Most of us have heard of tempered steel, and tempered chocolate. But this process happens to people, too.
Believe it or not, the tempering process is the same with chocolate and steel. Let’s start with chocolate. Ask any candy maker– when you melt chocolate you want it to be shiny and strong, rather than cloudy and weak. To ensure this, you have to melt away the weaker crystals and keep the stronger, high-temperature ones. This gives chocolate the characteristic sheen and hard snap you see in professional candies. Altering the cocoa butter precisely will make it stronger, and also resistant to re-melting. If done incorrectly, you get a light brown “bloom,” a chalky taste, and a crumbly texture.
Steel is also strengthened by exact heating below the melting point. This kind of metallurgy has been practiced since before Christ, and often includes “quenching,” plunging the heated steel into water to cool it. Like chocolate, the process is very exact and will affect the item’s flexibility, durability, brittleness, and the edge retention of say, a knife. But heated too much, and the steel loses its temper. It can get bent out of shape or simply break. Sound like anyone you know?
Yes, people can succumb to the same forces when they lose their temper as well. And whenever we lose our temper, like chocolate and steel, we become weak. I think this is important to remember, because don’t we all like to be strong? Some think anger comes from a core of toughness and strength, but it’s actually the opposite. Losing one’s temper shows weakness. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Anger is not an expression of strength.” It shows a lack of self-control, just like a toddler’s temper tantrums.
Some people won’t have a meltdown unless the temperature is exceedingly high. Others seem to snap with only a little bit of heat. Think about what it takes to get you hot under the collar. Hopefully, as we mature, it takes a lot more to get us to lose our temper. But that’s not always the case.
Some people feel it’s unhealthy to hold in their anger, that expressing it loudly is more genuine. Or they’ll say it’s simply their way; everyone in their family has a temper. These are excuses. Nobody likes having to walk on eggshells around someone so free with their rage. People who explode and expect everyone else to accommodate them are being selfish, childish, and will soon find friends dropping away.
It’s also unfair to our families. Not only do they have to deal with your outburst, but they may end up copying your example. Elder Anthony D. Perkins said, “Choose to control anger. Family members should hear blessings from our mouths, not cursings.”
But most of us do lose our tempers on occasion. Life gets frustrating and we don’t always have the tools to process that “maddening” amount of annoyance. It could happen while we’re driving, parenting, fixing something, talking to another angry person, or just having everything go wrong.
While it’s true that holding on to anger can drain our energy and sour our mood, blowing up is not the only option.
President Thomas S. Monson said, “To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice.”
People with a short temper can harm their health. Studies show such people are more likely to abuse substances, release stress hormones, suffer from insomnia, have high blood pressure, suffer from headaches and stomach problems, have depression or anxiety, and even bring on a heart attack or stroke.
Here’s how to get back control:
First, do what we tell little children: Use your words. Calmly talk about how you feel and why this event or person upsets you so much. Plan a strategy to deal with the situation, remain safe, and be in control of your emotions.
Meditate. Take a few minutes to calm down, breathe, and release thoughts of anger. This can be done several times a day if necessary.
Exercise. Burn off that fury by running, swimming, whatever helps you get your adrenaline back down again.
Attack projects, not people. Again, direct that intense emotion towards the tasks you’ve been putting off. Organize a messy area. Weed out old files and paperwork. Clean the garage. Tend the garden.
Recognize triggers and make a plan. Ideally, avoid things that set you off. But if it’s a co-worker or a situation you can’t escape, plan ahead how to handle it when something upsetting happens. You’ll feel a surge in peace just by taking control of the situation and having a plan.
Redefine yourself as a person who doesn’t lose their temper. Just as smokers are told to identify themselves as non-smokers, you can make a conscious choice to be the kind of person who keeps it together under stress.
Consider counseling. Getting help with a quick temper is a gift not only for you, but for everyone around you. If your temper has caused you to hurt yourself or anyone else, it’s time. Punching walls, threatening others, shoving, pushing, or damaging property are all signs that you need professional help. Are you still a child of God and does He still love you? Of course. But you need to step up and take care of a situation that’s gotten out of hand.
Once you’ve internalized the skills you need to behave with strength instead of weakness, you’ll feel a surge of contentment and even confidence. You will have made visible improvement. You’ll approach problems with faith that you can solve them, and with the realization that you can listen better to the Holy Ghost’s promptings when you aren’t giving in to outbursts. Every aspect of your life will improve—life at home, at school, at work, at church, everywhere.
That’s keeping your temper.
Hilton is an award-winning playwright and the author of many best-selling Latter-day Saint books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.