by Rev. Mark Connolly

I would like to share a few thoughts with you on a subject that must be very serious to all of us. It is the quality of anger.

When you look at the number of wives who are abused today, at the number of children who are abused today, at the wholesale violence of street gangs and all sorts of rapes and robberies that are just so characteristic of every television report, you have to conclude that violence is way out of control. Anger has to be checked and our country has to get back to a sense of serenity and normalcy. Each of us can make a contribution to the peace of our country by controlling our particular tempers. We all know that there is a major distinction between justifiable anger and unjustifiable anger.

If you go back to the life of Christ when he was going through the time of his public ministry, he took a cord of whips and went into the temple and drove the money changers out of the temple claiming that these money changers had made his sacred home a den of thieves. That was controlled or justifiable anger. We are not talking about that kind of anger today. We are talking about the unjustifiable, the uncontrollable anger that wrecks havoc, not only in society, but in the confines of our own home. We are responsible for our thoughts. We are responsible for our words. The greatest offenses we often commit are sins of the tongue when we defame, desecrate and destroy the reputation, the sensitivity and the feelings of another. When you analyze the fact that each of us has to have encouragement to face life, each of us needs a series of compliments to face life. When you analyze the fact that each of us must be inspired to face life and realize that we do not get those compliments or those moments of inspiration and often angry words substitute these moments, violently oriented, that makes living in the home an episode from Dante's Divine Comedy.

We have no right to abuse anyone physically. We certainly have no right to abuse anyone by using our tongue. When you go back into the life of great people of the past and you recognize the achievements that they have amassed, you sometimes forget that many of them were just ordinary human beings, similar to ourselves. Oftentimes when you read the biography and you hear from people who knew them you realize that many of them had violent tempers. Remember, for example, the Sister Kenny who for many, many years did so much wonderful work for the polio victims of the world. Did you ever know that she had a violent temper? When she was just a small little girl and she had one of these acting out episodes, her mother took her into the living room and sat her down. She said, "look, I want you to remember these six words as long as you live. The six words are - anyone who angers you, conquers you. " Anyone who angers you, conquers you.

In her biography, Sister Kenny said those words were very important to her and the work she was called upon later to do by God in helping the polio victims of the world. Anyone who angers you, conquers you. Have you ever reflected upon the fact that when someone angers you your blood pressure is affected, your nights become filled with sleeplessness, your appetite oftentimes wanes? You just have a feeling of uneasiness in your stomach which is constantly turning over because someone angered you. Don't you think there is a wonderful lesson for all of us in the words, anyone who angers you, conquers you?

We always seem to forget or the words just stay within the confines of your own home. My parents understand that when I yell and scream at them or the parents yell and scream at the children that this is just going to stay within here. That is not often the case. Children imitate what they see. Children transmit what they hear. Those angry outbursts that are so repeated in the home are carried into the next generation by the same sons and daughters that heard them in the confines of their own home. Anyone who angers you, conquers you. When you hear people who use the four letter words, the foul language, the cursing, the swearing and the blasphemies in fits of anger are conveying to those who are nearby that they do not have the necessary control of their vocabulary to convey their feelings. They resort to the four letter words and the foul language. They convey their own depth of ignorance. That's some of the lessons we are teaching right within the confines of our own home.

If you study the life of Christ, you know that on the moment before he died with the anger that could have been in his heart, he simply said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." That is the type of situation we have to have for we who might be the victims of the anger of another. For those who are perpetrating this terrible disease of anger, we appeal to you to remember your tongue was never given to you by God to be used as a sword or a saber to cut into the sensitive personalities of the family that God has entrusted to your care. God never gave you the use of your tongue so that you could blaspheme him in a riled state of frenzy, just because you did not have the words to convey the sentiments of the moment.

Anger is a devastating quality in our society. Anger, to be controlled in our society, has to first of all be controlled in our home. Before it is controlled in our home, it has to be controlled in us. If you study the life of Jesus Christ very carefully, you might find that the strongest words Christ spoke were not against the woman found in adultery, not against the prodigal son, not against the good thief, but the most powerful words Christ ever spoke were spoken against someone who was angry.

He said if you are angry, before you come to the altar to leave your gift, go first and be reconciled with the one who was the object of your anger.

Saint Basil, taking this passage from the New Testament, said the reason Christ was so strong in his condemnation concerning those who perpetuated the sin of anger was because anger was a kind of temporary madness. When you analyze what happens in the confines of the home, when you analyze what is coming forth from the confines of certain personalities who constantly rely on anger to get their way or to express their thoughts, it is a reminder that Saint Basil probably was right. It is a form of temporary madness, but that temporary madness can be cured.

It does not mean that because we have this personality quirk that we just have to sit back and say that is my nature, that is the way God made me. No. The person who has this uncontrollable temper has made himself that way. You cannot blame God. You cannot blame society. You cannot blame the Church. You cannot blame the State. You have to blame yourself for cultivating erroneous habits of personality development that left you with this vile temper. It is a strong statement when you say a vile word related to temper, but it is a reminder when you think of the damage that is being done to our innocent children. When you think of the damage that is being done to innocent housewives, when you think of the damage that is being done all throughout our country by anger that gets out of control, we have to sit back and reflect, meditate and say, I cannot make a greater contribution to the pollution of the anger that is already in society. I have to make up my mind, and I have to do my best. I have to change my habit of living. I have to work on my nature and my personality so that I do not defile or pollute the society I am living in by the anger of my personality or the viciousness of my tongue.

There are thousands and thousands of people today who are emotionally and mentally crippled because some parent, some teacher, some individual decimated them by the vile use of their tongue. We hope and pray to God that each one of them, in their own way, will examine his or her conscious to find that they are doing something concerning anger by the use of our tongue that is decimating and desecrating the lives of those with whom we live.

If we are, we have to make every human effort to make sure that our speech is the speech of Christ and our mind is the mind of Christ and our life is an imitation of the life of Christ. It is only then that we will keep anger under control. That is what God expects us to do.

copyright © 1999-2005, Spirituality for Today