Skip to comments.The Seven Deadly Sins: Anger
Posted on 02/28/2018 9:46:21 AM PST by Salvation
The deadly sin of anger is defined as the inordinate and uncontrolled feeling of hatred and wrath. Unlike righteous anger, the capital sin of anger is understood as the deep drive to cling to hateful feelings for others. This kind of anger often seeks revenge.
The consideration of anger as an experience, passion, or feeling requires some distinctions, however. Not all anger is sinful nor necessarily a deadly sin. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus manifests quite a lot of anger and issues many denunciations, often accompanied by the phrase, Woe to you! In this way, He spoke in much the same way as all the prophets before Him.
We live in a culture that tends to be shocked by expressions of anger; it is almost reflexively rejected as counterproductive. In some situations, though, anger is the appropriate response.
Lets begin with some distinctions.
Hence, of itself, anger is not a sin. Scriptures says, Be angry but sin not (Ps 4:4). So anger is not the sin, but the expression of it may be. Further, it is possible that some of our anger springs from less-than-holy sources.
When is the external manifestation of anger appropriate? When its object is appropriate and reasonable.
For example, it is appropriate to be angry when we see injustice. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. harnessed the appropriate anger of Americans toward the injustice of racism; he focused their energy in productive ways. However, he was very careful to teach against violence and revenge. Anger did not give the civil rights protesters the right to hate. What Dr. King did was to elicit a just anger in many Americans. This anger in turn gave them the motivation to act creatively and energetically to resist injustice and effect change through non-violence.
There are, however, some who respond to injustices with violent protests and who express hatred. In such protests, anger is no longer a creative energy that summons people to call for change and justice. Rather, it is a violent anger that manifests hate and often ends in the destruction of property and/or harm to other human beings.
Anger is also appropriate and even necessary in some forms of fraternal correction. To fail to manifest some level of anger may lead to the false conclusion that the offense in question is not really all that significant. For example, if a child punches his brother in the mouth and knocks out his tooth, a parent ought to display an appropriate amount of anger in order to make it very clear that this behavior is unacceptable. Gently correcting the child in a soothing and dispassionate voice might lead to the impression that this action really wasnt so bad. Proper anger has a way of bringing the point home and making a lasting impression. The display of anger should be at the proper level, neither excessively strong nor too weak. This of course requires a good bit of self-mastery.
What, then, of sinful anger? Jesus teaches as follows:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, Raca, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, You fool! will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matt 5:21-22).
Taking the passage at face value, it would seem that Jesus condemns anger without exception. However, if that is the case then Jesus clearly broke His own rule because as we know He exhibited a lot of anger in the Gospels. What Jesus does clearly condemn here is unrighteous and wrathful anger. The two examples in this passage show the kind of anger He means. The first example is use of the term Raca, an epithet that displayed utter contempt for the recipient. Notice that Jesus links this kind of anger to murder because by using the term, the other person is so stripped of any human dignity that to murder him would be no different than killing an ox or mule. This sort of anger depersonalizes the other and disregards him as a child of God. Using the term fool has a similar, though less egregious, purpose. Hence, it would seem that the Lord is not condemning all anger but rather the anger of contempt and depersonalization. To absolutize Jesus teaching here to include any anger at all would seem unreasonable given Jesus own example, which included not a little anger.
We ought to be careful, however, before simply adopting Jesus angry tone ourselves. There are two reasons for this: First, Jesus was able to see into their hearts and determine the appropriate tactics; we may not always be able to do this. Second, the wider Western culture in which many of us live may not be as prepared to accept such an angry tone; it may be less effective in our setting. Prudential judgment is a necessary precursor to using such tactics.
We do well to be careful with anger, for it is an unruly passion. Above all we ought to seek the fruit of the Spirit that is meekness and to ask the Lord to give us authority over our anger and prudence in its use.
What is meekness? It is an important beatitude and fruit of the Holy Spirit that helps us to master anger. Today, we think of a meek person as one who is a bit of a pushover, easily taken advantage of. The original meaning of meekness, though, describes the vigorous virtue through which one gains authority over his anger. Aristotle defined meekness (πραΰτης – praotes) as the middle ground between being too angry and not being angry enough.
The meek person has authority over his anger and is thus able to summon its energy but control its extremes. The meek are far from weak; in fact, they show their strength in their ability to control their anger.
St. John Chrysostom said this regarding anger: He who is not angry when he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is a hotbed of many vices (Homily 11). St. Thomas Aquinas said, Consequently, lack of the passion of anger is also a vice, [for it is] a lack of movement in the will directed to punishment by the judgment of reason (Summa Theologica II, IIae 158.8).
Sinful anger is rightly numbered among the deadly or capital sins. St Thomas explains,
As stated above (I-II:84:3; I-II:84:4), a capital vice is defined as one from which many vices arise. Now there are two reasons for which many vices can arise from anger. The first is on the part of its object in so far as revenge is desired The second is on the part of its impetuosity, whereby it precipitates the mind into all kinds of inordinate action. Therefore, it is evident that anger is a capital vice (Summa Theologiae, II, IIae, Q. 158, art. 6).
St. Thomas also lists the daughters of anger as quarreling, indignation, swelling (or seething) of the mind, contumely (insult), clamor (loud and disorderly speech), and blasphemy (disrespect of God and the things of God) [Ibid, art. 7].
The sin of anger is ultimately a hateful and hurtful thing. It tends to destruction and must be mastered by meekness and patience. Perhaps it is best to end with a scriptural admonition:
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not; it leads only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (Psalm 37:8-9)
This song is from the Carmina Burana and the Latin is translated as follows:
Burning inside with violent anger,
bitterly I speak to my heart:
created from matter, of the ashes of the elements,
I am like a leaf played with by the winds.
Monsignor Pope Ping!
What the heck is this about!?
I’ll never forget a retreat master telling us about the danger of saying the Lord’s Prayer.
We ask God to forgive us exactly as we forgive those who offend us.
Satan tempts us into giving in to our anger, that we are justified to feel as we do and that whomever has made us angry deserves to have some of the same in return. An "eye for an eye" and all of that.
In reality, it is actually a test to see what choice you will make: whether to forgive or to get even.
Its not anger, its rage.
Righteous anger is OK. But it may lead to unrighteous actions.
There’s a great book by the Dalai Lama titled Anger
It’s the best book on the subject ever written
Carmina Burana? REALLY?
OK...so it is in Latin, but that is where its relationship to anything “holy” ends.
Carmina Burana is one of the “naughtiest” pieces of “Classical Music” on Planet Earth!
It glorifies drunkenness, wrath, seduction of virgins, gluttony, paganism, gambling, and debauchery, and ridicules the Church.
It is a terrific piece of choral music, and I know the work, but I can’t, for the life of me, imagine Dear Monsignor Pope (whom I respect a great deal!) citing it and even providing a link to an excerpt.
Of course...what do I know? I’m a musician, not a theologian.
In olden times, such a choral work, which mocks sacred cantatas, and is based on bawdy secular 12th Century minstrelsy, would be condemned by the Legion of Decency.
You can be angry at someone but at the same time feel pity for them that they were so twisted as to perform a hurtful act.
I understand that Monsignor Pope is also a musician; he is an accomplished organist from what I have heard.
I’m not familiar with this piece of music, but could definitely pick up the anger and frustration in it.
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