Volume 7 - Issue 08
August 2009
Other Articles


By Dr. Ben Carson

I was in the ninth grade when the unthinkable happened. I lost control and tried to knife a friend. Bob and I were listening to a transistor radio when he flipped the dial to another station. "You call that music?" he demanded. "It's better than what you like,” I yelled back, grabbing for the dial.


"Come on, Carson. You always…" In that instant blind anger - pathological anger – took possession of me. Grabbing the camping knife I carried in my back pocket, I snapped it open and lunged for the boy who had been my friend. With all the power of my young muscles, I thrust the knife toward his belly. The knife hit his big, heavy belt buckle with such force that the blade snapped and dropped to the ground.

I stared at the broken blade and went weak. I had almost killed him. I had almost killed my friend.If the buckle hadn't protected him, Bob would have been lying at my feet, dying or severely wounded. He didn't say anything, just looked at me, unbelieving. "I-I'm sorry," I muttered, dropping the handle. I couldn't look him in the eye.

Without a word, I turned and ran home. Thankfully the house was empty, for I couldn't bear to see anyone. I raced to the bathroom where I could be alone, and locked the door. Then I sank down on the edge of the tub, my long legs stretching across the linoleum, bumping against the sink. I tried to kill Bob. I tried to kill my friend. No matter how tightly I squeezed my eyes shut, I couldn't escape the image - my hand, my knife, the belt buckle, the broken knife. And Bob's face!

"This is crazy," I finally mumbled. "I must be crazy. Sane people don't try to kill their friends." The rim of the tub felt cool under my hands. I put my hands on my hot face. "I'm doing so well at school, and then I do this." I'd dreamed of being a doctor since I was 8 years old. But how could I fulfill the dream with such a terrible temper? When angry, I went out of control and had no idea how to stop. I'd never make anything of myself if I didn't control my temper. If only I could do something about the rage that burned inside me.

Two hours passed. The green and brown squiggly snakelike design on the linoleum swam before my eyes. I felt sick to my stomach, disgusted with myself, and ashamed. "Unless I get rid of this temper," I said aloud, "I'm not going to make it. If Bob hadn't worn that big buckle he'd probably be dead, and I'd be on my way to jail or reform school."


Misery washed over me. My sweaty shirt stuck to my back. Sweat trickled down my armpits and my sides. I hated myself, but I couldn't help myself, and so I hated myself even more. From somewhere deep inside my mind came a strong impression. Pray. My mother had taught me to pray. My teachers at the religious school in Boston often told us that God would help us if we only asked Him. For weeks, for months, I had been trying to control my temper, figuring I could handle it myself. Now, in that small hot bathroom I knew the truth. I could not handle my temper alone.

I felt as though I could never face anyone again. How could I look my mother in the eye? Would she know? How could I ever see Bob again? How could he help but hate me? How could he ever trust me again? "Lord," I whispered, "You have to take this temper from me. If You don't, I'll never be free from it. I'll end up doing things a lot worse than trying to stab one of my best friends.”
Already heavily into psychology (I had been reading "Psychology Today”for a year), I knew that temper was a personality trait. Standard thinking in the field pointed out the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of modifying personality traits. Even today some experts believe that the best we can do is accept our limitations and adjust to them…

Tears streamed between my fingers. "Lord, despite, what all the experts tell me, You can change me. You can free me forever from this destructive personality trait." I wiped my nose on a piece of toilet paper and let it drop to the floor. "You've promised that if we come to You and ask something in faith, that You'll do it. I believe that You can change this in me." I stood up, looking at the narrow window, still pleading for God's help. I couldn't go on hating myself forever for all the terrible things I'd done.

I sank down on the toilet, sharp mental pictures of other temper fits filling my mind. I saw my anger, clenched my fists against my rage. I wouldn't be any good for anything if I couldn't change. “My poor mother”,I thought. “She believes in me. Not even she knows how bad I am”. Misery engulfed me in darkness. "If you don't do this for me, God, I've got no place else to go."

At one point I'd slipped out of the bathroom long enough to grab a Bible. Now I opened it and began to read in the book of Proverbs. Immediately I saw a string of verses about angry people and how they get themselves into trouble. Proverbs 16:32 impressed me the most: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”


My lips moved wordlessly as I continued to read. I felt as though the verses had been written just for me. The words of Proverbs condemned me, but they also gave me hope. After a while peace begin to fill my mind. My hands stopped shaking. The tears stopped. During those hours alone in the bathroom, something happened to me. God heard my deep cries of anguish. A feeling of lightness flowed over me, and I knew a change of heart had taken place. I felt different. I was different.

At last I stood up, placed the Bible on the edge of the tub, and went to the sink. I washed my face and hands and straightened my clothes. Then, I walked out of the bathroom a changed young man. "My temper will never control me I again," I told myself. "Never again. I'm free."

And since that day, since those long hours wrestling with myself and crying to God for help, I have never had a problem with my temper. That same afternoon I decided I would read the Bible every day. I've kept that practice as a daily habit and especially enjoy the book of Proverbs. Even now, whenever possible, I pick up my Bible and read the first thing every morning.

The miracle that took place was incredible when I stop to think about it. Some of my psychologically oriented friends insist that I still have the potential for anger. Maybe they're right, but I've lived more than twenty years since that experience, and have never had another flare-up, or even had a serious problem of needing to control my temper.

I can tolerate amazing amounts of stress and ridicule. By God's grace, it still doesn't require any effort to shake off unpleasant, irritating things. God has helped me to conquer my terrible temper, once and forever.

During those hours in the bathroom I also came to realize that if people could make me angry they could control me. Why should I give someone else such power over my life?

  1. From the book “Gifted Hands”, by Dr. Ben Carson

Illustrations: Mrs. Lyn, New Zealand

Dr. Benjamin Carson is known around the world for breakthroughs in neurosurgery that has brought hope where no hope existed. In “Gifted Hands”, he tells of his inspiring odyssey from his childhood in inner-city, Detroit, to his position of Director of Paediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions at age 33.

Dr. Carson was instrumental in that 17 hour epic surgery in which his 70-member team separated 7-month old Siamese twins at the Johns Hopkins. His strong faith in God and faith in the essential goodness of humanity, his passion for perfection and his love for his patients which created medical miracles in his illustrious career project him as more than a surgeon.




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