“Charity Is Not Easily Provoked,” Ensign, July 1988, 47
Objective: To learn to avoid anger and contention.
One Sunday morning Betty got up late and had only forty-five minutes to get herself and her children ready for church. They would have been on time if it hadn’t been for Susan’s lost shoe and the jam on David’s shirt. Betty felt angry with David and Susan, and she had difficulty feeling a spirit of reverence during the meetings.
Nervous at the prospect of her first oral examination at the university, Dorothy waited in the hall for her professor for half an hour—which made her even more nervous. The first question he asked confused her, and her mind went blank. She stumbled through the rest of the exam, and he told her that she should reevaluate her ability to comprehend complex ideas. Dorothy felt frustrated and angry.
At the supermarket, Helen watched the woman in front of her in line redeem forty-two dollars’ worth of coupons. Everyone behind Helen moved to another line. When Helen joined them, she ended up behind five people, feeling angry and frustrated.
“Life is not fair,” said one woman after a hard day. “The whole world provokes me!”
Most of us feel frustrated or impatient at times. But when we express those feelings by becoming angry with someone, we offend the Spirit and invite bitterness into our hearts. As we strive to come unto Christ and to perfect ourselves, we should ask ourselves not “What is fair?” but, humbly, “What would Jesus have me do?”
The Savior endured great persecution. We read that “they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” (1 Ne. 19:9.) His response to those who crucified him was simply “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.)
Although most of us don’t have to deal with persecution, we are often “provoked” by small things. Rudeness, nagging, disobedience, waiting, disagreements, disappointment, and unfulfilled expectations can irritate us, particularly when we are tired, sick, or in a hurry.
At such times, our first impulse may be to react with irritation, anger, or contention. But we can choose to react instead with charity and not be “easily provoked.” (Moro. 7:45.) We can turn the other cheek (see Matt. 5:38–39) and respond with patience and kindness.
How do we develop a spirit of charity that keeps us from being provoked? One approach is to concentrate on ways to control our anger or impatience. Taking a deep breath and stopping to think for a moment before speaking sometimes helps. Getting in the habit of asking ourselves what Jesus would have us do in a given situation can also help defuse anger and frustration.
For those who have a persistent problem with impatience and anger, fervent prayer can be a powerful help in overcoming the tendency to be provoked. Repentance, too, has a healing effect on a wounded spirit, and returning good for evil drains the heart of anger.
By learning to avoid contention and to control our anger, we stop evil from being passed along and become more like the Savior, whose sacrifice of self made eternal life possible for all who come unto him and emulate his example.
Read Matthew 18:15, 21–22 [Matt. 18:15, 21–22] and discuss what the Savior taught us to do if we are offended by someone.
Think about some things that tend to provoke people. Talk about ways we can learn to react with charity in such situations, rather than with anger or frustration.
(See Family Home Evening Resource Book, pp. 31–35, 48–51, 79, 98–101, 106–108, 138–40, 168, 173–74, 180–81, 235–47, 251–53 for related materials.)