, a little while later her mother saw the pants crumpled on the floor of her daughter's bedroom -- still torn. She looked around for her daughter. Spying the basement light on, she called down the stairs, "Are you down there running around with your pants off?"

A big voice boomed up, "No ma'am. I'm reading the gas meter."

Of course, what parent can’t relate to her exasperation?

On the other hand, I DO have trouble understanding the guy in Los Angeles who was arrested for negligent discharge of a weapon after shooting his toilet bowl five times with a handgun (and yes, this is true). Why did he assault the commode? He apparently exploded when he couldn’t extract a hair brush his daughter flushed down.

He might benefit from the advice of one of America’s great presidents, Thomas Jefferson, who cautioned, "When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, count to 100." I think it applies to discharging weapons, too.

Maybe another technique works better for you. One husband asked his wife, "When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?"

She smiled at him. "I clean the toilet bowl." (Uh-oh, toilets again.)

"How does that help?"

"I use your toothbrush," she said sweetly.

It's not that anger is a bad thing in itself. A good bit of fire in the belly may be needed to right the world’s wrongs. But this isn’t about righteous indignation. It’s about tempering our temper.

I’ve seen marriages destroyed, careers derailed and relationships of all kinds decimated by uncontrolled rage. It’s no wonder all of the world’s great religions have something to say about it. To name a few, the Buddha said, "You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger." The prophet Muhammad said, "He is not strong and powerful who throws people down, but he is strong who withholds himself from anger." And in Christian scripture Jesus instructs, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." You get the idea.

I like the motto Mahatma Gandhi hung on his wall at Sevagram:

"When you are in the right,
You can afford to keep your temper;
When you are in the wrong,
You can't afford to lose it."

I’m sure I could never say it better.

-- Steve Goodier

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1 comment:

Marion said...

Very helpful Steve. Thank you.