Don’t Be Angry

Abba Agathon said, “If someone who is angry were to raise the dead, God would remain displeased with the anger.”

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

The most difficult part of our Christian life is found within us – our inner life. It is certainly the case that many of the outward things we do – acts of charity and the like – have a great effect on our life – but at the end of all things there remains the inner struggle to keep the commandments of God. It is Christ’s teaching that everything, both good and evil, emanate from the heart of man. God is a merciful God and will not deny us the grace to find healing within our heart – but we cannot be healed if we pretend there is no problem. Thus the prayer, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner,” when prayed with honesty, from the heart, forms the prayer that we need most to say. It is not repeated throughout the day because we need God to hear us – but because our heart needs to speak the truth and not forget the nature of its need.

Comments

  1. Seraphim says

    Father Bless!!

    Is anger then actually a sin? I have been counseled in the past that it is not so much the anger that is the problem, as what we do after we get angry. Indeed, anger provides fertile ground for the springing forth of all kinds of passionate behaviors. But is the anger itself sinful? Or perhaps it depends on why we are getting angry? Most likely 9 times out of 10 it could be attributed to some aspect of pride, at least in my case, especially when I’m feeling “short-changed”, which seems to be something I wrestle with continually.

    And then there is the “righteous anger” which the Lord exhibited when he threw the moneychangers out of the temple. How does that fit in here?

    In Christ,
    Seraphim

  2. Scott M says

    I’m not Father Stephen, but I’ll toss in my two cents for whatever they are worth. First, I would say it’s a debatable claim that Jesus was acting from anger in the cleansing of the temple. Certainly none of the gospel accounts attribute anger to him. But I would prefer to go beyond that. If Jesus is angry, we can trust him in his anger. It’s OK that he’s angry. It changes nothing about the quality or nature of his love.

    The same cannot be said for me. Anger is corrosive. If I am acting from anger and you stand in the path of that anger, what you receive from me will not be love. I will not act for your good. I will act in a way that feeds or satiates my own anger.

    Anger, as an emotion, is fired when my desires are contravened, when my will is crossed, or when I feel I am being treated unfairly. The emotional impulse I would not call a sin. In fact, it can be helpful in alerting to me to things going on around me. But as soon as I will to follow that impulse, to speak or act empowered by it, and I speak or act in a way which is unloving, then yes, I have sinned.

    Or so it seems to me.

  3. says

    Scott,

    I don’t know that I could have said it better. My experience with anger has rarely been with righteous anger – I’m not righteous enough for even my anger to be that clean. There are other kinds of anger that are the product of deep wounds within our lives – but it is generally toxic and in need of healing.

    The fathers generally reserve anger as something we use as an energy to resist the devil or sin, but even this is a ticklish matter.

  4. Seraphim says

    Father bless!

    OK, let me try this one more time. :-)

    Fr. Stephen, is anger then NOT a sin, in that it need not be confessed before taking the Eucharist unless acted upon? Is there a specific Church teaching on this? Or is this one of those grey areas that depends on the individual and thus needs to be dealt with in specific context with one’s spiritual father or priest? For example, my kids break something while horsing around doing something they’re not supposed to be doing. I get angry and let them know they’ve done something not good, but in a loving way without shaming them and all that. But I’m still angry at them. I would not think this needs to be taken to the confessional. Although if I had acted on it, it would need to be.

    I hope that’s a little clearer.<