Keeping One's Temper


As a Quaker, How Are You Keeping Your Temper?

April 12, 2017
by Molly Wingate

Keeping One's Temper

Over lunch my friend asked me, “How are you doing with all this with Trump? I mean as a Quaker, how are you keeping your temper?”

What my friend knows is that I have a temper. She has seen it when we have had some intense, private conversations.  Generally, I take my temper to a friend. Someone with no skin in the game who will just listen as I talk my way into understanding why I am so worked up. The chosen friend also gets a blast of what my relatives referred to as a “potty mouth.” It seems a bit easy for someone with word skills to resort to four letter bombs when working out something deep and personal. But there you have it.

So my friend knew what she was asking when she queried, “How are you keeping your temper?” I chuckled and said a few mild swear words. Her eyes lit up, afraid I was about to let it loose in a restaurant, but then I Iaughed.

“I mutter to myself a lot. And I have been working on Shakespearian curses.Those three word tongue twisters keep my mind occupied and make me laugh. I have an old handout with three columns so you can pick a word from each: “you putrid, plumplucked puttock……”

She laughed, “I feel better already.”

“That is how I move past my own frustration and anger when it seems like once or twice a week we are taking a giant banana step backward. No one has asked me, ‘Mother may I!’ And then I look for where I can do some good, some place where I can relieve some suffering. I head there.”

She smiled and nodded. I was grateful for the opportunity to think about what I was doing with my anger. We chatted about what we’ve been up to and how our magnificent children have moved into adulthood.

Quakers have a reputation for being calm and generous spirited. I’ve heard people talk about Quakers as if they are saints who never do or say an inappropriate thing. I have to say, that this is not my first stop when I get angry. I will get to ‘appropriate,’ but I have to go through several stages of fury first.

One of my great challenges as a Friend is to lovingly handle my temper and learn from it. Getting angry isn’t bad. Acting out on that anger can be. Staying angry is always bad. But learning what part of me is so disturbed is always good for me, and sometimes leads to something good for others. Am I outraged at injustice, greed, violence, deceit, stupidity? And what can I do to help?

I think Friends and others do themselves a disservice when they run away from their anger.  If something gets you riled enough to be angry, then finding out about why it riles you is worth your time. And if you can find a way to use what you learn to do something positive, that is a good thing.  If you find a way to lessen someone else’s suffering, well that’s the jackpot.


Photo: Creative Commons Zero – CC0