Wednesday, May 24, 2017

angry without sin


St Ambrose talks to us about our speech today in A Year with the Church Fathers. But one phrase he says is what jumped out at me.

He says that we can "be angry and sin not" because we get angry "due to our nature, not to our will." In other words, we're not completely responsible for our feelings of anger. Now, we all know that we can make choices that affect our anger. If we choose to dwell on times when we've been slighted or someone has hurt us or those we love, or if we hold grudges and look for reasons to be angry, then we increase the chances that we will respond in anger when something does happen.

But there are three aspects to most every time that we become angry. There is the provocation, our individual characteristics, including our proclivity towards anger, and our interpretation or appraisal of the situation. Here is an article that discusses this process.

So we don't necessarily have total control  over whether or not we become angry. But we do have control over what we do with that anger. Jesus made it clear that even calling someone a fool is a serious sin. If someone hurts us, it is natural for us to get angry. But we can choose to wait until we've "cooled down" before we respond. We can choose to love and pray for the one who hurts us. We can choose to keep the incident to ourselves instead of ranting about it and gossiping to our friends and neighbors.

We can be angry, and not sin.

Of course, if we do sin, we can always repent and be forgiven and move on. But one of the main goals of this life is to learn to live in love. That's the primary lesson here and now. To learn to love God with all of our being, and to love others the same way we love ourselves. Every time we get angry and sin, we fail the lesson.

Let's study up for the next time the lesson comes, and learn to respond in peace and love when we're provoked.

God, thank You for teaching us to avoid sin when we're angry. And thank You for forgiving us when we fail the lesson.