I've witnessed a lot of anger over the last year or so as our church has been through some very difficult times.
Tonight, I was talking with some friends about anger.
"But anger's not a sin," one of them said. "It's how you behave as a result of anger that becomes wrong."
"True," I said. "But if anger becomes a choice, a way of life, then it's a sin. That's why it's one of the seven deadly sins."
They agreed, but in our brief discussion, I knew we were only telling part of the story. I went google-hunting for good reflections on anger.
My favorite is this article by Phil Snyder. I'm going to quote a short part of it below.
There are different types of anger.
Resentment is the refusal to discern, accept, or fulfill God's vocation for you. Resentment leads to dissatisfaction with your God-given talents, opportunities, or abilities. It can lead to unwillingness to face up to difficulties or sacrifices required to fulfill your vocation. Resentment leads to transferring blame to God, our parents, or families, our bosses or anyone else for the reasons behind our failures. Resentment shows itself in cynicism, profanity, grumbling and a desire to escape from reality.
Pugnacity is an attack upon another in anger. It can be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Murder by desire (and remember, that saying "you fool" or "raca" is murder by desire) or deed. Striking another, cursing another, insulting another, or damaging an other's reputation by words and deeds. Arguing, bickering, contradicting others to get your own point across, being rude or snubbing others are all forms of pugnacity. It is more than just hitting another, it is the desire or will to cause harm to others...
Another form of Anger is Retaliation. It is vengeance (actual or planned) for wrongs real or imagined. It is giving excessive punishment out of a desire to hurt, not discipline. Hostility, sullenness, and rash judgment. Refusal to forgive or to offer or accept reconciliation. Unwillingness to love your enemies, to seek their good or to pray for them. Retaliation shows itself in ostracising others and getting others to join you in cutting someone off from the group to make you feel better. Putting others down so you can feel better about yourself. Refusing to join in the groups activities simply because you did not get your way. Feeling superior to others.
Thank you, Phil! When we are living through situations in which we are surrounded by angry people, and may be tempted to act on our anger, this kind of understanding is priceless. It can help us be thoughtful peacemakers instead of instinctive reactors. One more sobering thought--the definition of a deadly sin is that it kills grace and charity in the human soul.
Question for you: What do you do to control your behavior when you are angry?