Why Anger Has Its Place
He who who cannot hate what is evil cannot love what is good
I sometimes wonder why God does not just take away the emotion of anger from those who want to live holy lives. Being someone who has a certain temper, there were certainly times I wished I could just have the calmness of saints who always seem to be gentle and patient to all.
I’ve realized, however, that anger still has its usefulness in this life.
Anger need not always be destructive. Anger can be useful if it pushes us to defend what is good and right.
We need not remain as mere observers of all the wrong things in the world. We can be angry about it and we can do something to make a change for the better.
Those who accept the evil around them sooner or later experience depression in their souls. Depression comes because hope is lost.
We can regain that hope and do something instead. We can find the courage to make a difference, to make things good again.
Many times, it takes but a few men of courage to make a great change, men who are not afraid to stand up for what is right and to fight a good fight while not succumbing to the darkness around them.
What anger can accomplish for us
It is anger that tells us something is wrong. It is anger that signifies how atrocious evil really is. Without anger, we may just as easily tolerate monstrous deeds done before our eyes.
Anger has its place. We don’t have to be filled with thoughts of revenge or of uncontrollable wrath. But we don’t have to forego anger either.
Anger can move us to recognize what is evil, to see how injustice is being done to our neighbors and to do something about it. Anger can urge us to take action to defend the oppressed and to find justice for those who are exploited.
Leaders who cannot be angry with the wicked are weak. They allow others to be abused. They become instruments of chaos instead of peace.
Anger is not what’s wrong. It is holding on to anger when it is no longer needed. It is allowing anger to control us, using it as an excuse to do things we’d only regret later on.
Anger is a temporary tool, not a permanent solution
After the danger has passed, after we have recognized the horror of sin, and after we have taken the steps needed to protect ourselves and other people, we need to let it go. Otherwise, this heavy burden can trap us in the past, poison our hearts, destroy our peace and prevent our healing and happiness.
“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment. ” — Dale Carnegie
While anger alerts us of immediate danger or evil and is a temporary tool to help us fight or flee from harm, resentment poisons our soul slowly and becomes a burden too heavy to bear over time.
“Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath, and don’t give place to the devil.” — Ephesians 4:26–27, WEB
What do we do in moments of intense anger?
Here are some things I’ve realized through my own experience:
1. Flee at once in prayer! In times of anger, I need all the help I could get to be able to manage this strong emotion. Prayer helps because it gives me spiritual capacities far beyond my own human limitations.
“Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.” — St. Ephraem of Syria
2. Avoid acts you will later regret. Think of the people you could hurt, think of the damage that could arise in a moment of blind rage.
“…but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.” — Genesis 4:5–8, NRSV-CE
“One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.” — Proverbs 16:32, NRSV-CE
3. Do not be angrier than necessary. Let your anger be proportionate to the needs of the moment. Often, trouble comes when we allow our anger to linger longer or to grow bigger than it should. If you feel that you are the type of person who gets controlled by your emotions, try to put a stop to your anger as early as you possibly could!
“…anger…once admitted, it will not be easily expelled, for, though at first but a small plant, it will immediately grow into a large tree.” — Saint Augustine
4. Focus on calming down instead of feeding the fire of your anger. After the initial burst of anger, we are given a choice. Do we choose to continue thinking of the many reasons why we should be angry? Or do we choose to pause for a while and think of the best course of action available for us?
“…and if through weakness and frailty one is overtaken by it, it is far better to put it away forcibly than to parley with it; for give anger ever so little way, and it will become master, like the serpent, who easily works in its body wherever it can once introduce its head.” — St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life
5. Douse the fire of your anger with thoughts of love and of peace. Anger is like a fire that can burn and consume us, even our rational thoughts. We should put out its flames with thoughts that can calm us and restore our peace.
“You, LORD, give perfect peace
to those who keep their purpose firm
and put their trust in you.”
— Isaiah 26:3, GNT
“If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One that loves you.” — Pope Benedict XVI
6. Try to heal the wounds and issues that come up again and again in times of crisis and that causes you to be more angry and vulnerable. Let God be your Healer as you cry to Him and open up your heart.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”— Matthew 11:28–30, NRSV-CE
“It is better to cry than to be angry, because anger hurts others, while tears flow silently though the soul and cleanses the heart.” — Pope John Paul II
7. Get up after every fall. Don’t give in to despair. Rather, ask forgiveness from God and from those you may have unduly hurt.
“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”— 1 John 1:9, NRSV-CE
“There is an anger which is engendered of evil, and there is an anger engendered of good. Hastiness of temper is the cause of the evil, divine principle is the cause of the good…” — Pope St. Gregory the Great
Final thoughts on anger
Let us learn to be angry with the right things at the right time and in the right way. We don’t have to be ruled by our emotions, but we can allow our natural human instincts to remind us when we need to be strong in order to defend the weak, and when we need to fight evil so that we can see the triumph of what is good.
“They came to Jerusalem, and Jesus entered into the temple, and began to throw out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers’ tables, and the seats of those who sold the doves. He would not allow anyone to carry a container through the temple. He taught, saying to them, ‘Isn’t it written, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?” But you have made it a den of robbers!’” — Mark 11:15–17, WEB
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” — St. Augustine