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Monday, April 4, 2016

Damaging Yourself: Anger

On the Halloween when Dwight D. Eisenhower was ten years old, his parents let his two older brothers go trick-or-treating, but told Ike he was too young to accompany them. Having eagerly anticipated a night of fun and freedom, Dwight was crushed. He argued his case for why he should be allowed to go out, begging and pleading with his parents to change their minds until his brothers at last headed off into the night without him. Completely beside himself with rage, Ike went into the yard and starting pounding away at the trunk of an apple tree, pummeling the bark until his fists bled. His father finally pulled the boy away, gave him a few swats with a hickory stick, and sent him off to bed. Ike sobbed into his pillow, feeling like the whole world was against him.

After an hour, Eisenhower’s mother came into his room and sat down in the rocking chair beside his bed. She rocked silently for awhile, and then began to talk to young Dwight, telling him she was concerned about his anger, and that of all her boys, he had the most to learn about getting his temper under control. But striving to do so and gaining self-mastery, Mrs. Eisenhower continued, was vital. “He that conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh a city,” she told her son, paraphrasing the Bible. Then, Ike remembered, she offered him a piece of life-changing advice:

“Hating was a futile sort of thing, she said, because hating anyone or anything meant that there was little to be gained. The person who had incurred my displeasure probably didn’t care, possibly didn’t even know, and the only person injured was myself.”

As Eisenhower’s mother applied salve and bandages to Ike’s wounded hands, she reinforced her point by noting the way in which his heedless anger and resentment had changed nothing and only damaged himself.

Article: The Art of Manliness, June 3, 2012


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