In the last post on anger, I asked readers to…
- Write down what was happening when you started to feel anger.
- Write down what you were thinking or what memories were in your mind.
- Write down any words that were in your mind at the time.
- Try to write down… I was feeling anger because I thought….
- Then also write down what you did, the behaviour that the feeling produced.
This is necessary to help us discover what are the triggers that lead us to become angry. The intention is not to produce a sort of dulled, emotionaless existence, where nothing moves us at all. This energy which we find overwhelming us is actually a gift from God. Sometimes it is misrepresented. Preachers will read the verse in the New Testament,
Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath. Ephesians 4:26
…and will suggest that it means that anger is OK, as long as we do not let it get out of control, and as long as we try to calm down before we go to sleep. But the great spiritual Fathers of the Church are clear that it does not mean this. Far from meaning that it is OK to be angry with other people, they teach us the true purpose of anger. The two phrase in the first section go together…
It does not mean, be angry if you need to, but within limits. It means use your anger to prevent you falling into sin. It means be angry at every cause of sin in you and in the temptation that is presented to you, and use this energy of anger against sin to turn away from it forcefully and violently.
When we turn our anger towards other people it is harmful and destructive, both for us, for others, and for our relationships. Anger is not to be an energy turned against others. Rather we are to learn how to direct all that energy, and we know how powerful it can be, against Satan, and against every temptation, and against our own self-indulgence and laziness.
The proper use of anger gives us strength to say, “How dare you tempt me in this way!“. It gives us strength to say to ourselves, “Are you really going to act in this way?!” It gives us the energy to say, “This is the person I want to be!“
Without anger we would not have the natural and God given energy to turn towards good and reject evil, so that when we become angry with ourselves and with Satan we do indeed not sin at all. Our problem is not anger, but that we direct it in the wrong direction, and in so doing cause harm to ourselves and to others, instead of using it in a way that brings us closer to God.