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Fr. Rusty's Corner

Turn Four: Thoughts from Your Parish Priest

The Seven Deadly Sins: Anger


Most of us have been in tight quarters and social distancing for about two weeks now, and we have been spending a lot of time with the same people.  I do not know about you, but when I am spending a lot of time with others I have a temptation to struggle with anger.  It is not because I do not like the person, because often I care or love the person, particularly family.  Being around someone constantly can make us aware of their intricate annoyances that bother us.  We tend to have a burst of anger, then realizing we deeply regret our actions.  That would be the sin of anger.

Anger is a violent and disordered desire for punishing another person, in a way that is excessive, not just, and not animated by love.  This is different than punishing a child for misbehaving and being upset with the child.  The punishment is meant to be corrective and a loving action towards the child so that he or she may be better.  Anger seeks to simply hurt the other person for the mere pleasure of hurting. 

Anger can take on many different types of forms.  The most common is probably impatience.  The other person is doing something that we do not like or has some kind of bad habit that we do not like.  When we are around someone more often their bad habit of how they eat, things that they do, the way they talk, or even breathe can get under our skin.  This impatience can escalate to either verbal or physical attacks.  Verbal attacks stem from the excessive irritation at the faults of others.  We focus on their flaws and magnify them.  Physical attacks are a common escalation for siblings who have to be around each other for a while (I know this from my own childhood).  Usually, they just get frustrated and do not know how else to get it out.  I do want to mention that when anger evolves to fury, which means there is physical abuse or even murder, it finds its way to the illegal realm.  This is not the common experience of anger, but now is the time more than ever we need to keep an eye out for that in our community.

There are several remedies for anger I would like to suggest.  None of these remedies are easy and they take practice, but that is always true when turning a sinful or bad habit into something good.  First is to seek to reflect in ourselves before we act.  It requires just a moment for us to ask ourselves ‘is what I am about to say or do out of love or something else?’  The moment of asking the question can help us avoid outbursts of anger.  Another thing we should do is pray for those who anger us.  Prayer is asking the Lord to watch out for the person, and the prayer can help us find a better state of mind.  Prayer can also help us petition for what that person needs, which will help us to be more understanding and patient with them.  Finally, we seek to realize the virtue that counters anger, which is meekness.  Meekness is not being weak and pushed around by others; it is the ability to be loving and gentle with someone in order to seek to cause a conversion in them.  It is not easy, but it is something we see in Christ.

I hope this reflection on anger and meekness helps each of you during this time, particularly those of you whose interaction are with the same small group of people each day and the frustrations are building up.  Let us continue to pray for each other during this time.

- Fr. Rusty Vincent

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