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A Reflection on the Passion of Anger and the "Miserable Truce" of the Modern Age

May 28, 2013

We live in a culture that tends to treat anger as a taboo. One common tactic to unsettle an opponent is to accuse them of being angry. It is amazing how easily humiliated and defensive one can make an opponent by using this tactic. Yes, it is amazing how quickly the one accused of “anger” will be thrown off his game and feel the need to resort to denials or euphemisms such as:

1. I am NOT angry! (which is usually said angrily and is usually a lie).
2. I am not angry, I am just frustrated! (But frustration is a euphemism for anger, yet, as a euphemism it somehow feels less humiliating).
3. I am not angry…You’re the one who is angry! (and thus the terrible charge of anger must be denied and shoved back, instead of owned and appreciated as an energy or passion for what matters).
4. Of course I’m angry, but who would not be angry when talking with an idiot! (And thus the charge is only tacitly or partially accepted since its cause is purely extraneous).

Rare indeed in the American setting is someone who will respond in a way that both admits anger and owns it as something positive and important, perhaps by saying: “I am angry. And I am angry because I really care about this matter. I am not merely a neutral observer. I fully admit I have an agenda, an agenda I passionately believe in, and I experience grief and anger when what I value is dis-valued. Yes, I am angry, and I care about this.”

Of itself anger is just a passion, an energy that is stirred forth when we sense that something is wrong. Sensing what is wrong or threatening, our anger is stirred, energizing us for action, whether mental, physical or both. The body is actually involved as adrenaline is released.

The Bible does condemn vengeful anger but also teaches of anger that is not sinful: Be angry, but sin not (Eph 4:26). The sinless Jesus also exhibits a lot of anger (e.g. Luke 11; Mark 10; Matthew 17:17; Matthew 21:15; Matthew 26:8; Mark 10:14; Mark 14:4 John 2, John 8, inter al) and indignation modelling that anger is sometimes the appropriate response.

Yet somehow we are stymied and easily felled by the charge that we are angry. We tend to live in egotistically soft, thin-skinned times. The pervasive relativism seems to require that if we are going to believe in something we ought not hold it too strongly, because then we might have an “agenda” and actually let slip that we think there is a truth to be upheld and insisted upon. And, according to modern “rules” having an “agenda” i.e. thinking certain things are surely true, is Wrong, with a capital “W.” Perhaps too there is the over-appropriation of tolerance, an necessary component in a pluralistic setting, but not an absolute virtue.

Whatever the causes, anger, an ordinary and necessary human passion, is humiliating to most modern westerners. And to be accused of being angry is something most try quickly to squirm out of.

And yet I will say plainly, we need more of it. I do not speak of a mere fisticuffs rooted in violent outburst or of the simple ugliness and persoanl disrespect evident on blogs and issued from the anonymous safety behind the computer screen. But rather, I speak of an anger rooted in love and a deep commitment to the truth, an anger that emerges because we see the harm caused by lies, deception, error, sin and injustice.

Lovers fight, lovers get angry, and well they should, for when love is in the mix, things matter, truth matters, error and harm matter. Lovers want what is best, not merely expedient or convenient.

Author Dale Ahlquist, says a lot of this better than I can. Writing in his recent book, The Complete Thinker where he synthesizes the thought of G.K. Chesterton Ahlquist says:

Chesterton illustrates the point about “the twin elements of loving and fighting”…..Modern philosophies have tried to do away with this paradox…But fighting and loving actually go together. You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it….To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all…

The connection between two such apparent opposites points to the idea that truth is always an amazing balancing act….If we lean too far in one direction or the other, we lose our balance. Thus, both militarism and pacificism represent a loss of balance.

Militarism is simply bullyism, the strong having their own way. Pacifism is a lack of loyalty, a promise not to defend the innocent, the helpless, the defenseless.

The Church has always had to maintain the precarious balance of truth, whether in war or in anything else….

Sometimes the only way to stop the fighting is to fight. Sometimes the only way to end a war is to win it—but only as an act of defense, not as an act of aggression…..

The sword is an important symbol of Christianity. It is not only in the shape of a cross; it is the scriptural symbol of truth, which cuts both ways—because error comes from opposite sides.

Chesterton also says he likes swords because “they come to a point”, unlike most modern art and philosophy.

Yes, lovers fight, lovers get angry. And the anger of the Greatest Lover of them all, God, is evident in the downward thrust of the cross into the soil of this world and its manifold lies and half truths. The cross is the downward thrust, like a sword, of God’s non placet to the rebellion and error this world holds so arrogantly.

And yet, that downward thrust is also open in love as seen in the outward arms of cross, the outstretched arms of Christ. At the very center of the cross where anger and love unite is the heart of Christ.

Yes, love and anger are closer than we moderns will often admit or fathom. Love says there are certain things worth fighting for and being angry about. But its anger is not egocentric, it is other-centric, focused on God, the truth and the dignity of those who are meant to walk in truth. Ahlquist says, in loving our enemies, we want to convert them so they are not our enemies anymore. Ultimately, we want to get our enemies to join our side.

And thus, some things are worth fighting for and about. Ahlquist continues:

No sane man has ever held, that war is a good thing….But the… occasion may arise when it is better for a man to fight than to surrender….War is not the direst calamity that can befall a people. There is one worse state, at least: the state of slavery.

While a good peace is better than a good war, even a good war is better than a bad peace.

[And thus the] Church on earth is called the Church Militant. War is a metaphor, and it would not work as a metaphor if it were not a reality, a reality that we have to live with.

This life of ours is a very enjoyable fight, but a very miserable truce.”

And that last line is a very telling description of the modern age: a miserable truce. Everyone is walking on eggs, afraid to offend and suppressing the truth on account of this fear. And thus our anger gets suppressed, renamed, and turned inward. Some has said that the definition of depression is “anger turned inward.” Not a bad diagnosis of a time like this when vast percentages of us are on anti-depressants and other psychotropic medicines to manage the “miserable truce” that is the false peace of these times; a peace rooted not in truth, but in the compelled silence of PC, euphemisms and thinly veiled politeness.

Perhaps too that is why such ugliness erupts from time to time, especially in more anonymous settings like blog com-boxes where we, who have forgotten how to have a good argument in person, or how to manage and appreciate our anger in normal ways, act so ugly and engage in sometimes savage and unkind personal attacks.

This sort or anger, often evident in political settings as well, is not about truth or love, it is about scoring, it is about winning with little regard to truth or love. But the Church militant without love is not the Church.

At the end of the day, though, anger has its place in the context of love, and decent fights are necessary for those who love. Without a proper appreciation for these, we end up with the gray fog of a “miserable truce” that is the modern West.

Just for Fun:

Comments (38)

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  1. Jennifer says:

    Monsignor, you have the unique ability to write about complicated things with passionate concern but without intellectual snobbery. That’s a great talent! 🙂

  2. TaillerHuws says:

    “You’re angry” can be a good intentioned diagnosis which is treated with humble charity or it can be a bad intentioned assault which is smothered in prideful hatred. Anger can be used for good and for bad…

  3. Donna says:

    Very interesting subject. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law the other day: She was telling me how angry she was when talking on the phone with 2 other sisters, which ended up in an argument. And I had been telling her about the fights I’ve been having with my older kids about their choices – which make me angry. We concluded that we could have handled things better. We are to “sin not in (your) anger” and “speak the truth in love” since “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

    We concluded that we, too, need to change, which will only come from spending much more time in prayer. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get angry. We certainly need to have the courage to confront people when there is misconduct. However, we ourselves need to be transformed if we are going to transform the world around us, otherwise there will only be fruitless, damaging emotions and words.

    Thank you, as always, for your words of wisdom!

  4. Tracey Kelly says:

    Yeehah! Lets’ all go to the open window, raise our fists and yell …I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”.

  5. Sarah in WA says:

    “Love says there are certain things worth fighting for and being angry about. But its anger is not egocentric, it is other-centric, focused on God, the truth and the dignity of those who are meant to walk in truth.”

    These comments about “other-centric” anger really stood out to me. I imagine that self-centric anger would produce the conditions for isolation and then major depression.

    Tangentially related: I was just reading about the suicide epidemic, which I didn’t know about until just recently. It’s terrifying. Number of deaths by suicide now exceeds *the combined total* of deaths by natural disaster, war, and homicide.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/05/22/why-suicide-has-become-and-epidemic-and-what-we-can-do-to-help.html

    (*Note: I don’t endorse the implied worldview nor all the prescriptions of this author, but, the facts contained in the linked article are stunning.)

  6. A Coworker in the Vineyard says:

    Monsignor,
    I respectfully submit that you fail to understand the distinction between frustration and anger. Frustration, properly understood, comes from a place of love. Anger, by contrast, invariably emanates from some degree of antipathy.

    Take for instance the common example of a sports fan who is frustrated with the struggles of his favorite franchise. The frustration comes from a place of passionate devotion to the club–not from any feelings of disdain or dislike. Generally speaking, one reserves anger for a set of people… or a cause… or a phenomenon that one detests.

    The dichotomy can be further illuminated by reference to common reactions to news about the Church. As a lifelong Catholic, I may feel immense frustration that, in certain instances, those entrusted with the welfare of children (as in Newark, recently) have failed to live up to their responsibilities. Others, most of whom harbor antipathy towards the Church, feel a distinct emotion, i.e. of anger.

    On a different note, of interest to me is the fact that you devoted your previous post to citing Jesus’ texts warning about the perils of Hell, and one of the most lucid examples thereof is the passage from Matthew 5, in which you, yourself add the commentary: “We tend to justify our anger. Pay attention, God does not and warns that we cannot cling to it and walk into heaven.” I would be curious to hear how you think that assessment comports with this piece you posted today. Are you not spending an entire post “justifying” precisely such anger?

    Thanks for your thoughts, and God bless in your ministry.

    • Sarah in WA says:

      I think the term “frustrated” carries a lesser degree of seriousness than the term “anger.”

      Constructive, righteous anger is a real thing and it is different than mere frustration. Sometimes people’s wrongs can be identified and righted when they realize the severity of duress those wrongs are causing to other people. As a wronged person (or a person speaking on behalf of the wronged), it is more honest & useful to say “I’M MAD!” rather than “I’m frustrated.” But, this anger is only good if it aims to identify & repair the wrong, not cause a new wrong. (Two wrongs do not make a right).

    • RichardGTC says:

      Monsignor Pope quoted Ephes: 4:26: “[26] Be angry, and sin not. ” The second half of that verse reads: ” Let not the sun go down upon your anger.” I think if you take today’s post and combine it with the quote you quoted from yesterday’s post, “We tend to justify our anger. Pay attention, God does not and warns that we cannot cling to it and walk into heaven,” you get the entire verse from Ephesians 4:26: “[26] Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger.” Mother Angelica is someone who can become angry and then stop being angry on a dime. Not that Monsignor Pope needs me to defend him. He can defend himself. He don’t need me to defend him. That is just something I was thinking about myself.–so I typed it.

    • Marie says:

      The distinctions you are making between frustration and anger are interesting, Cowalker. It might help to clarify definitions. The definition of anger I imagine Monsignor is working from would be the one traditional in the Church and Catholic thought. Here are three phrasings of it:

      * St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica defines anger as “anger is the desire to hurt another for the purpose of just vengeance”
      http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2047.htm

      * In the Catechism of Catholic Church, paragraph 1765: Anger is described as the passion which causes us to resist evil. It’s described as a passion which in itself is neither good nor evil (paragraph 1767).
      http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm#

      * Catholic Encyclopedia defines anger as “The desire of vengeance.” and distinguishes between good and sinful anger.
      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01489a.htm

      Aquinas makes a useful distinction between hatred and anger. He says, “the hater wishes evil to his enemy, as evil, whereas the angry man wishes evil to him with whom he is angry, not as evil but in so far as it has an aspect of good, that is, in so far as he reckons it as just”
      http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2046.htm

  7. Steve B says:

    Hey I have copyrights to #4 – “Of course I’m angry, but who would not be angry when talking with an idiot!”.

    Great insight – God Bless!

  8. RichardGTC says:

    “And that last line is a very telling description of the modern age: a miserable truce. Everyone is walking on eggs, afraid to offend and suppressing the truth on account of this fear. And thus our anger gets suppressed, renamed, and turned inward.”–This part and something Father Robert Barone said about public opinion polls reminded me of my favorite Joe Sobran quotes: “public opinion: what everyone thinks everyone else thinks.”

  9. janen7 says:

    “Perhaps too that is why such ugliness erupts from time to time…” When I moved from Northern U.S. to the South, I noticed this phenomenon. I live in an area where everyone smiles so much they must have chronic cheek pain. But I also noticed that my state ranks the highest in metrics like divorce, child abuse, road rage, etc. An Ogden Nash quote sums it up nicely: “Southerners. They’re polite to you until they’re mad enough to kill you.”

    I’ve lived here over 20 years and I’m ready to retire back to my home state. And now you’re telling me the whole country is this way? Argh!

  10. Peter Wolczuk says:

    When I was taking counselling courses, many years ago, one take on anger was a claim that; if I were to become truly angry about something; I could only remain angry about that thing for about a minute to about a minute and a half. If my anger persisted then, suppressed anger was using the anger of the moment to emerge and demand resolution or; sad but true; venting all suppressed anger on the source of the moment. Provoked slightly by many little causes until the “last straw” is the focus of an exaggerated attack that is bloated by a vicarious revenge seeking onto the cause of the moment.
    I can’t be be certain about the veracity and value of the particular source of that objectively learned teaching but, that (and everything else in the course) has proved itself to be of great value to me in my subjective application of what I’d learned there. This leaves me wondering how much unnaturally suppressed anger is growing in modern society. The use of such phrases as, “it won’t do any good to get angry” have grown steadily over my lifetime and, taken with the report on the growing suicide rate, both appall me as I think of these things. I heard the aforementioned phrase said to a small child on the transit bus today.
    Yet, anger is listed as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. When I recall this I also recall (a few years ago) the priest who insisted that I take instruction before he would perform an adult baptism for me. At the time I felt an eager desire for the knowledge provided in his instruction – and a gratitude now. One thing he stressed was that these sins were not deadly in themselves but, careless use of them could lead to very deadly sinning.
    History is full of how some very powerful armies have been defeated by inferior forces just because the troops have been goaded into action before the time, for that action, was ripe. However, when the anger was released into a passionate charge at the right moment, the charge could then succeed. Then, there’s the vicarious revenge on one little thing to even the score on the many suppressed ones.
    Suppression of anger until the time is right has a purpose but, when that purpose and its moment becomes lost, true life becomes a hopeless ideal as a phony warm and fuzzy pretending that nothing bad ever happens in the vain hope that nothing bad ever will happen. This just might very well indicate why so many people of (misguided?) faith are buying into a non acceptance of hell which has been mentioned here a few times – including the one on the day previous to this one.
    One thing I wonder about is if there are people who gleefully see the rapid growth of suicide and smile at the success of their agenda as those who won’t grovel to pretending that we can create heaven on earth, without God’s involvement, by pretending that we have heaven on earth as bureacracies punish many who disagree – but only after eliminating the accused’s right to speak in their own defence by threatening a lack of access to social services. Progressively more and more people are encountering an “accused therefore guilty” which their powerlessness to defend themselves from (in violation of the U.S. Constitution and other national constitutions) is leading to more suppressed anger.
    And, what about these (admittedly hypothetical) people who may be gleefully watching the rise in suicide? If they meant for this to happen are they guilty of murder – pre-meditated and with wilful intent and with malice aforethought?

  11. yan says:

    God can be rightfully angry, but, ‘the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God’–James 1:20. The list of the fruits of the Spirit do not list anger; the works of the flesh rather list words synonymous with, or attributable to, anger.

    17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

    18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

    19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

    20 Idolatry, witchcraft, HATRED, VARIANCE, emulations, WRATH, STRIFE, seditions, heresies,

    21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

    23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

    24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

    25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

    26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

    —Galatians 5:17-26

    As noted, ugliness comes out in comboxes because anonymity provides an opportunity for the ugliness in human beings to come out without much restraint. Not because people don’t otherwise have opportunity to express their anger.

    I don’t see how expressing anger is constructive in any situation. It always hurts other people. If people sense anger in you and tell you that, they are doing you a favor. Knowing what we know about other people and ourselves, why should we be angry when they deride what we hold dear, or us for holding it? Shouldn’t we just pray for them, and more passionately attempt to convince them of the truth? Being angry at them immediately tells them that you cannot process what is happening. That only makes them have less respect for your opinion.

    I have attempted to justify my anger countless times. It is clear to me that this is always just an excuse to justify my own lack of meekness; patience; longsuffering; and most of all, love. It is always easier to justify my anger when the other person is more clearly in the wrong.

    ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’
    –Matthew 11:29

    Peace.

  12. wpr7 says:

    Father–What do you think of St. Francis de Sales (and St. Augustine’s) teaching on anger: “The same Saint Augustine, writing to Profuturus, says that it is better to refuse entrance to any even the least semblance of anger, however just; and that because once entered in, it is hard to be got rid of, and what was but a little mote soon waxes into a great beam. For if anger tarries till night, and the sun goes down upon our wrath (a thing expressly forbidden by the Apostle 80 ), there is no longer any way of getting rid of it; it feeds upon endless false fancies; for no angry man ever yet but thought his anger just.” Introduction to the Devout Life: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/devout_life.v.viii.html
    See also Haydock Commentary on James 1:19-20: http://haydock1859.tripod.com/id259.html

    St. Francis seems to suggest it is better to not consent to anger at all than to allow just anger into your heart.

    • Sounds fine to me, but I wouldn’t absolutize his words. Frankly most anger does not come from without, it comes from within and hence your description of allowing anger “into” your heart needs clarification.

      I sense recent comments are are presuming I think anger is just fine. I don’t say that. And I ask everyone to please read my article carefully and not the distinctions I make. When comments threads start to get long, I find many get away from the article itself and are influenced more by the comments.

      I simply say, along with Chesterton, that anger exists where there is love, and treating it like some horrifying or humiliating taboo is not healthy. Anger is an energy that must be harnessed and used appropriately, for creative and loving ends. This is why I spend time in the post linking anger to love and distinguishing it from vengeful anger. This is what I sense of the scripture that is being quoted, “Let not the sun…” and quotes from saints such as you have noted. Anger is unruly, at least since the Fall but it is necessary, and pretending it isn’t there or turning it in to euphemisms, treating it like a taboo is not healthy or respectful of something God himself supplies us and has (mysteriously and perfectly) within Himself. Where would we be today without the anger of the prophets et al. who allowed their anger at injustice to be as a creative force for change?

      Honestly wpr7 isn’t it your anger (yes, I said it) that motivated you to write? Something in you senses that I am off target, not in conformity with your view about anger (which IS a dangerous subject), yes you sense my view is off target with the view of scripture and/or certain saints and a commentator admired by you called Haydock. And then someone like me (+ Chesteron + Ahlquist) come along and tweak that a bit. Reading this, there is a movement of passion within you that says, “Something is off here, something not properly balanced, something I think should be said is missing, yes, something is off the mark.” And all this is fine, but, I am going to call this “passion” within you anger” I do not mean by this that you are off the hook, slamming fists and cursing, I just mean that something in the irascible part of you (to use Aquinas’ template) says, “Danger, contest this.” And so here you are. Your love for truth motivates what you see as a necessary caution to my incautious article, ignites a tension, and anger (yes I said it again) and with this energy we call anger, you push back. Which is all fine. If you didn’t care about the truth and were just “mister serenity” you’d be out watching clouds right now, not “engaging” or sparring with (to use a conflictual terms) me.

      Anger has a place.

      • wpr7 says:

        Msgr.,

        Had I read your post 6 months ago, I probably would have thought something to the effect of “right on” and possibly even linked it on Facebook. However, I read St. Francis de Sales’ view on anger from the Introduction the Devout Life (in the Haydock commentary) a few months ago while preparing to lead a Bible study on James 1 and it made me question my own views of anger.

        I re-read your post tonight and see nothing unorthodox about it (I certainly did not state that in my earlier post and hope I did not imply it). You seem to say that anger can be used to spur us to fight evil and injustice, when in accordance with reason, charity and moderation. This seems fully consistent with Catholic teaching and I doubt St. Francis de Sales (or any other saint) would question it, as a matter of doctrine.

        As a matter of counsel, however, you seem to part company with St. Francis de Sales (a doctor of the Church), when you encourage people to this sort of righteous anger by stating: “I will say plainly, we need more . . . anger rooted in love and a deep commitment to the truth, an anger that emerges because we see the harm caused by lies, deception, error, sin and injustice.” If you did not already, I encourage you to read the entire chapter from the Introduction to the Devout Life that I linked above. It is less than 2 pages long on computer paper.

        Based upon his writing, if St. Francis were to read your post, I think he would respond that you are probably right about anger sometimes spurring people to positive action, but that such people are playing with fire and the risk of falling into sin is greater than the potential rewards of fostering anger for this purpose (see the quote from my first comment as well as: “Depend upon it, it is better to learn how to live without being angry than to imagine one can moderate and control anger lawfully; and if through weakness and frailty one is overtaken by it, it is far better to put it away forcibly than to parley with it; for give anger ever so little way, and it will become master, like the serpent, who easily works in its body wherever it can once introduce its head.”). I will not dispute that Jesus used anger for good, but Jesus was not affected by concupiscence. I am sure there are plenty of examples of prophets and saints using anger to achieve positive and holy results, but there are probably an exponentially greater number of instances when people fell into sin (maybe even grave sin) by embracing what they considered to be righteous anger.

        I think St. Francis would also respond that a man who quells his anger before taking action will be more effective at correcting evil and injustice than one who launches into action motivated by reasonable, just, non-sinful anger. As he states: “Of course it is a duty to resist evil and to repress the faults of those for whom we are responsible, steadily and firmly, but gently and quietly. Nothing so stills the elephant when enraged as the sight of a lamb; nor does anything break the force of a cannon ball so well as wool. Correction given in anger, however tempered by reason, never has so much effect as that which is given altogether without anger; for the reasonable soul being naturally subject to reason, it is a mere tyranny which subjects it to passion, and whereinsoever reason is led by passion it becomes odious, and its just rule obnoxious.”

        In the section I quoted above, St. Francis says quite clearly that we should resist evil and correct faults in appropriate circumstances “steadily and firmly[.]” I am fully with you when you say that we need to be unapologetic about standing up for the truth with conviction. I do not, however, think that embracing the passion of anger is necessary for this, and in light of St. Francis’ counsel, I question whether fostering anger for the purpose of fighting evil and working for justice is a wise path for most.

        PS–When I said “allow just anger in your heart,” I really mean “embrace and foster a just and passionate anger.” You are probably right that my statement needed clarification (and maybe this one does as well). I am not a theologian and I did not mean to make any statement about where the feelings of anger originate from. Obviously, we will sometimes feel at least the beginnings of anger, whatever the reason. We then have a choice as to whether to embrace and foster that anger (for a good or bad purpose) or try to quell it. In the chapter of the Introduction to the Devout Life I linked above, St. Francis provides advice on how to “put away anger” when “you feel its first movements[.]”

        • St Francis lived in a very different time. Certainly nothing like the time I describe in my post and against which I speak. Context is important. Sorry I don’t pass your test and will not make it to your facebook page etc. I am sure that I do not care for your use of St Francis, I might have to sick St Jerome on you or possibly also St Athanasius and St Nicholas.

          • wpr7 says:

            No doubt, but unruly, unreasonable, sinful anger remains a serious problem today, as it has since the fall (as you noted). Accordingly, I would not dismiss the continued relevance of St. Francis de Sales’ views on anger too quickly.

          • wpr7 says:

            PS–My statement “[n]o doubt…” was in response to your comment that “St Francis lived in a very different time. Certainly nothing like the time I describe in my post and against which I speak. Context is important.” The rest of your previous comment was added after I responded and frankly, it makes no sense to me. I will have to assume it is some ecclesiastical humor that went over my head.

          • Duly noted and also remarked on in the article.

          • Peter Wolczuk says:

            “I simply say, along with Chesterton, that anger exists where there is love, and treating it like some horrifying or humiliating taboo is not healthy.”
            Sometimes, I believe, it is good to look at something from front to back and from back to front. Even to look at it left to right and right to left. This seems to give a fullness to perspective.
            As to, “anger existing where there is love” could that (perhaps somewhat) be the balance referred to in, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3?

  13. Mr. Two Cents says:

    Monsignor,
    You should also write a piece about “being judgmental.” There seems to be very close parallels with the accusation of “being angry.” (Lot’s of egg shells!).

  14. Doug says:

    Didn’t Aquina also say something about being without anger is to be without sense, or something like that? Anger is necessary as it fuels our righteous responses to evil and sin. Anger helps mark appropriate boundaries. Sometimes others can’t hear our words unless they feel our anger.

    Anger management comes in two forms: those who get too angry and those who don’t get angry enough, or appropriately enough. I have suffered from the second. Being afraid to speak the truth when necessary because I’m afraid of their anger, or holding back my anger, has caused me great grief. Yes, then things sneak back out in mean ways I’m not proud of.

  15. GaryM says:

    Good analysis Msgr. Spot on.

    Thinking this through in my own inadequate way . . . egg shells? Jesus certainly broke a few of these.

    Having conviction for the “ultimate” Truth is the only viable choice. Clearly, the Holy Ghost puts “fire” in our souls to have “true” conviction.

    Secular Humanism fails over and over again because they have no truth. It is only as strong as shifting sand in wind and wash. Looking at our current state of affairs, there is a good reason we should be mad and, frankly, raging angry. As long as there are over 3500 abortions a day in the United States, for example, we have cause to be angry, real angry. Abortion is only one example. Everyday I am offended by behavior and attitudes that are in direct violation of the ultimate Truth. It seems our society has found a rational for the denial of God. So, yes, I am angry and heartbroken. My mute button is “off”, especially if I can encourage someone to stay strong in Him.

    You see, unless we stand up for God, there is no need for a New Evangelism or, for that matter, a Catholic Church.

  16. Teomatteo says:

    My problem is I can’t stay angry for very long cuz I forget what someone did to me. One of the benies of getti.g old.

  17. GaryM says:

    This issue reminds me of Pope Gregory XVI maxim “error has no rights”, which is, until recently, kind of self evident.

    All this leads us back to a belief in Christ the King and His Divine Providence over all His creation, including government. The good news is, no matter how badly we mess things up on Earth, He protects and guides all that He created. Our duty is serve and support Him in His plan for our salvation. All in Christ the King.

  18. Ma says:

    It’s because we are being conditioned to submit– all else is futile, etc.

  19. FrH says:

    Msgr., I believe that St. Francis de Sales did mean his warnings against anger as an absolute, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to write them off as a product of his age. His age had just as many things to be angry about as ours does. The problem is, as St. Thomas notes (II-I.48.3): “of all the passions, anger is the most manifest obstacle to the judgment of reason, according to Psalm 30:10: ‘My eye is troubled with wrath.’ ” Since the use of reason is what differentiates man from other animals, it follows that anger very often makes us less human (viz. the contents of most comments boxes).

    I have also yet to see anything from a canonized saint exhorting people to anger–but I can find plenty of exhortations toward forgiveness.

    • I am not sure Jesus got your memo for the reasons stated in the article. Also, isn’t St Paul a canonized saint and he said “be angry yet sin not” as also cited above. Finally you set up a false dichotomy between anger and forgiveness

  20. Bill Dugger says:

    angry thoughts must be rectified, by inspiring thoughts, in order to stop the damage they do to the body.

  21. Cathy Donabedian says:

    Once during Confession I told the priest of a problem I was having with anger toward a particular person.
    He asked for more information and then explained the difference between righteous anger and hatred .
    He then pointed out that the Gospels show Jesus displaying righteous anger second only to compassion
    as He went about His earthly ministry. ( being fully human of course)

    The priest then suggested that I ‘ not worry too much’ but instead pray for the offending person. I tried to do what he asked and eventually that passionate anger dissipated.

    I have noticed that people who never exhibit anger often become ‘passive/aggressive’ in their relationships.
    Repressed anger may also lead to chronic illnesses ,unexplained pain and of course, depression.
    Anger is a human emotion that has its place and we need to learn how to deal with it in a healthy way in order
    to have healthy relationships.

  22. Largo says:

    Frustration is the friction of life.

    The grammar of our language games show that frustration is not simply a degree of anger. Plans can be frustrated, and efforts can be frustrated, but neither are capable of being angered. Our plans and efforts are always being frustrated in greater or lesser degrees, in all sorts of ways. Frustration is to life as friction is to physics.

    We can sense the frustration when our plans are frustrated, as we can sense the heat as the rope slips through our hands. My son often frustrates my efforts to take a nap. I can ask (1) “does the frustration anger me?”, (2) “Does the frustration annoy me?”, and (3) “Does the frustration frustrate me?”

    I can also ask: “Is (2) a weak version of (1)?” and “Does (3) have meaning?”

    And I can say: “Language games about emotions are hard!”

    And considering my own out-of-touchness with my emotional life, and my own lack of competence with the language of emotions, I do ask myself this final question: “Which of these caused the other?”

    Alas, I don’t know how to answer that question.

    Thank you Monsignor, and commenters, for the discussion above. I feel comforted.