If pride is the mother of all sins, anger is the father. While all sins are born from pride, those same sins are often supported by anger. Pride nurtures sin, and anger defends it.
Fr. John A. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary defines anger as follows:
An emotional sense of displeasure and usually antagonism, aroused by real or apparent injury. The anger can be either passionate or nonpassionate, depending on the degree to which the emotions are excited, strongly in one case and mildly in the other.
Anger is not sinful if the following three conditions are met: (1) the cause of the anger is just (for example, coming to the legitimate defense of a third party who is being harmed); (2) the anger itself does not exceed what the cause demands (that is, as long as it is kept under control); and (3) the anger is quickly subdued.
One or more of the following attributes can be found in a person who succumbs to unjust anger: annoyance, indignation, rage, wrath, aversion, explosive, vindictive, impatience, revenge, cruelty, vengeance, not at peace, and fierce silence.
The person whose primary fault is anger has learned to use his anger to get what he wants, serve his own self-interests, and satisfy his own pride. Over time, he has become adept at manipulating others by using intimidation, shame, guilt, bullying, and at times, physical abuse. As a result, he eventually finds himself in a situation where his anger has permanently harmed his relationships with others.
The people who are close to the person whose primary fault is anger – spouse, children, friends, and fellow workers – have learned to keep things from him. They fear his wrath, which at times seems to come out of nowhere. He frequently and impulsively reacts in anger to comments, situations, and events. There is no way to anticipate the way he will react, so the people who are close to him “hide” details they would ordinarily be inclined to disclose. This, in turn, causes him to become indignant and to retaliate, which only serves to further harm the relationship.
Most individuals who have anger as their primary fault were born with traits that help them to stay focused on tasks and to be productive. They have trouble understanding or empathizing with others who are generally unfocused and undisciplined. Because of their pride and their ability to get a lot accomplished, they view themselves as superior to others.
Although the angry person can behave fiercely toward others, he is fiercely loyal to his family and friends; however, he expects the same degree of loyalty in return and seeks to exercise control over the people who are close to him. He has the ability to sense others’ weaknesses and uses his tongue as a weapon, a razor-sharp knife that he uses to verbally attack his victim. When he is in a fit of rage, he is not willing to let an issue rest until he has verbally beaten his victim into complete submission.
There are two key virtues that act as the antidote to anger – kindness and forgiveness. For the person whose primary fault is anger, both of these virtues are critical to the management and control of his anger.
In order to practice both kindness and forgiveness, the perfect model to follow is Jesus Christ. What did Jesus do when He had every reason to lash out in anger against His enemies? He kept quiet, practiced heroic charity, and forgave everyone who betrayed, tortured, and murdered Him.
What did Jesus have to say concerning anger and forgiveness? He said: “You have heard that it has been said: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, love your enemies.” Matthew 5:38, 44. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. “I say not to thee [to forgive] seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22. “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you.” Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Matthew 6:12.
In order to manage and overcome his primary fault, the angry person must actively pray for humility and:
• Continually focus on living in God’s presence;
• Keep Christ Crucified habitually in mind;
• Perform simple acts of charity for those who annoy and irritate him;
• Keep his mouth shut whenever he is annoyed or irritated;
• Practice forgiveness, even though he may believe he is innocent of any wrongdoing;
• Develop the habit of apologizing for his behavior; and
• Receive the sacrament of Penance at least once a month, and attend Mass and receive Holy Communion as often as possible (more than once a week).
If you have a person in your life whose primary fault is anger, when he gets angry with you a suggested course of action would be to
1. Mentally ask both of your guardian angels and the Blessed Mother to assist you in dealing with his anger.
2. Calmly tell him that you do not want to discuss the matter while he is angry. If he settles down, you can continue the discussion. If he denies that he’s angry or refuses to back down, calmly tell him that the conversation has reached a point where it is no longer productive and you’re not willing to discuss the matter any further until he cools down. If he’s not willing to end the conversation, repeat what you previously said about the conversation no longer being productive and then physically leave the room or area where you have been having the conversation.
3. After he settles down, even though he may be giving you the “silent treatment,” mentally ask both of your guardian angels and the Blessed Mother to assist you in dealing with him and calmly tell him that he owes you an apology. When he asks “What for?” you can explain to him that his anger is harmful to your relationship.
4. Regularly pray for him and for the virtues of humility and courage, which will help you deal with his anger.
Next week I’ll cover the primary fault of Lust.