Anger. What is it good for?


Anger can be an emotion that allows our greater demons to shout down the inborn grace of our humanity. Some people don’t allow anger to guide them, instead sluffing off its yolk and allowing it to melt away.


Lucky them.


For the rest of us mere mortals, anger issues surprise us in everyday life. In a seemingly innocuous encounter, anger can flare up into an inferno—turning a small issue into a bonfire of emotion. Typically this is because we haven’t dealt with (or are unable to do so on our own) something that’s transpired in the previous weeks or years. Anger can destroy us if we let it; it can break relationships, divide families, and/or separate us from one another for no good reason at all. Before I go any further, I’m aware that in certain situations, anger is justified and righteous—slavery, murder, and other atrocities that defy immutable natural law. 


What I’m getting at is the anger we hold that turns into a grudge, or anger that sparks an undeserved harsh statement. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who pushed the right button (intentionally or otherwise) and reacted inappropriately? Have you ever—to quote The West Wing—doled out a fifty-dollar punishment for a fifty-cent transgression? Have you ever been in a situation wherein you accepted someone’s anger as your own and returned it twice as much? I have. In my youth, anger was a constant companion during arguments. It was how I ‘won’ disagreements. Say something hurtful and shut the conversation down, then you don’t have to worry about being wrong. It was completely inappropriate given that the reason I was angry usually sprouted out of a need to be ‘right’.


But that doesn’t help. Ever. The only thing venting anger during a disagreement does is add insult to an already tense situation. But there’s good news: We have a choice as to whether or not we accept the anger offered by another. We won’t always be able to allow our better selves to shine forth—we are human, after all—but we can control ourselves for the most part. It’s amazing what occurs when anger is removed or mitigated in tense moments. People’s posture changes, breathing slows, calm appears and then we’re able to work through things rather than allowing our own anger to rule our mouths and actions.


And anger is usually born out of pain. Pain of loss, pain of disappointment, pain of embarrassment for being wrong. But the choice to say two simple words and mean them, “I’m sorry” is always at our disposal. Anger from pain and disappointment doesn’t necessitate “I’m sorry”, but rather “I’m hurting”. Being honest about how we’re feeling can go a long way to bridge understanding and replace anger with compassion. Additionally, apologizing when we’re wrong is difficult for many of us—we want to be right, justified in our opinions and actions. But sometimes, we just get it wrong and need to admit it. If we do that, then the choice lies with the ‘other’ in terms of how it’s received…and we’ve done our part to begin reconciling with them.


I write about this because I see the anger in the world. And so do you. I want to make an attempt to do my part in removing some of it, not letting it add to everyone else’s. I believe God made us imperfect so that we’d learn from one another’s mistakes, learn to accept the grace that comes with forgiveness, and learn to allow our love for one another outweigh any differences we may have.


We are unique. We have passionate opinions. But we are better together than we are apart, and that unity comes by virtue of love and the release of unrighteous anger. Try to allow joy to take anger’s place, or in the least, allow anger to diminish and God’s love to shine through instead. If we do this, we’ll all be better for it. Grudges lose their meaning. Harsh words aren’t spoken as often. Hearts are healed. Lives are changed.



Fr. Sean+