We get angry sometimes. Hopefully, it’s not very often. Truth is it’s not a pleasant state to be in. And there can be many reasons why we get angry. People commit mistakes, or they can offend us or simply irritate us and other reasons can come out ‘adinfinitum.’
Our usual reaction to these events is anger. And it’s a given that the more stupid the mistake is or the more malicious the offense is, the more intense would be our anger. We can even fall into a rage. The recent, unfortunate case of Sen. Koko Pimentel is acase in point.
But we are told that we should not stay long in that condition of anger. St. Paul has this beautiful piece of advice in this regard. “Be angry, yet do not sin,” he said. “Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold…” (Eph4, 26-27)
It would be good if we can revisit these wise words of St. Paul especially these days when in our present condition of being restricted and confined in our movements due to the coronavirus, we have the tendency to be extra-sensitive and volatile, and hence, more prone to anger.
Anger, of course, is a human emotion. As such, it has its legitimate place in the sun, a role to play in our life. It is our way of immediately defending ourselves when we feel we are threatened in some sense.
It’s just that it needs to be properly motivated and directed. It just cannot be a mere effect of some hormones or simply an expression of a reflex reaction. It has to be purified and guided by reason that in turn should be enlightened and animated by our faith, hope and charity.
Anger not guided by reason is pure animal anger, not fit for our human dignity as persons and, most especially, as children of God. It would be brute anger, not rational. And if uncorrected, it definitely is a sin. In fact, it’s one of the capital sins. It not only would be against our human nature. It would also be against God’s law. It opens the gates for other worse things to afflict us.
We need to see the facile vulnerability of our anger to all forms of disorder that can range from pride to vanity to envy to hatred, etc. That is why it needs to be quickly purified and subjected to the requirements of right reason that is enlightened by faith, hope and charity. Thus, that advice of St. Paul not to let the sun set on our anger, giving the devil a foothold.
To be sure, to rectify anger would need a good amount of humility and patience also. Without humility and patience, reason that is inspired by faith, hope and charity cannot shed its light. Without humility and patience, we would be at the mercy of brute and worldly forces only. Without humility and patience, we would not be able to imitate Christ in dealing with those instances that provoke us to anger.
Let us try to adopt the very mind and attitude of Christ in handling anger-provoking situations as articulated by St. Peter in his first letter:
“When they heaped abuse on Him, He did not retaliate. When he suffered, He made no threats, but entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. ‘By His stripes you are healed.’” (2, 23-24)
In other words, any situation where anger is provoked, the proper thing to do is to relate it to Christ who, in all humility and patience, just absorbed all the unjust treatment so that “we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”
This is the only way we can properly handle all occasions where we figure in anger./WDJ