Young People Ask
How Can I Control My Temper?
How often do you lose your temper?
□ Every month
□ Every week
□ Every day
Who is most likely to make you lose your temper?
□ No one
Below, describe a situation that typically provokes your anger.
IF YOU put a ✔ next to “Never” and “No one” and left the last entry blank, congratulations—you have control of your temper!
However, everyone reacts differently to trying situations and has shortcomings in one way or another. The Bible writer James said: “We all stumble many times.” (James 3:2) In fact, when it comes to your temper, you may feel as does 17-year-old Serena.* “I have this pent-up energy,” she says, “and often I take it out on whoever upsets me next. It could be my parents, my sister, or even my dog!”
Separating Myths From Facts
Do you find it difficult to keep a lid on your temper? If so, help is available. But first, let’s dispel a few myths.
◼ Myth: “I can’t control my temper—I come from a long line of hotheads!”
Fact: You may well be “disposed to rage”—perhaps because of the influence of family, environment, or other factors. But what you do with that rage is within your control. (Proverbs 29:22) The question is, Where do you want to be when it comes to your emotions—in the driver’s seat or in the passenger’s seat? Others have learned to control their anger, and so can you!—Colossians 3:8-10.
Key Scripture: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.”—Ephesians 4:31.
◼ Myth: “If I’m angry, it’s better to let it all out than to bottle it up inside.”
Fact: Both approaches can be harmful to your health. True, there’s a time to “give vent” to your concern. (Job 10:1) But that doesn’t mean you should walk around like a stick of dynamite looking for a fuse. You can learn to express strong emotions without exploding.
Key Scripture: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, . . . keeping himself restrained.”—2 Timothy 2:24.
◼ Myth: “If I’m ‘gentle toward all,’ everyone will walk all over me.”
Fact: People can sense that it takes real strength to display self-control, and they will respect you more if you do that.
Key Scripture: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”—Romans 12:18.
Taming Your Temper
If you tend to be temperamental, perhaps until now you’ve blamed others for your outbursts. For example, have you ever said, “She provoked me” or “He made me lose my temper”? If so, your very words suggest that others are holding the remote control to your emotions. How can you regain command? Try the following.
Assume responsibility. It all starts with acknowledging that you—and only you—can “make” yourself angry. So take finger-pointing accusations out of your vocabulary. Instead of saying, “She provoked me,” admit to yourself, ‘I allowed myself to be provoked.’ Instead of saying, “He made me lose my temper,” acknowledge to yourself, ‘I chose to overreact.’ Once you accept responsibility for your actions, you’ll be better able to change them.—Galatians 6:5.
Anticipate the problem. The Bible says: “Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later.” (Proverbs 22:3, Today’s English Version) The key, then, is to anticipate the problem. Ask yourself, ‘When is my temper most likely to flare?’ For example, a girl named Megan says: “I work nights, and when I finish my shift, I’m extremely tired. That’s when almost anything can send me over the edge.”
Question: In what circumstances is your temper likely to flare?
Plan a better response. When provoked, take a deep breath, lower your voice, and speak slowly. Instead of making an accusation (“You thief! You took my sweater without asking!”) try expressing how the action affects you. (“I really get frustrated when I want to wear my sweater and I find out that you ‘borrowed’ it without asking me.”)
Exercise: Think of a recent situation in which you lost your temper.
1. What provoked you?
2. How did you react? (What did you say and/or do?)
3. What might have been a better response?
Consider the consequences. Several Bible principles can help you to do that. For example:
◼ Proverbs 12:18: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword.” Words can hurt, and when you lose your temper, you’re almost sure to say something you’ll regret later.
◼ Proverbs 29:11: “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.” In the end, a tirade only makes you look foolish.
◼ Proverbs 14:30: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” A bad temper is bad for your health! Says a girl named Anita: “High blood pressure runs in my family, and the fact that I am prone to stress makes me think twice about losing my temper.”
The lesson? Think of the consequences of your words and actions. Says 18-year-old Heather: “I ask myself, ‘What if I lose my temper with this person? What will he or she think of me? How will it affect our relationship? How would I feel if someone acted that way toward me?’” You can ask the same type of questions before speaking or before sending a message—whether through the mail, over the phone, or via instant message, text message, or e-mail.
Question: What could result if someone upset you and in response you sent him or her an irate message?
Get help. “People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron,” says Proverbs 27:17. (TEV) Why not ask a parent or a mature friend how he or she keeps calm?
Monitor your progress. Keep a journal, and monitor your progress. Each time you lose control, write down (1) what happened, (2) how you reacted, and (3) a better response. In time, you’ll find that the better response becomes your first one!
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
Some names in this article have been changed.
TO THINK ABOUT
At times, even people we wouldn’t think would lose their temper have done so momentarily. What lessons can be learned from these examples?
◼ Paul and Barnabas.—Acts 15:36-40.
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WHAT YOUR PEERS SAY
“Venting to my diary—or to my mom—helps me to stay calm.”—Alexis, United States.
“If I’m completely stressed, going for a fast walk releases the energy, and the air clears my head.”—Elizabeth, Ireland.
“I mentally remove myself from the situation and ask, ‘What would happen if I started yelling?’ I always end up seeing that it wouldn’t help!”—Graeme, Australia.
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DID YOU KNOW?
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You are the one who determines whether your temper reaches the boiling point