This week in Sunday School, we discussed the story of Balaam, a prophet whom King Balak enticed many times to curse the Israelites.
You can read a full description of the story here. I found it very interesting and enlightening.
There are so many lessons to be learned from it, such as the need to obey God’s commandments with exactness , to not be tempted by worldly treasures, and to accept and follow answers to prayer, instead of trying to get God to change His will.
The point that moved me the most, though, came from the encounter with Balaam and his donkey, who he thought was mocking him by not proceeding forth on their journey, but rather stopping, or turning, or falling down. Balaam beat his donkey, and after the donkey was allowed by God to speak, realized that the donkey in fact was saving him from death.
I thought about how as people we often are quick to get angry and quick to be offended. Often when we choose to feel this way, we lash out irrationally, usually without knowing all the facts.
Most of the time, when someone seemingly hurts us, it isn’t intentional. Most people aren’t out to hurt us or bring us down. Sometimes people just have bad days, fumble something they say, forget a promise they have made, or are just speaking or doing what they usually do, not realizing it may not be the best way to communicate.
Sometimes we just don’t have all the facts. We only see one piece of the puzzle, and rather than seek out the rest of pieces, we make assumptions – assumptions which lead to bitterness, lashing out, awkwardness, or gossip.
Then there are times when people really are out to hurt us. It could be a stranger, a peer, or even someone we love.
In those cases, we really have no choice but to be angry and offended, right? We aren’t in the wrong if we lash out, either physically, verbally, or nonverbally because that person deserves it, correct? Isn’t that just justice?
That is the common response, but in reality, anger is a CHOICE.
A leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church), Elder Lynn G. Robbins, said:
“A cunning part
of his [Satan’s] strategy is to dissociate anger from agency, making us believe
that we are victims of an emotion that we cannot control. We hear, ‘I lost my
temper.’ Losing one’s temper is an interesting choice of words that has become
a widely used idiom. To ‘lose something’ implies ‘not meaning to,’
‘accidental,’ ‘involuntary,’ ‘not responsible’—careless perhaps but ‘not
“‘He made me
mad.’ This is another phrase we hear, also implying lack of control or agency.
This is a myth that must be debunked. No one makes us mad. Others don’t make us
angry. There is no force involved. Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a
decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. We choose! To those who say,
‘But I can’t help myself,’ author William Wilbanks responds, ‘Nonsense.’
suppressing the anger, talking about it, screaming and yelling,’ are all
learned strategies in dealing with anger. ‘We choose the one that has proved
effective for us in the past. Ever notice how seldom we lose control when
frustrated by our boss, but how often we do when annoyed by friends or family?’ (‘The New
Obscenity,’ Reader’s Digest, Dec. 1988, 24; italics added)” (in Conference
Report, Apr. 1998, 105; or Ensign, May 1998, 80).
If anger is a choice, why do we choose it? Does it solve anything?
The living prophet of the LDS church, Thomas S.
Monson said, “Anger does not solve anything; it
builds nothing. To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. 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 testify that
such is possible.”