"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Monday, August 27, 2012

Anger .. A Fierce and Deadly Passion

I’m not an angry person by nature.  Or at least I didn’t think I was just a mere 24 hours ago.  But having read what Evagrius of Ponticus of the 4th Century wrote about just such a vice, I changed my mind and found myself in a state of needing to repent.  I’m not normally one to “lose my temper” or have “outbursts,” though it does happen on occasion.  However, anger can be much more shrouded and darker than such outward eruptions.  In fact, I believe that whereas such outbursts cause tremendous damage to those around us, the more inwardly dangerous is the seething kind that is allowed to ferment and smolder within the heart.  Add to that the physical implications with elevated blood pressures and you’ve got a disaster on your hands.  In fact, Evagrius goes ahead and calls it “deadly.”
Listen to what this desert father and thinker wrote some 1600 years ago.  “The most fierce passion is anger.  In fact it is defined as a boiling and stirring up of wrath against one who has given injury.  It tends to lead to a preoccupation with the one with whom we are angry.  It ruins our health – both physical and mental.”  The commentator adds, “Anger arises from a sense of violation – a violation of self, of agreements, of principles.  It also arises when we feel a threat to our social status or a desire to control other people’s lives.”
I don’t like it when people, ancient or contemporary, get in my business…. 
So what is the flip side of this coin?  Evagrius says we are to replace anger with mildness.  It’s “the capacity for self-restraint.  Whether a principle has been violated or we simply feel a great frustration with ourselves or our situation, we can respond with mildness because we have confidence in God.  When we center our life on God, our need to gain the world’s acclaim evaporates.  We no longer clamor to be noticed.  We find that God totally satisfies our need to be valued and recognized.”
Anger … it’s ruinous alright.  Deadly, if you will.  But we are not left without hope.  The mind is not a vacuum, and so in order for this detrimental passion and these antagonistic thoughts to be overcome, they MUST be replaced with good ones.  No doubt the Philippians were dealing with something on that order, or why else would Paul have written, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Sounds like a prescription for anger to me.  But like any medicine, in order for it to work, it must be taken daily. 

Just an ordinary moment...

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