I have to admit, “not being easily provoked” isn’t the first thing I think of when I consider the attributes of charity. It probably isn’t even the second or third thing. However, as I have studied this, I can see how important it is that we are not easily provoked.
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” – 3 Nephi 11:29-30
When we have the spirit of contention, we align ourselves with the Devil – the father of contention. And, something more – even when we don’t have the spirit of contention, the devil is trying to stir up our hearts to contend with anger.
Obviously, when our hearts are filled with anger, there is no room for charity. In fact, it seems like there isn’t room for anything other than anger. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m angry, I don’t think logically. I only think about hurting whomever I feel anger toward.
AHH! Totally not Christ-like! Totally not loving.
We get a good example of a bad example of charity in the Book of Mormon. I won’t go into the whole story. Instead, I just want to get right down to the point.
Just to quickly catch you up, King Noah was a wicked king. Under his rule, he taxed his people heavily, reveled in sin, put priests (who were also wicked) in power, and corrupted the entire country and government. Things were bad and getting worse, so the Lord sent Abinadi to warn the people – repent or be destroyed.
The people didn’t care for Abinadi’s message. They took him to the King. The King and Priests hated Abinadi’s message. (For the most part. Alma listened, but he had to flee for his life.) The other priests decided to put Abinadi to death.
Upon hearing his death sentence, Abinadi said:
“Now Abinadi said unto him: I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true; and that ye may know of their surety I have suffered myself that I have fallen into your hands.
Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you. And if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood, and this shall also stand as a testimony against you at the last day.” – Mosiah 17:9-10
Abinadi was brave and bold. In fact he declared this with such boldness that King Noah was getting afraid. Even though he didn’t believe in God, King Noah feared his life and feared the judgments of God. Noah was pretty selfish! He didn’t want to suffer in the way that Abinadi had prophesied.
It would have been a smart thing for Noah to end everything there. Even if he didn’t listen to the prophet, it would have been smart for him to at least let him go. But, here’s the problem…Noah was easily provoked.
“But the priests lifted up their voices against him, and began to accuse him, saying: He has reviled the king. Therefore the king was stirred up in anger against him, and he delivered him up that he might be slain.” – Mosiah 17:12
So…King Noah let his anger get the best of him, and he decided to have Abinadi killed. Just as Abinadi warned, Noah was later killed in a like manner (by his own people! – See Mosiah 19:20). Things didn’t turn out well – at all – for Noah. Because of his anger, he killed a prophet, lost his own life, and – basically failed on every account.
I love this example because I often think – how do people get deceived? How do we remain steadfast in a world with so many voices trying to sway our opinions? And I’ve come to learn that it has a lot to do with the condition of our hearts.
When our hearts are soft and open, we can have the Spirit with us. Then, our hearts are fertile ground for charity. We are blessed with love and discernment. When we work hard to qualify for the Spirit, we overcome natural tendencies such as selfishness, pride, and anger. Instead, we fill our hearts with sacrifice, humility, and patience. And, when we do this, we overcome temptations – like evil priests goading us to kill prophets. (Well, maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea!)
I can’t say that I’m the best at being slow to anger. Over time, my road rage is improving, but there are times when I still yell at the car in front of me, next to me, or maybe even behind me. I’ve also got problems with yelling at my kids.
In fact, I have recently been prompted by the Spirit that I’m not being the best mother I can be. I realized that I’m having a negative effect on my children because I’ve been yelling more than usual. I’ve been quick to anger. There may be reasons for it (it’s winter and I’m a little depressed…), but they aren’t worth the loss of the Spirit. I know that charity begins at home, and it starts with my choosing to be slow to anger.
How do you keep from being easily provoked?