Reflections from St. John Cassian: We must, with God’s help, eradicate the deadly poison of the demon of anger from the depths of our souls. So long as he dwells in our hearts and blinds the eyes of the heart with his somber disorders, we can neither discriminate what is for our good, nor achieve spiritual knowledge, nor fulfill our good intentions, nor participate in true life; and our intellect will remain impervious to the contemplation of the true, divine light; for it is written, ‘Man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God’ (James. 1:20).
Cassian continues: It is a bigger miracle to be patient and refrain from anger than it is to control the demons which fly through the air. Having recently watched “The Hobbit” for the umpteenth time, anger can feel like being in a wrestling match with an Orc. Anger can be ugly or turn ugly with a wink of an eye. Or the energy from anger can be directed into reconciliation. It’s all in our hands what we want to do with it.
First of all, all anger comes from fear–a threat of some kind of loss to self or others. It is necessary to understand what triggers our anger? Did someone cross our personal boundary of that of another? Or does anger come because our expectations are out of sync with reality?
When someone transgresses our personal boundary, what do we do with our anger? Who is in charge? Us or the anger? There are multiples ways to deal with anger. The most simple way I have found is to have a conversation with the part of myself that is inflamed in order to listen to the pain or fear to calm myself and reconnect with that part of myself so that we can work together to find a solution. I say “we” because if I take the time to listen internally, there is the part of me that is angry, and the adult part of me that can dialogue with the injured part to discern what the problem is and how to go about reconciling it.
When I am angry because of my expectations, then I have to also dialogue with myself about having unreasonable expectations of others. If I become angry about another’s choice that it out of my realm of control, then I am the one where the problem lies. I cannot expect another to act in the way I wish them to. Even when a contract is broken by another, I can become justifiably angry, But if I expect others not to sin, then my expectations can be skewed. I, too, fail others and Jesus said to be very careful about “casting the first stone,” thinking that I may be without sin myself, my thoughts being outside of reality.
The best prescription is to bring Christ into our anger and let the Divine Physician bring return us to himself and the Divine Balance which only he can create within us.
A closing thought by Cassian: We are often indifferent to our brethren who are distressed or upset, on the grounds that they are in this state through no fault of ours. The Doctor of souls, however, wishing to root out the soul’s excuses from the heart, tells us to leave our gift and to be reconciled not only if we happen to be upset by our brother, but also if he is upset by us, whether justly or unjustly; only when we have healed the breach through our apology should we offer our gift.
Reconciliation is by far a greater way of living than irritability.