Welcome From Dan
He that conquereth his own soul……
It seems we glamorize anger today. An intelligent person speaking calmly will not be seen on the news tonight, however, an angry lunatic will command attention and be given opportunity to spew accusations and blame.
But anger is not impressive or a compliment to the person’s character. Typically, it’s a cover for some fear or weakness, or a desire to shift responsibility to someone else.
On the Halloween night when Dwight D. Eisenhower was ten years old, his parents let his two older brothers go out for trick-or-treating, but they told Dwight he was too young to be given that privilege. Dwight was crushed. He tried to make a case for why he should be allowed to go as well, pleading and begging with his parents to change their minds. But his brothers went off without him and he was left at home, fuming and angry. As his rage grew, he ran out of the house and starting pounding away at the trunk of an apple tree in their back yard, slamming his fists into the tree until the flesh on his fists was ripped and bleeding.
His father finally pulled him away and sent him to his room, where little Ike sobbed into his pillow, feeling like the whole world was against him.
After about an hour, his mother came into his room and quietly sat down in the rocking chair next to his bed. She rocked without saying anything for some time, and then she began to talk to young Dwight, telling him she was concerned about his anger. She said he could learn to control his temper or his temper would control him. She encouraged him that gaining self-mastery would open doors of opportunity for him that anger never would.
And then Dwight’s mom gave him a piece of wisdom that would guide his life from that moment forward. “He that conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh a city,” she told her son, paraphrasing Proverbs 16:32 (“It is better to be slow-tempered than famous; it is better to have self-control than to control an army.”)
“Hating was a futile sort of thing,” she said, “because hating anyone or anything meant that there was little to be gained. The person who had incurred my displeasure probably didn’t care, possibly didn’t even know, and the only person injured was myself.”
As little Dwight’s mother applied salve and bandages to his wounded hands, she gently pointed out that his uncontrolled anger had changed nothing, and only caused damage and injury to himself.
Dwight calmed down and fell asleep.
When he was 76 years old, in writing his autobiography, Eisenhower reflected: “I have always looked back on that conversation as one of the most valuable moments of my life.”
The next time you find yourself in the middle of an angry outburst, or seething at an unfair event, or ready to give somebody a piece of your mind, just ask yourself: Is this actually making me feel better? Is this actually going to change any of the circumstances I wish were gone? Is this really the life I want?
Philosophers tell us that every time you get angry, a little life leaves your body. A medical study has shown the most common factor for susceptibility to illness is our level of internal stress.
Circumstances may not be to our liking. You may lose your job or experience a business failing through no fault of your own. You know the politicians are making stupid decisions and things are happening around you that are just not fair. History is being shaped by forces beyond your control. But your mind and your spirit – those are yours. You must protect those.
Try to remember little Ike when you find yourself getting mad. Anger is not impressive or tough – it’s a mistake. It might even be a trap someone has set for you to walk into.
“One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong. Only through the bringing together of head and heart, intelligence and goodness, shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature.”
– Martin Luther King Jr