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Overcoming Sinful Anger

27e99b74-1b1c-4b8d-a61c-af2c51500a01If you read anything by St. Francis de Sales, you come away with the impression that he was patience incarnate. He talks endlessly about the wonderful benefits of meekness, gentleness, and kindness—especially to those who deserve it least.

Yet, many don’t realize that this great saint struggled for most of his life with a fiery temper and an intense impatience. By his own admission, it took him nearly 20 years to overcome these tendencies. It is a testament to his fierce battle against self that he is known and remembered for the exact opposite virtues of patience and gentleness, rather than those that came easily to his nature.

Overcoming Anger

At one point or another, we have likely all had moments where we feel that flash of blinding rage come on. We lose control in these moments, saying and doing things that we later regret. I know this has happened to me, anyway, and to be completely frank, temper is something I struggle with.

Anger doesn’t have to manifest itself only in moments of passion however; it can also come in the form of a latent bitterness and unforgiveness over past wrongs that festers for many years. Anger can be explosive, or it can also be silently passive-aggressive.

4127iX+22bL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_But despite the power of angry emotions, we are not helpless against them. The saints and masters of the spiritual life have left us a wealth of advice on conquering our passions, including temper, and they demonstrate by their lives that even the most intense feelings of anger can and must be overcome.

There’s one little book in particular that is helpful for those who struggle with anger, whether it be a quick temper or seething resentment: Overcoming Sinful Anger by Father T.G. Morrow. In this short, compact little book, Fr. Morrow addresses the causes of anger and deftly synthesizes the remedies. His style is accessible as it is succinct, and illustrative stories are sprinkled throughout. His advice is applicable to everyone, whether one struggles with a fierce temper or not.

The Gospel and Relationships

I recommend Fr. Morrow’s work primarily because it acknowledges that the Gospel is ultimately a matter of relationships, namely our relationship to both God and our neighbor. If our relationship with our neighbor is damaged, our relationship with God is also damaged. Jesus put this fact plainly in the Sermon on the Mount: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:-23-24).

In other words, reconciliation with our neighbor must always precede a right relationship with God. The only conditional petition in the Lord’s prayer is about right relationships—“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Our Lord makes it clear that if we do not forgive others, we shouldn’t expect forgiveness ourselves: “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).

Big sins, little sins

When we think of grave sins, we are too often think only of think of things like adultery or cold-blooded murder. If we don’t do these things, we think we are alright spiritually. And yet Jesus makes it quite clear that, while it is more subtle, anger is a form of murder and that it has grave consequences to our souls (see Matt. 5:22). St. Paul, too, mentions anger alongside adultery in his list of sins that will keep people out of heaven (see Gal. 5:20-21).

In short, anger is not something we can tolerate in our lives, for it is deadly to our souls. As Fr. Morrow writes:

For the real Christian, it’s not where we’re from that counts the most, but where we would like to go one day. Explosive anger is not something you want to have with you when you leave this planet. It will profoundly dampen your ability to enter the Kingdom.

If you have a problem with exploding anger and you want to be a Christian, you absolutely must work hard to overcome it. You cannot simply say, “Well, that’s me,” if you want to be friends with the Lord.

Conclusion

Fr. Morrow’s little book, Overcoming Sinful Anger, is an excellent resource in the battle against anger. Whether your explode in anger several times a day or struggle with forgiving past hurts, this book is sure to have advice for you that is as practical as it is simple. I highly recommend it.

It is often said that admitting you have a problem is the first step to resolving it. If we are humble enough to admit we struggle with anger, we can certainly overcome it by God’s grace. Like any growth in the spiritual life, extinguishing the fires of anger will take time and determination, but the struggle will be worth it.

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Written by

Sam Guzman

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11 People Replies to “Overcoming Sinful Anger”

  1. Theresa

    Ordered my copy today. Time for a little overcoming.

  2. Vince

    Hiya Sammy Thank you maintaing this great, Catholic web site.

    Just a word about Father Morrows’ book …I have listened to some words Father Morrow has to say on utube and what he is saying might at first seem to ring true. But I for one will have to ‘pass’ on reading any of his books since the good Father seems to be falling well-short of grounding his works in true, Catholic, teaching.

    For instance, he does elsewhere in his teachings recommend certain ‘methods’ of spirituality that are dangerous and utterly detached from Catholic moral teaching. Without going into the precise essence of such teachings …in a word Father already has fallen into the popular trend of advocating Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to catholics and Christians alike. Such ‘meetings’ …notwithstanding they are the fashion today ….introduce people to a dangerous and subtle spiritual curriculim . Because the majority of people who attend AA leave after becoming disturbed by such ‘teachings’ I would have thought Father Morrow would have looked closer into the reasons why such meetings remain out of bounds for any ‘practising’ Catholic or Christian. On this note I decided I would have to ‘pass’ on any of the good Fathers’ books.

    Thank you for this site Sammy, Vince 🙂

  3. scottie123

    Check out St. Jerome as well, I think he was run out of a town once. I struggle with grave anger houly. Can reading a book really help? I ‘m not sure about the link between knowing and actually practicing.

    1. Theresa

      Scottie, Practice practicing. Start small, but always with prayer first. (Advice from someone also afflicted.) If bitterness is the root, remember that bitterness only punishes YOU. Another help is to pray for the person(s) who have injured you, and if you can’t do that, you could start by lumping them in with a larger group, like, for instance, “the conversion of sinners” or “all sinners in need of conversion.” The true desire and effort to overcome sinful anger, however small, will be rewarded by very helpful grace. – Theresa

  4. Principe

    My favourite St. Francois de Sales story is as follows:a pious young Frenchwoman of the Ancienne Regime was asking her grandfather: “Grandpere, is true you knew St Francois?” He replied “Assuredly, my child.” “And was he a saint?” “Truly, my child… but he DID cheat at cards!”

  5. That was a great article and a much needed book recommendation. By the Lord’s grace I have come a long way but I have much to go. I have been really focusing on growing in internal freedom and being free of anger is a crucial aspect to that freedom. I read a great book on interior freedom called “Interior Freedom” by Fr. Jacques Phillipe. I learned that grudges and resentment, which are the fruits of the anger we have towards someone presently or in the past, keeps us from moving forward and growing in a deeper relationship with God. I look forward to pick up this book you recommended. God Bless.

  6. Matt

    Also a good one for me.

  7. Thank you for this post. It is very pertinent to me.


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