Today, in our Relief Society meeting, we discussed a talk given by President Thomas S. Monson. In the talk, he included the following story:
Many years ago, a young couple called my office and asked if they could come in for counseling. They indicated they had suffered a tragedy in their lives and that their marriage was in serious jeopardy. An appointment was arranged.
The tension between this husband and wife was apparent as they entered my office. Their story unfolded slowly at first as the husband spoke haltingly and the wife cried quietly and participated very little in the conversation.
The young man had returned from serving a mission and was accepted to a prestigious university in the eastern part of the United States. It was there, in a university ward, that he had met his future wife. She was also a student at the university. After a year of dating, they journeyed to Utah and were married in the Salt Lake Temple, returning east shortly afterward to finish their schooling.
By the time they graduated and returned to their home state, they were expecting their first child and the husband had employment in his chosen field. The wife gave birth to a baby boy. Life was good.
When their son was about 18 months old, they decided to take a short vacation to visit family members who lived a few hundred miles away. This was at a time when car seats for children and seat belts for adults were scarcely heard of, let alone used. The three members of the family all rode in the front seat with the toddler in the middle.
Sometime during the trip, the husband and wife had a disagreement. After all these years, I cannot recall what caused it. But I do remember that their argument escalated and became so heated that they were eventually yelling at one another. Understandably, this caused their young son to begin crying, which the husband said only added to his anger. Losing total control of his temper, he picked up a toy the child had dropped on the seat and flung it in the direction of his wife.
He missed hitting his wife. Instead, the toy struck their son, with the result that he was brain damaged and would be handicapped for the rest of his life.
A super-depressing story, I know, but it is very provocative. It really makes me think about my ability to control my anger. I’m not sure of the circumstance of this couple, but I’m sure that it’s content wasn’t as crucial as the outcome implies. I guess what I’m saying is, usually, when we look back on our anger, we feel kind of dumb about it.
This week, I want to be less upset, angry, irritated, ticked off, whatever. I’ve been noticing how often I may complain – about weather, waking up early, taking care of children all day, whining, not seeing my husband much, etc. It seems like I can always think of something to upset me. But my goal this week is to think more about the things that don’t upset me.
And I mean, I want to think – specifically – of positive things – even in the face of a potentially upsetting situation.
This week, when faced with an upsetting situation, I will do one of the following:
a. Remove myself from the situation until I feel emotionally able to handle it.
b. Choose to empathize – see my situation from the perspective of my ‘antagonist.’
c. Distract myself with something productive.
d. Say a prayer for the Spirit to guide me away from anger, judgement, and criticism.
e. Be happy!!! 🙂