I’m being tested.
These past weeks have been difficult. Don’t think that this examination of conscience has just been a way for a writer to write something appealing for her audience. This blog might be more for me than for you, dear reader. Writing is how I reflect upon my life, listening for the voice of God, exploring the loves and struggles of my existence to discover sacred beauty and divine truth.
The truth is that I’m finding wrath to be the most difficult of the “seven deadly sins” on which to write. I think this means that it has the most potential to destroy me.
I used to love my angry pleasures. When someone ticked me off, I would let them know it, spewing out denunciations in the most clever and articulate way. It seemed like I was my most well-spoken when angry at a family member or friend. They usually didn’t have a comeback and that made me proud. I still fall into this tendency, I admit. But I don’t enjoy it anymore.
Lately, I’ve been fighting against my tendency to yell at my housemates (a.k.a. my parents) when I’m angry. And I’ve noticed that I get angry when I’m simply irritated or misunderstood in a very small way. I’m human. We’re all human. And our annoyances can be … well, annoying. And our irritations can be irritating. And our anger can be infuriating.
One bad mood sparks another and pretty soon we find ourselves verbally hurting each other, dangerously close to the inferno of wrath.
More Than Angry
There are many things in life that cause me legitimate anger. For example, our society’s blatant disregard for human life. This week Canada and Spain both expanded physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia so that people who are chronically ill or disabled and depressed can be legally killed by their doctors. The feature photo depicts how I feel about this. (I’ll be revising a previous reflection on the horrific dangers of “Death with Dignity.”)
The anger that I feel about this subject is good because it spurs me to righteous action — but I must make sure that my actions are indeed God-centered so that I won’t fall into self-righteous anger that demeans or demonizes those with opposing views. I’ve fallen into that trap in the past, usually without realizing that I had fallen into anything — except being right, of course. A sense of self-righteousness seems to precede wrath.
Excessive anger can be preceded by another type of self-centeredness: an oversensitivity that perceives everything that is irritating or hurting us as the worst injustice in the world. This is what gets me into the most trouble, with the people I love the most.
My loved one busts in on my happy mood with some trivial negativity, and I sometimes fume and seethe and punish them with some kind of verbal condemnation. I often refuse to understand, forgive, or compromise with my loved ones when tensions rise over the organization of stuff or the “right tone” in giving directions. Although there is such a thing as righteous anger, there’s nothing right about being angry over the way someone asks me a question. There’s nothing right about being angry when I don’t get my way in a trivial matter. It’s just willfulness. It’s just petty, wrathful petulance — and, oh, how that wrath can blaze.
What Turns Anger into Wrath
Why do legitimate disagreements over simple or practical matters often lead to anger, frustration, and even resentment or some kind of punitive action? I’m honestly asking myself that question right now … and I’m intrigued by where my mind is going…
Sin is why trifling things can terrorize our lives. I’m not one to think often about sin or to write often about it. But as I’m maturing, I’m understanding how sin, how this out-of-whack relationship between us and God, this disconnect between God’s will and our will is the cause of unhappiness. Self-centeredness — sin — is the root cause of cruel neglect, oppression, and prejudice, as well as petty bickering, hurt feelings, and fractured relationships.
We want peace in our lives and in the world. But where does peace come from? How can I expect a victim of true injustice to be merciful and resilient or people living in war-torn countries to rise above vengeance and seek reconciliation, if I cannot be patient and gentle with my own dearly loved ones over daily logistics? Charity begins at home, peace begins at home, so peace must be rooted in my heart. If sinful self-centeredness is already planted there, then I will have no room to grow in peacefulness, patience, forbearing forgiveness, and undaunted joy.
Until I strive to live in harmony with God, moment by moment, I will always get spitting mad about something. Until I trust His divine will and not demand my own, I will lash out at my loved ones and demean my enemies. I may even create enemies for myself just so that I can indulge in angry pleasures and feel myself unfairly treated, indignant, and self-righteous.
May I seek to trust God — intimately, working out a peaceful interior relationship with God through His Holy Spirit within me. This peace, this oneness with Christ, is the life-giving water that I need to soothe the raging fires of wrath. Seeking divine rehabilitation for myself, may I not try to “fix” others, but allow peace — Jesus Christ — to live within me and spread His merciful peace through me moment by moment, howsoever He wills.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon….
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
© 2021 Christina Chase
[i] the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.