Anger is an inordinate desire of revenge. Against
this vice the Apostle strongly speaks: "Let all
bitterness and anger, and indignation and clamor, and
blasphemy be put away from you, with all malice. And
be ye kind one to another, merciful, forgiving one
another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ."
(Eph. 4:31-32). And Our Saviour Himself tells us:
"Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in
danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say, thou
fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. 5:22).
When this furious enemy assails you, let the
following considerations help you overcome its
movements: Consider, first, that even beasts live at
peace with their kind. Elephants do not war upon one
another; sheep live peaceably in one fold; and cattle
go together in herds. We see the cranes taking by
turns the place of guard at night. Storks, stags,
dolphins, and other creatures do the same. Who does
not know of the friendship between the ants and the
bees'! Even the wildest animals live united among
themselves, One lion is rarely known to attack
another, neither will a tiger devour one of his kind.
Yes, even the infernal spirits, the first authors of
all discord, are united in a common purpose – the
perversion of mankind. Man alone, for whom peace is
most fitting, lives at enmity with his fellow men and
indulges in implacable hatred. All animals are born
with weapons for combat. The bull has horns; the boar
has tusks; the bird has a beak and claws; the bee has
a sting, and even the tiny fly or other insect has
power to bite. But man, destined to live at peace
with his fellow creatures, comes into the world naked
and unarmed. Reflect, then, how contrary to your
rightful nature it is to seek to be revenged upon one
of your kind, to return evil for evil, particularly
by making use of weapons which nature has denied you.
In the second place, a thirst for vengeance is a vice
which befits only savage beasts. You belie your
origin, you disgrace your descent, when you indulge
in ungovernable rage, worthy only of a wild animal.
Ælian tells of a lion that had been wounded by an
African in a mountain defile. A year after, when this
man passed the same way in the suite of King Juba,
the lion, recognizing him, rushed among the royal
guards, and, before he could be restrained, fell upon
his enemy and tore him to pieces. Such is the model
of the angry, vindictive man. Instead of calming his
fierce rage by the power of reason, that noble gift
which he shares with the angels, he abandons himself
to the blind impulse of passions which he possesses
in common with the brutes.
If it be hard to subdue your anger, excited by an
injury from one of your fellow creatures, consider
how much more God has borne from you and how much He
has endured for you. Were you not His enemy when He
shed the last drop of His Blood for you? And behold
with what sweetness and patience He bears with your
daily offenses against Him, and with what mercy and
tenderness He receives you when you return to Him.
If anger urges that your enemy does not deserve
forgiveness, ask yourself how far you have merited
God's pardon. Will you have God exercise only mercy
toward you, when you pursue your neighbor with
implacable hatred? And if it be true that your enemy
does not deserve pardon from you, it will be equally
true that you do not deserve pardon from God.
Remember that the pardon which man has not merited
for himself, Christ has superabundantly merited for
him. For love of Him, therefore, forgive all who have
Be assured, moreover, that as long
as hatred predominates in your heart you can make no
offering which will be acceptable to God, who has
said: "If thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there
thou remember that thy brother hath anything against
thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and
go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then
coming thou shalt offer thy gift." (Matt. 5:23-24).
Hence you can realize how grievous is the sin of
enmity among men, since it causes an enmity between
God and us, and destroys the merit of all our good
works. "We gain no merit from good works," says St.
Gregory, "if we have not learned to endure injuries
with patience." (Moral. 21:16).
Consider also that the fellow creature whom you hate
is either a just man or a sinner. If a just man, it
is certainly a great misfortune to be the declared
enemy of a friend of God. If a sinner, it is no less
deplorable that you should undertake to punish the
malice of another by plunging your own soul into sin.
And if your neighbor in his turn seeks vengeance for
the injury you inflict upon him, where will your
enmities end? Will there be any peace on the earth?
The Apostle teaches us a more noble revenge when he
tells us "not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome
evil by good" (Rom. 12:21 ) – that is, to triumph by
our virtues over .the vices of our brethren. In
endeavoring to bc revenged upon a fellow creature you
are often disappointed and vanquished by anger
itself. But if you overcome your passion, you gain a
more glorious victory than he who conquers a city.
Our noblest triumph is won by subduing ourselves, by
subjecting our passions to the empire of reason.
Besides these, reflect on the fatal blindness
into which this passion leads man. Under the cover of
justice or right, how often does it drive him to
excesses which cause him a lifelong remorse!
most efficacious, the sovereign remedy against this
vice is to pluck from your heart inordinate love of
self and of everything that pertains to you.
Otherwise the slightest word or action directed
against you or your interests will move you to anger.
The more you are inclined to this vice the more
persevering you should be in the practice of
patience. Accustom yourself, as far as you can,
calmly to face the contradictions and disappointments
you are likely to encounter, and their effect upon
you will thus be greatly diminished.
Make a firm resolution never to speak or act under
the influence of anger, nor to heed any suggestions,
however plausible, which your heart may urge at such
moments. Never act until your anger has subsided, or
until you have once or twice repeated the Our Father
or some other prayer. Plutarch tells of a wise man
who, on taking leave of a monarch, advised him never
to speak or act in anger, but to wait until he had
repeated to himself the letters of the alphabet.
Learn a lesson from this, and avoid the evil
consequences of acting from the impulse of anger.
Though there is no time more unfavorable for action,
yet there is no time in which we feel ourselves more
strongly impelled to act than when in anger. This is
an additional reason for opposing, with all our
strength, the suggestions of this passion. For as a
man intoxicated with wine is incapable of acting
according to reason, and afterwards repents of what
he has done in such a condition, so a man beside
himself with passion, intoxicated with anger, is
incapable of any action of which he will not repent
in his calmer moments. Anger, wine, and sensuality
are evil counselors. "Wine and women," says Solomon,
"make wise men fall off." (Ecclus. 19:2). By wine he
means not only the liquor which stupefies the
intellect, but all violent passion which blinds the
judgment. Bear in mind also that you are held
responsible for sins committed in such a state.
Another very salutary remedy is to turn your thoughts
to other things when excited to anger, and to endeavor to banish from your mind the subject which
irritates you; for if you take away the fuel of a
fire the flame soon expires. Endeavor also to love
him with whom you are forced to be forbearing, for
patience which is not accompanied with love, being
only exterior, is often changed into hatred. Hence,
when the Apostle tells us that charity is patient, he
immediately adds that it is kind (Cf. 1Cor. 13:4);
for true charity loves those whom it patiently
endures. Finally, if you have excited the anger of
your neighbor, quietly withdraw until his passion has
subsided, or at least answer him with mildness, for
"a mild answer breaketh wrath." (Prov, 15:1).