Seven Deadly Sins: Anger or Wrath
What drives anger? All the deadly sins work together, and anger, pride and envy form a particularly unholy alliance.
Hot or cold, passive or aggressive, anger usually desires to punish or hurt others in some way. But anger can also turn inward, particularly when the angry person feels he/she is a powerless victim of his situation. Depression and even suicide is sometimes connected to repressed anger.
A gunman walks into a church and starts shooting. Road rage rides the highways and aggression patrols the hallways of neighborhood schools. Many who would never openly express their hostility secretly enjoy seeing others do so on TV or in movies. With the crumbling economy and rising unemployment, we seem to have given ourselves permission to be furious.
The Church is careful to distinguish emotions, which arise unbidden and dissipate just as quickly, from the choice to nurture or act on these feelings. Mental rehearsals of angry exchanges keep the embers glowing, while the violence, cursing, belittling, and verbal abuse that periodically erupts reveals that the vice of anger simmers inside.
Like all of the deadly sins, anger (or wrath) is a potential rooted in the fallen nature of every person. Anger is deeply self-centered, impatient with the weaknesses of others and often driven by an aggrieved sense of entitlement rising up in response to real or imagined injury. It causes the breakdown of marriages, families, and friendships.
Hot or cold, passive or aggressive, anger usually desires to punish or hurt others in some way. But anger can also turn inward, particularly when the angry person feels he/she is a powerless victim of his/her situation. Depression and even suicide is sometimes connected to repressed anger.
What drives anger? All the deadly sins work together, and anger, pride and envy form a particularly unholy alliance. At its core, however, anger may also be fueled by fear and insecurity.
Angry people often fear losing their place in the world, the loss or lack of love, or the abridgment of their real or imagined rights. They dread suffering or are anxious about their survival in a dog eat dog world. The old adage “The best defense is a good offense” is a wise observation of human nature. In fact, many angry people justify their hostility by saying they are only defending themselves.
Jesus gives us no quarter on anger. He rejects our excuses. Not only does He uphold the commandment against murder, he shines a light on that root of anger in our hearts. He says, “Anyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22). There is no wiggle room here, and the early Fathers confirm this in their unwavering counsel against allowing any hint or root of anger to linger in the soul.
Without our anger, we may feel weak and vulnerable, like doormats and ready victims for anyone’s boots. If we don’t fight for ourselves and our rights, who will? Who can we trust? Good question. There is an answer. God has already fought for us. He has successfully defended us against the world, the flesh and the Devil. Jesus shed His blood and gave His life in this battle.
The Paschal Mystery is the path to liberation from the crippling vice of anger. Taking up His cross, rather than fighting it, Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified. While hanging on the Cross, the sinless one suffered the greatest injustice imaginable, not because He deserved it, but because we did. Instead of calling upon legions of angels to execute vengeance, He asked the Father to forgive His tormentors, “for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). His love for us cost His very life.
This is the love St. John calls us to trust with our whole lives. “Perfect love drives out fear” he says, “so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar, for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 Jn 4:18-20)
Loving God and loving our brothers cannot be separated. The anger that divides us into warring factions must give way to love.
Does this mean we are to be passive in the face of genuine injustice, especially when done to others? No. Anger can be to the soul what pain is to the body; it alerts us to the fact that something is amiss, either in our personal lives or in our society. But the passion of anger must be transformed into the energy of love, a love which flows from an understanding of the truth and is not deceived into thinking that good can be achieved by evil means.
Jesus did not die passively on the Cross; it was a mighty act of self-gift. His death actively opened the way of peace between God and man, and among people. We, too, are called to be peacemakers in our own small way, even in hostile situations, by acting with forbearance, compassion, empathy, love and forgiveness. Only this unselfish and courageous laying down of our lives and our “rights” can uproot the anger ever ready to flare up within us.
Jeri Holladay writes from Wichita, Kansas, where she has been Director of Adult Education at the Spiritual Life Center of the Diocese of Wichita, Associate Professor of Theology, Chairman of the Theology Department and founding Director of the Bishop Eugene Gerber Institute of Catholic Studies at Newman University. She teaches moral theology and church history and is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity: That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »