Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stirring up some trouble

I'm in the mood to stir up some trouble. So how about a controversial topic of conversation?

I was recently in a church meeting where anger management and how that relates to the gospel was being discussed. Someone expressed the view that in our church you are expected to be happy all the time. Anger, sadness, frustration, etc. are taboo and maybe even a sin. That is ingrained in us from childhood. Then they used the following Primary Song as evidence:

If you chance to meet a frown,
do not let it stay.
Quickly turn it up side down
and smile that frown away.

No one likes a frowning face.
Change it for a smile.
Make the world a better place
By smiling all the while.

I didn't like the comment that was made and I really didn't like their spin on that Primary tune. I raised my hand to comment but the teacher moved on before she noticed my hand so I put it down and let it pass. Maybe that's good since I was pretty fired up at the time.

I don't think anyone expects people of our religion to be happy all the time. We're normal people and normal people get angry, sad and frustrated. But I think maybe we are held to a higher standard as far as learning to control those emotions and express them in a healthy way instead of in outbursts. Also, I don't think that Primary song is talking about only changing your own smile to a frown. I think it could also be interpreted that if you see someone else frowning, maybe a smile from you to them would help them smile. Smiles are contagious.

Now, I don't mean to get all preachy, because I clearly do get angry, frustrated and sad. And I don't always express it in a healthy way - I've shared stories on this blog that prove that. But that comment bugged me.

What about you? How do you feel about anger management as it relates to Christianity? Do you think everyone in the church expects everyone else to be perfect? What would you have said in response to that comment in a church meeting?

13 comments:

Elieson Family said...

Now I'm wanting to know what lesson I missed!
I have some views about this.
Mostly, I feel like we are all TRYING to be and do our best. This includes appearances. Some who refuse to think an appearance is honest see congregations as deceitful or brainwashed. I see it as hopeful. I think we are all relieved to find another person or family that suffers like we do, but just because we have made that discovery does not mean we expect them to look/act/speak horribly the next time we meet. We move on (as do they) and try harder not to mess up. And that's where appearances come in to play. We aren't perfect, but we're TRYING to be. I think of the principle where when you don't feel the desire to pray, you should begin immediately to supplicate the Lord until you are then blessed with the desire. And sometimes "acting" good/happy can bring it about too. I do that with my kids when they won't stop crying/complaining "No, that's enough crying, now I want to see a smile" and they aren't happy in the least, until they fake a smile, and suddenly - a miracle! They're happy!
We are all suffering from being human - ALL OF US - which means we feel the gambit of emotions, good and bad.

Jessica said...

I heard some statistic that Utah has the highest rate of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs. I can believe that. I agree that it is ingrained in us that we are supposed to be super human. then, when we fail.. of course we will, we are human, we feel like somehow we are a failure. It doesn't help that a lot of people believe that depression will just go away if you would pray more. That is so bogus! of course prayer might help, but there are a lot of hormonal problems too. Sorry, didn't mean to change the subject, but as you can tell I am passionate about this.

Rebecca said...

I do think that people in the church downplay genuine sadness. Life is not always going to be happy, and we should recognize that even on our sad days when we feel like frowning we are perfectly normal. People say "we have the gospel; we should be the happiest people on earth!" but that doesn't mean we won't have sad days and weeks and months and years. It just means we have perspective. Life is hard. The gospel helps us realize that it's worth making it through the hard days.

As for the song: I agree with her interpretation. That songs does suggest that it's wrong to be sad. That said, I still sing it to my son. It's not meant to be gospel doctrine; it's meant to help our kids recognize that being pleasant about our lives is more endurable. But I know he's going to frown some days.

Sometimes we need to have a frowny face. I don't really agree with all elieson family said. Being sad sometimes is the only way to stay sane, and appearances, while they may help you, sometimes make things worse. I had a roommate who never stopped smiling. One day I came home and she had locked herself in the bathroom and was bawling. That was her way of letting out the emotions every week or so. I personally don't think that was very healthy.

Totally agree with Jessica, having been there, done that.

ladyshanae said...

Since I am Primary Chorister for the FOURTH time in my life right now, I can tell you straight up that if you really looked at a lot of primary songs, you'd find things you could be upset about, offended by, doctrine that isn't 100% there, and things which could be interpreted differently than is meant. That song is just one of many. I'm currently in 'discussions' with my primary presidency regarding a very popular song because of this, so I have thought a lot about it.

As far as anger, sadness, etc. I think it is dependent on how we were raised. The church was involved, for some of us, nearly every week. But home life can be, and usually is, more influential. I was raised by a mom who told me to put a smile on my face even if I was upset. I hated this idea because I felt like I was lying to the world. So I went through my emo phase where I was depressed all the time and wasn't afraid to show it. Then I grew up and I realized I didn't need to project my problems on other people all the time. So I am now careful about being upset/angry in front of people unless they are a close friend. Personally, I don't think that's a church issue, I think it's a choice to not dump our issues on others all the time.

I've had plenty in my life to be angry about. And at times, I've unloaded on anyone who will listen. Now I am to a point where I unload at appropriate times, in appropriate places, with appropriate people. Or at least I try to. I think part of anger management is maturity. I don't know that I really tie it into religion all that much. But that's just me! :)

Kelly said...

While it is not the doctrine of the church, I do believe that there are many people/cultural pieces that send an indirect or direct message that we should always be happy, etc. I won't list the myriad of experiences that I have had about this, that would be a LONG comment. I speculate that this is some of the reason for the high percentage of anti depressant use in Utah, people feel guilty for not being perfect.
There was a time in my life when I got more fired up about it than I do now. Same with the primary songs, sometimes when I leave primary I jokingly say "man we're brainwashing them with those songs!" But I don't get as fired up about it as I have.
For me it is about the delineation of doctrine and culture. If I really know the doctrine and have a testimony of the Atonement then I know that pain and suffering is the human experience, the result of the Fall. When the cultural pieces come into play implying that I "shouldn't" feel sad or depressed or angry which results in guilt and self loathing resulting in more depression (you get the idea) then I have to check myself. That's NOT the doctrine, that's NOT merciful, that's NOT true religion.
So, yes, I do think that there are many people and/or cultural pieces of the church that send the message that sadness/anger/depression are "bad" emotions that we shouldn't feel and I think this can be the case with many religions. If you're sad then you don't have enough faith.
BUT, that's not truth, that's not the doctrine, that's not the Atonement and when situations call for it, I believe we must testify of the truthfulness of that, not necessarily get on a soapbox or fired up, but testify of truth, we are charged with that.
(this is KW, not KA)

Kelly said...

this is an addendum to my comment.

Other times we just need to relax and sing the frowny song and giggle as we watch the kids all smile! Sometimes we need to just relax and not take things so literally!!

Farmer Joe said...

My favorite people to be around are those who can look on the bright side of life in all situations. You can be a product of your environment (a victim) or you can make a mountain out of a molehill.
I'd rather break out my shovel and turn that lemon into lemonade.

I wonder how many other cliches can be slaughtered in a single response?

One thing I heard a while back was to avoid talking about things that I am "not good at" and to start talking about things "I am working on." That same lesson also included always commenting positively on things - for example, when, after the most horrible day ever, someone asks you how your day was, you say, "it was unbelievable." It is true, but it doesn't bring the other person down.

Of course, as a man, I also don't feel the need to unload everything on my fellow humans as therapy, so perhaps that lesson stuck more of a chord with me than it would have with other folks (women.)

One more thing - I once had a brother who used his other brother as an example of hypocrisy. The one brother had quit watching rated R movies, but had a small problem with foul language. The other brother used this as an example of the other brother's hypocracy. My take? Can a brotha please work on a single thing at a time without being called a hypocrit? Church folk are always far too worried about their fellow church folk and far too infrequently identifying and working on their own rated-R movies.

Farmer Joe said...

My favorite people to be around are those who can look on the bright side of life in all situations. You can be a product of your environment (a victim) or you can make a mountain out of a molehill.
I'd rather break out my shovel and turn that lemon into lemonade.

I wonder how many other cliches can be slaughtered in a single response?

One thing I heard a while back was to avoid talking about things that I am "not good at" and to start talking about things "I am working on." That same lesson also included always commenting positively on things - for example, when, after the most horrible day ever, someone asks you how your day was, you say, "it was unbelievable." It is true, but it doesn't bring the other person down.

Of course, as a man, I also don't feel the need to unload everything on my fellow humans as therapy, so perhaps that lesson stuck more of a chord with me than it would have with other folks (women.)

One more thing - I once had a brother who used his other brother as an example of hypocrisy. The one brother had quit watching rated R movies, but had a small problem with foul language. The other brother used this as an example of the other brother's hypocracy. My take? Can a brotha please work on a single thing at a time without being called a hypocrit? Church folk are always far too worried about their fellow church folk and far too infrequently identifying and working on their own rated-R movies.

Kelly said...

Interestingly enough Farmer Joe, people who look at the bright side of EVERYTHING are some of the most annoying people to me, it feels fake. I'm not suggesting we wallow in our sorrows or sadness, but it's certainly quite healthy to acknowledge it. I think of this especially with parenting. I think we're setting our children up if we don't show them by example or teach them how to identify different emotions they are feeling and being ok with identifying and feeling them. I think looking on the bright side (if that means not looking at teh whole picture or feeling like you can't acknowledge a "negative feeling")of things can lead to invalidating your own emotions and to resentment in relationships. If you feel like you can't express a frustration or sadness then that can potentially build up as resentment or frustration.
That's just me, but then again, I'm a therapist and am working with people who felt like their emotions were never validated and have since developed some pretty emotionally unhealthy patterns, there aren't many bright sides to abuse, neglect, murder, etc. You can overcome and be stronger, but they're still pretty painful and awful experiences.

Farmer Joe said...

As salt can be healthy as part of a normal diet in the appropriate quantity, so can it kill you when ingested in sufficient quantity. Such is life - all things in moderation.

One needn't be fake to look on the bright side and comparing patients seeking professional guidance for atrocities which should unheard of to "regular" unabused folks seeking a path through life is not necessarily a fair comparison.

Fake and "cheery" people are definitely not fun, but I can think of a lot of people who were never short a smile even in tough times and I can think of grumpy frumpers who I could stand to never see again. That's where I was heading...

Kelly said...

Indeed Farmer Joe, moderation in all things, I agree. Thanks for your clarifications, as a smile is often on my face even when things are just plain crappy.
Even we "regular" people have things that are awful to us, so it's all relative on some level. The thing is, that we don't know what the "regular" people are going through or have been through, so one mustn't be too hasty!
Ah, I love a good banter! Thanks!

Christy Roberts said...

The first thing that came to my mind when I read your entry was the law of opposites found in 2Nephi chapter 2. To fully understand joy we would have to pass through sorrow. The sin isn't feeling sad, it's letting the sadness dictate your thoughts and actions; it's dwelling on the sadness instead of partaking of the atonment to overcome the sorrow. In Ecclesiastes Chapter 3: 1 and 3-4 it says, "To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."

I think it's okay to feel sad sometimes and not always have a smile on your face. There is a time for everything. If someone is always wallowing in sadness then maybe they need to use the atonment. There's just a time and season for everything. Sometimes that could be a minute, a day, a week, a month, a really long sad year as long as it's not forever.

It also made me thing of your entry about "bad days" and after a week or so of "bad days" you decided to start off with a "good" day and it ended up being a fantastic day. Your season of frustrated, worn-out days were gone and you had at least one day or "season" of happy good.

As far as the song, I've always thought about it as helping others to be happy too; to help lift another's burden even if that means telling them to smile or helping them smile. It's true most people don't like hanging around people who are always sad, angry, or grumpy all the time but we're also suppose to "comfort those who stand in need of comfort and mourn with those who morne."

Bottomline my opinion is there is a season for everything -- even sadness.

Bradley said...

I was working with a guy one time and said, "Have a good day" and he responded with, "You know I've had 365 consecutive good days, it would be nice once in a while to have a bad day." It was a joke but in reality I thought, "He's right, if we have only happy good days, we're going to start not appreciating what happy is. You have to have sad to appreciate happy.