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Tempering Temper

by John Minard(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 89 - June 2003

I'm almost always a calm and collected person. Or at least I think I am. Yet on rare occasions, when I least expect it, some set of circumstances, emotions or harsh words will override my calm capacity and spark a momentary surge of temper. I'll feel like a thermometer bursting from extreme heat. Does this ever happen to you?

Tempering Temper

It seems like each of us has one or two sensitive subjects, or flammable-spots that can ignite a hidden rage. For instance, I remember a business meeting where I felt one individual was chopping down every idea I suggested – often before I'd finished explaining it. After a few rounds of interruptions, I retorted sarcastically, saying something like, "Well, if you'd let me complete an idea, it might not be as bad as you think!" The strong tone of my remark put a hush on the usually mild-mannered meeting, as if I'd shouted some stinging profanity. My sensitivity to being interrupted had burst into flames and no one saw it coming.

Embarrassed by my outburst, I resolved to stay quiet during the rest of the meeting. The other person – the interrupter – didn't say much either. As I sat there, I began to feel really bad about barking at that person, who probably didn't even realize they were cutting me off.

After all, I've done it too – like when some 'brilliant' idea bursts upon my thought and out of my mouth before I can stop it. Nonetheless, I still felt hurt, not so much from being cut off, as from realizing I wasn't being listened to. Maybe my ideas weren't as captivating to others as they were to me.

In a few days, my self-pity gave way to humility and I scraped up enough courage to give this person a call. Though I still felt uneasy about approaching this person again, my upbringing had taught me that forgiving them was the most right thing to do. It would ease my pain and have a strong healing effect on them as well. And guess what? It worked! We both apologized and agreed that temper had gotten the best of us. Our moment of mutual contrition became a quiet pact of mutual respect. In subsequent meetings, we became better listeners, especially to each other, and were often supportive of each other's ideas.

Over the years I've learned a lot about tempering, and even eliminating temper or anger in my thoughts and words. It can be done. My work as a chaplain in a maximum-security prison taught me an important lesson about human nature: Everyone longs to be good, and to be liked – even loved – by others. But fear works against this.

Fear of failure, fear of poverty, fear of losing someone or fear of an unknown future promotes a self-centered, self-preserving nature that can turn people against each other. Yet deep down, even the most hardened criminal wants to feel love and live a life deserving of respect. It's as though we each have an innate goodness that, if not suppressed by fear, would naturally rise to the surface of our character, displace fear and anger, and give us the confidence to do good to others, even at our own expense. I believe, deep down, we instinctively feel that fear, anger, temper or resentment are not natural qualities of our true character. They are not a part of what we really are, and we can overcome them by trusting our innate goodness to lead us into a healthy and happy life.

One of my favourite spirituality writers, Mary Baker Eddy, points out that an internal victory of good is a precondition for genuine happiness. She states simply, "The good in human affection must have ascendancy over the evil, or happiness will never be won."[1]

As I've tried to cultivate the good in my human affection, I think I've gained greater resistance to negative tendencies such as fear, anger and temper. It's like putting on a hate-proof armour against the slings and arrows of outrageous conduct. They may still hit us, but it doesn't hurt any more. And the armour gets stronger the more we wear it. It has, many times, protected me from being irked by harsh words, or even malicious acts.

And yes, a wonderful side-effect has been a growing happiness in my life. I want to stress that this isn't just positive thinking or some delusion of happiness. It's solid and real, and at the heart of our very being. I like to think of unconditional goodness as the bedrock quality of all of God's creation. And when we set our foundation in it, our lives become more stable, secure, peaceable and genuinely happy. It can be our basis for accomplishing some greater good in the world.

History shows us many examples of people who have let "the good in human affection ... have ascendancy over the evil". Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa - examples can be found in religion, civil rights, social reform, politics, and especially in the simple, unselfish lives we occasionally find in a friend or neighbour. In fact, some of the happiest people I know are quiet, unnoticed folks who spend their days seeking ways to help others.

Quelling hatred is the great need of our age. Yet hatred is only a mask for fear, and fear dissolves in the presence of unconditional good. Nothing is stronger than our God-given goodness – the divine love we are capable of feeling and expressing toward others.

We can each learn how to live from the standpoint of unconditional goodness by following the words and examples of those who have done it before us. We can begin by heeding that profound truth, expressed in many beliefs and moral traditions, known as the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Striving to follow this rule promotes the ascendancy of goodness. It tempers temper, quells hatred and dissolves fear, bringing a deeper sense of dominion and happiness to our lives.

References

1. Baker Eddy M. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

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About John Minard

John Minard has been in the practice of spiritual healing for over twenty years. As a Christian Science Practitioner based in Philadelphia, USA, John helps others find healing cures and spiritual value in their lives using the prayer-based system as explained in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. Exploring the spiritual nature of God and man as His/Her image and likeness, well-being is found for physical, mental, emotional, relationship and financial problems. John also writes and works via the Internet. He can be reached at johnminard@mail.com. For more information on Science and Health, visit www.spirituality.com.

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