I was musing over which of the seven deadly sins I was going to write about this week for my series, when the answer came to me in the form of a car accident. My husband and I were driving our oldest to gymnastics with our two other kids in the car. Ahead, we could see there was a minor car accident, but what was troublesome was that we could also see that people were fighting. At one point, I saw a man reach into the bed of his truck and pull out some kind of tool. He began waving it around and had it hit anyone, it would have inflicted serious injury.
As we pulled closer to the accident, we could definitely see that the two drivers were irate. They were cussing, screaming, totally clamoring for each other, but a woman was sandwiched between them, trying to stop them from tearing each other apart. The tool-wielding guy picked up his weapon again and started threatening with it. The car accident was so minor that there was barely any damage at all, yet these two guys were seething mad. Other drivers around were already calling the cops, thank goodness, and I hope that the two men didn’t end up killing each other over a fender bender before the cops arrived. I hope the lady was okay, too.
There was a time in my life when I really struggled with anger. I have blown up more times in my life than I care to mention. I’ve shattered relationships with my anger, which I deeply regret. Part of my anger stemmed from unresolved issues in my life that continually boiled to the surface and blew out in a volcanic rage. My husband has done a great job in helping me to calm down and cool my hot-headedness.
Let’s see what St. Gregory had to say on anger:
“Anger is also wont to exhort the conquered heart, as if with reason, when it says, The things that are done to thee cannot be borne patiently; nay rather, patiently to endure them is a sin; because if thou dost not withstand them with great indignation, they are afterwards heaped upon thee without measure.”
Laymen’s terms: Anger says that wrongs done to you don’t deserve patience, in fact, to be patient with them would be a sin. Why? Because if you just take it and don’t get angry, then more and more will happen and it will be all your fault for not getting angry over it.
There is some truth to this, in the fact that righteous anger is good. There are some things that we should never bear patiently. We should get mad over child abuse, corruption, murdering of the innocent, cruelty to animals, and acts of terror. Jesus even got extremely mad when people were using the Temple–His Father’s house–as a marketplace. He had righteous anger over it, as well He should.
The type of anger that comes from pride being wounded is not righteous and it often causes us to act out in dangerous and hurtful ways. St. Gregory says that anger brings with it “strifes, swelling of mind, insults, clamour, indignation, blasphemies.”
It’s so true. Anger has caused strife in millions of relationships. Half the time, the ones that are angry can’t even remember the reason they’re mad, but still they cling to their anger–they feel very justified in it. We all know that when we are angry we insult, name call, take the Lord’s name in vain, and scream and shout. So often, people make extremely poor decisions in the heat of anger; ones that they end up regretting once the dust settles. It’s awful what we do to each other in anger and it never makes anything better. No one ever walks away from a screaming, hitting, knock-out, drag down match and feels better. One might feel justified, but no one feels better.
The virtue that God gave us to strive for instead of giving over to anger is forgiveness. Just look at the words. The word anger looks, I don’t know, so harsh and tense. The word forgiveness looks calming and almost brings relief to your soul just by saying it. It’s hard to forgive someone who has hurt you, but we only continue to hurt ourselves by denying forgiveness. I have found in my life that when I withhold forgiveness, anger builds in me, until I can’t contain it anymore. Sadly, my wrath gets unleashed on someone that doesn’t really deserve it.
There has never been a time in my life when I’ve forgiven and then regretted it. Each and every time, it has brought peace to my life and healing. Sometimes, I’ve had to forgive people that I had to remove from my life because they were unhealthy for me, yet it is still important to forgive them. Sometimes, I’ve had to ask for forgiveness from someone I’ve wounded only to still have that relationship never fully recover. To be sure, there will be those in our lives that we will forgive numerous times because we all mess up and hurt each other. Sometimes the sin is minor, sometimes it is major, but, no matter what, forgiveness keeps us from being eaten alive by anger.
I didn’t like myself very much when I was angry all the time. I can’t imagine very many people liked having me around either. Forgiveness is something we all struggle to ask for and to offer to others. Pride has a lot to do with that. I’ve found, though, that the more I forgive the easier it becomes and it always creates healing within me.