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Why is Anger a Spiritual Passion?

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August 13, 2018

In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen. 

Today my beloved we continue our investigation on the passions that we fight in our daily lives that prevent us from achieving our potential in Christ. The Passion that we will study together today is Anger. And so, we ask Why is Anger a spiritual passion? Again, before we begin, we would like to remind everyone that this is now the fifth video on the passions and for those who would like a better understanding of what a passion is, we encourage you to watch the first video of this series. Lets remind ourselves for now that Passions develop within a person when our God-given faculties and gifts are falsely invested in anything but God and so we find ourselves turning away from God. Now some may ask, why would anger be God-given? Well in reality anger was always meant to be part of humanity’s reaction to evil and unrighteousness. It is naturally stirred up in the soul when the human being’s conscience, when properly directed by the Holy Spirit, comes face to face with anything that is ungodly. It is through this Anger that God intended for us to take a stance against evil and to fight off temptation. Its for this very reason that we have no problem recounting in scripture how ‘the Lord’s anger was aroused’ in the face of many evils. Even in the new testament we see in the gospels of Matthew and Mark how the Lord Jesus was angered when seeing that the temple had been turned into a marketplace. His reaction was to begin to overturn the tables and cleanses the temple. We too were created by God to have that same very reaction towards evil. Anger was given to humanity in order for man to properly express zeal for all that is Godly and right. However, the anger that we speak of today as a passion, is not oriented to defend God and His righteousness, but rather it is directed to defend only our ego and our false notion of honor. Rather than hating evil, we begin to hate out neighbour. Let’s dive deeper to better understand.  

 

Christianity is often summarized as a true and sincere love for God and for our neighbour. The Passion of Anger however is when our neighbour becomes the object of our anger. Rather than being roused by the evil and the offence that is committed, our only focus becomes the offender. Indeed, as Christians we ought to abhor evil, but not those who fall prey to it. All of us know the feeling of falling into an evil trap that is set before us, why then does it anger us to see others fall in different traps? St Syncletica of Alexandria, a great desert Mother from the 4th century Egypt teaches us that we ought to “Hate the Illness, but not him who is ill…” (Apophthegmata Alphabetical, Syncletica 23.) However, when our honor, respect, or person is slightly insulted, then we see that anger is easily stirred up. And when it is fully conceived in our hearts, the anger is direct towards the other person, our neighbour, the one whom we were called to love. Eventually it will lead us to judge, curse, and even hate our neighbours.  

Anger consequently can take on many different forms: we are well aware of the exterior forms such as animosity, hatred, hostility, enmity… there are however interior manifestations of anger that are just as dangerous to the soul. For instance, internal judgement, impatience, mockery, indignation, resentment and many more. It eventually all leads to the fact that this passion begins to have the person develop a sense of joy or satisfaction from another person’s misfortune and afflictions.  Anger slowly depersonalizes others to us so that we no longer see them as our neighbour but rather a depraved creature, unworthy and unlovable. Anger ultimately creates a barrier and alienates us from God and from others.  

 

 

When we study Anger, we find that the Church teaches us that it is deeply engrained with the passion of Pride. It is when a person deems themselves better than others that they are easily offended. To the prideful person, their honor and their ego are of far more importance that the love and respect that is due to their neighbour. Because their sole focus is how they are perceived within themselves and how others perceive them, that they are easily driven to wrathful anger to the point of losing control of their actions. In the book of Sirach, the author writes to us and warns us that those who are prideful and easily angered do not stand right in the sight of God:  

 

If a man does evil, it will roll back upon him, 

    and he will not know where it came from. 

28 Mockery and abuse issue from the proud man, 

    but vengeance lies in wait for him like a lion. 

29 Those who rejoice in the fall of the godly will be caught in a snare, 

    and pain will consume them before their death. 

30 Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, 

and the sinful man will possess them. (Sirach 27:27-30) 

 

We see here how pride, anger, and then wrath are all interconnected within the same person who is blinded by this passion. The blindness that we speak of here should not be taken lightly! We rightly speak of loosing sight here because truly, when Anger is fully conceived, a person can begin to behave and react in ways that are forms of madness! We know this from having all witnessed in our lives people who can go from 0 to 100 in mere seconds because of any random trigger. Take road rage for instance: it is the complete loss of self-control. A person can loose all power of reasoning and put themselves and others in harms way simply to express their anger behind the wheel. And needless to say, often times its accompanied by profanities, loud screaming, and sometimes even violence. What then would we call this other than blindness and madness?!  

 

St John Chrysostom urges us to remember that not only should we not direct anger towards others, but rather we should not entertain at all that we may not loose ourselves to it. Listen to what he says when speaking to those who believe it right to seek vengeance on those who have offended them: 

 

It is not said merely, forego wrath; but do not retain it in your mind; do not think of it; part with all your resentment; do away the sore. For you suppose that you are paying [your neighbour] back the injury; but you are first tormenting yourself, and setting up your rage as an executioner within yourself in every part, and tearing up your own bowels. For what can be more wretched than a man perpetually angry? And just as maniacs, who never enjoy tranquility, so also he who is resentful, and retains an enemy, will never have the enjoyment of any peace; incessantly raging, as he does, and daily increasing the tempest of his thoughts calling to mind his words and acts, and detesting the very name of him who has aggrieved him.” [St John Chrysostom – On the Statutes 20.6]  

 

My beloved we must make an effort to know how truly serious and evil such a passion can be. It is the cause of generations of conflicts between, family, friends, and even nations. To simply say “I’m born this way” or “Im simply prone to anger” is not a valid excuse to allow this passion to run wild within our soul and have us become enslaved to it’s dealings.  We must learn to turn to God that He may allow his Holy spirit to teach us humility, patience, and love towards one another. Hopefully by understanding what it does to us, and how it ruins both us and others around us, we can now ask for the Lord’s mercy and begin the process of repentance.  

 

Remember my beloved, Know your faith, live your faith, and Teach your faith.  

To God be the Glory, now and forever Amen.   

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