Fly off the handle.
Go through the roof.
Blow a gasket.
Dozens more explosive idioms for anger come to mind, illustrating the uncontrollable nature of this volatile emotion. Anger, irritation and frustration are natural aspects of the human emotional experience. We may think that acting on anger, and not the feeling of anger itself, is where true sin lies, but in today’s reading, Jesus teaches that unresolved anger by itself is equally subject to judgment:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna."
Harsh words, whether spoken directly to their target or muttered under the breath, can escalate to violent action. Harsh thoughts can fester into long-standing grudges, poisoning every moment of possible peace and preventing us from seeing others with charity.
Even if we feel our anger is justified, no heart can be called pure or happy wherein anger dwells. Jesus counsels that we become humble enough to recognize the role we play in conflict, and take steps to privately resolve quarrels whenever possible. Only by setting aside the vanity of anger can we become open to the true peace and healing that forgiveness offers.
Have you ever held a grudge against anyone? Do you remember what effect that feeling had on your daily life?
Are you experiencing anger toward anyone today? How does this feeling cut you off from peace?
This Lent, can you show mercy to yourself and the person/s with whom you are angry by attempting to create room for forgiveness and understanding?