Anger and Acceptance (1 Nephi 16:18-23)

In learning about how people navigate obstacles in their lives, I’ve observed two main reactions to adversity:

acceptance

In the past, I tended to confuse acceptance with endorsement. There are times when acceptance means, this, but a few years ago, when I started a deeper meditation practice, I came to realize that acceptance actually means something a little different. In terms of “accepting” the obstacles in our lives, it isn’t that we give a ringing endorsement, but that we are regarding it as true, we are understanding it.

anger

Anger is an emotional response to adversity.

We see both of these responses in 1 Nephi when Nephi broke his bow.

“And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.

And it came to pass that we did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food.

And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord.” – 1 Nephi 16:18-23

Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael react to Nephi’s broken bow is anger. They murmur and complain. But what does it do? What is the point? They are all starving in the desert. How is standing around, murmuring or complaining going to improve their situation?

Being angry is a waste of time and energy.

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did speak much unto my brethren, because they had hardened their hearts again, even unto complaining against the Lord their God.” – 1 Nephi 16:22

Even though Nephi didn’t react with anger, no solution can be found. He is diffusing the anger of his brethren. What a waste of time! Nephi isn’t doing the wrong thing here, but notice how much effort he must make to calm their anger.

I think that this is usually the result of anger. We waste our energy on murmuring and complaining instead of resolving the solution. Additionally, we have to waste time and energy to abate our anger – before we can finally see clearly to solve our problems.

I get that there are times when we have a physical, emotional reaction. There have been times when I have been hurt that I have felt anger. But my anger never has solved anything. It usually makes things worse, then takes a lot of energy out of me before I finally shake the angry feeling.

This is why meditation and prayer is so helpful. There is not a better way to learn to detach and accept our adversities with a discerning and understanding heart than through meditation and prayer.

Finally,

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?” – 1 Nephi 16:18-23

When we use our energy to accept the problem, then we are able to find solutions! Nephi accepted his loss of a bow. I’m not sure he was feeling super gung-ho and happy about it. But he accepted it. Then he was able to analyze the situaiton and figure out a way to make a new bow.

It’s such an easy solution.

His brothers could have done the same. They could have had food before Nephi went out and procured it. But they wasted their energy and effort, which was already in limited supply, by murmuring and complaining.

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The Double Edged Sword of Truth (Mosiah 13:8)

In Mosiah Chapters 12-15, Abinadi the prophet is delivering a message to the wicked priests of King Noah.

Abinadi preaches a message of truth. It is, for the most part a message of hope. It is the message that Christ will come. It is the message of the gospel and how God’s commandments bring us joy and peace in this life and in the life to come.

Of course, the gospel of Christ is also a message of our agency. We don’t have to choose to keep the commandments. We don’t have to choose to covenant with Him. We can do whatever we want to do. However, we are warned that when we don’t keep the commandments, then we will experience pain and misery.

Abinadi is teaching the priests truth. This message is “laws of the universe” kind of stuff. That might not make sense. What I mean is – the connection between righteousness and joy is as sure of a universal truth as gravity is. You can’t really disagree with the law of gravity. It’s a law.

I mean, I guess you could disagree with it. But you are still susceptible to it, and must be obedient to it or else experience grave results. The Lord’s laws are just as sure. But not everyone accepts or rejoices in truth.

The Priests, who claimed to be preaching the gospel, didn’t rejoice at Abinadi’s words. They didn’t nod their heads and give an “amen.” Instead, we read:

” Ye see that ye have not power to slay me, therefore I finish my message. Yea, and I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts because I tell you the truth concerning your iniquities.

Yea, and my words fill you with wonder and amazement, and with anger.” – Mosiah 13:7-8

I’ll try to cut the priests some slack. Abinadi was calling them out on their wickedness. This is because they were ripening for destruction, and God loves His children. He sent a prophet to warn them – with the hope that they would repent and unite themselves again with a God who loves them and would protect them. It isn’t always easy to hear or take correction – especially if you’re somewhat fond of your sin.

So, I can learn a lesson from these wicked priests, and ask myself, Do I respond in like manner? When someone corrects me, am I filled with “wonder, amazement, and anger?” or do I swallow my pride, accept correction, and seek to repair my relationship with God?

Meditation and Joy

About a year ago, I started meditating. I’ve always believed in prayer, and I know that prayer is basically meditation. However, I also knew that my prayers were lacking. I saw a yoga magazine about meditation and felt that I should purchase it.

As I read through their meditation articles, I had a strong impression to start incorporating some of the yoga-principles into my own meditation (breath, posture, etc).

It has been a transformative experience. My prayers are much better and more meaningful, and I love finding examples of meditation throughout the scriptures.

There is a great example of the power of prayer and meditation found in 2 Nephi 4.

2 Nephi 4 is often considered to be “the psalm of Nephi.” His soul is pained – because of the anger he has towards his brothers. This entire chapter can show us the power of consistent meditation.

For now, I’ll only focus on one part that I find especially significant (today…!)

We read:

“O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.” – 2 Nephi 4:26-30

Nephi’s brothers want to kill him. This is what has driven him to anger. Plus, let’s face it. Nephi has had to deal with his brothers for a lifetime. They haven’t been all that great to him.

I can see why Nephi is angry.

I know that I’ve been frustrated with people in my life (and none of them have have threatened to kill me). I remember a time, for example, when I was a little frustrated with my husband. I prayed about my frustration.

Instead of having the Lord respond, “You’re right! He’s being such a jerk!” I was brought to humility.

As we grow in our meditation, I think that we learn to do this ourselves, and Nephi is an example of this.

Instead of trying to justify his sin, he asks questions of himself. Nephi isn’t focused on how he has been wronged, he is focused on his agency. He doesn’t complain to God that Laman and Lemuel are trying to kill him. Instead, he focuses on his own knowledge, experience, actions, and testimony.

He knows so much. He has had so many blessings in his life. He lives in a promised land. And now, he is reacting to Laman and Lemuel’s antics?! No Way! Nephi shows us that consistent meditation will help us to become agents to act rather than be acted upon.

Instead of retaliating and further pushing this wedge between him and his brothers, he prays about his own reaction. He gives up his pride, he puts his trust in the Lord, and then he is strengthened.

Meditation and prayer will help to strengthen our resolve for our own agency, and this will bring so much more joy in our lives.