Can our feelings be harmful? Absolutely. Like an undisciplined child, they may need to be trained, guided, and coaxed in the right direction. We need not be slaves to our emotions; we ought to be their master.
Jonah was unhappy when God showed mercy to the people of Ninevah. Like the brother of the prodigal son, he wondered why God would be kind to people who had previously been so misguided. (See Luke 15:25-32.) Melodramatically, he prayed, “O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” God responded, not by validating Jonah’s feelings, but by correcting them: “Doest thou well to be angry?” He asked (Jonah 4:3-4).
Some time later, when a plant that had given him shade died, Jonah again complained to God and received the same response: “Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?” Jonah replied, “I do well to be angry, even unto death” (Jonah 4:9). But this was the wrong answer. God explained that Jonah needed to have sympathy for the people of Ninevah and be grateful for the forgiveness they had received.
As Nephi pondered the “temptations and the sins which…so easily beset [him],” one question he asked himself was, “Why am I angry because of mine enemy?” Shortly after, he gave himself this direction: “Do not anger again because of mine enemies” (2 Nephi 4:18, 27, 29). He recognized the importance of managing his emotions and calming his anger.
In the King James Version of the Bible, the apostle Paul says, “Be ye angry, and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26). But in the Joseph Smith Translation, that statement becomes a question: “Can ye be angry, and not sin?” (Ephesians 4:26, JST). Commenting on that question, President Thomas S. Monson said, “Is it possible to feel the Spirit of our Heavenly Father when we are angry? I know of no instance where such would be the case” (“School Thy Feelings, O My Brother,” General Conference, October 2009).
Today, I will question my emotional response to the events of the day. I will ask if I am doing well to feel that way, or if I ought to channel my emotions in a different direction. I will remember the harmful effects of anger and will keep my own negative emotions in check.