Scripture: Be Angry And… Go To Hell!

St. Paul mentions outbursts of anger along with sev­eral other sins, including fornication, jealousy, enmity, and strife. He concludes with this warning: “I warn you as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:20–21). What could be further from Christ’s command in the Sermon on the Mount, to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:43)? He said, “I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:22)…

We have all encountered people who explode when they feel angry. It baffles me how often this sort of anger rears its ugly head in marriages — even in allegedly Christian marriages. The damage done by this behavior is huge. A raging father or mother or child is torture for just about everyone in the family, including the angry one. This is an­other behavior that’s incompatible with being a Christian.

I am often surprised to discover Christians who pray ardently, who receive the sacraments regularly, who even attend Mass daily, and yet have an anger problem. “If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26).

Some even say, “Well, if you’re [of ethnicity X], you’re going to get angry a lot.” Not so! Rather, if you’re a Chris­tian, you will work very hard to find a way to cut back on your anger dramatically. 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. Granted, perhaps most angry outbursts are not mortal sins because sufficient reflection is absent. But choosing not to strive ardently to overcome hateful outbursts is usually done with full knowl­edge and deliberate consent of the will and so could well be a mortal sin. As with many serious sins, if we are really trying to overcome them, we can be close to God. If we are not trying, we can’t.  [Taken Father T.G. Morrow:   Recognising Sinful Anger ]

Comment: 

In recent days, I’ve been in conversation with a variety of friends (and enemies!) about anger; when it is useful, when it is good or not-so-good, when it is, or might be, sinful, and since Pope Francis hasn’t been on a plane recently (that I’ve heard about), and thus we have a gap in the “Francis Latest” Department, I thought it might prove to be an interesting topic for discussion. The topic isn’t simply about being angry, though  – that’s too easy – but about holding on to anger, even allowing it to turn to bitterness.  Is there a cure?  Help!  

51 responses

  1. This is a very useful topic. I think everyone finds it difficult to let go of anger, I know I can mull over wounded feelings for ages, sorry to say. I Googled to see if I could find a saint who had a bad temper to pray to, but instead I found this short video – it’s not a Catholic one, but what the man says makes sense, so it might help someone!

    • Josephine

      Interesting video – some useful nuggets, although the Scripture verses are a bit difficult to follow at times, translation issue… Overall, a very good clip, though – thank you.

  2. I think the key to healing anger is forgiveness, which was the theme of our Lenten Mission last week. If you find yourself chronically angry, ask yourself, “Who haven’t I forgiven?” In fact, ask it at the Communion Rail, and you will be surprised how quickly the answer comes. Forgiveness is also a main theme of the Act of Charity:

    “Oh my God, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

    • RCA Victor,

      I’m not sure I fully agree with the idea of forgiving being the way to end or control anger.

      For one thing, nobody can “forgive” someone who doesn’t ask to BE forgiven… A “someone” who doesn’t think they’ve done anything that requires forgiveness. I’ve never seen that part of the Act of Charity which you have put in bold – although I’ve no doubt praying those words will please God so don’t send the Piety Police after me, please and thank you!

      I think, too, that often anger and bitterness (which sets in, as a result of un-curtailed anger) has its roots, not so much in a wrong, real or perceived, done to us, in the sense that someone has acted wilfully to upset us, but simply because we are not getting our own way about something (or in my case, everything! 😀 ) Put simply, we get angry and bitter because of our selfishness.

      In my humble opinion, then, I would suggest that peace of soul only comes when we either acknowledge this to be the case and let go of the selfish insistence on getting our own way about whatever it is, OR we accept the fact that we cannot or did not get our own way, in a spirit of holy resignation to God’s will. That is the road to grace.

      There is no other road: not all the psychological tips, videos, books in the world will change us, and certainly are unlikely to have any lasting effect.

      But then again, I could be wrong.. Over to thee 😀

      • Editor,

        I’m thoroughly puzzled by your response, both to forgiving and to the Act of Charity. Here is the Act of Charity from the 1962 Missal (Angelus Press), page 22:

        “O my God, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee, I forgive all who have injured me and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.”

        I notice, however, that the form authorized for England in the same Missal (next page) does not include the sentence about forgiveness:

        “O Lord my God, I love Thee with my whole heart, and above all things, because Thou, O God, art the sovereign Good, and for Thine own infinite perfections art most worthy of all love; and for Thy sake I also love my neighbour as myself.”

        So…I’m guessing you were only familiar with the English form? BTW, the Act of Charity in my 1945 Missal does not contain the sentence about forgiveness either! Which begs the question, when and why was this sentence added for the USA?

        As for forgiving (or not) someone who doesn’t ask to be forgiven, I don’t see how that is relevant. Why would forgiveness depend on whether or not the other person repents? What if the person you’ve newly forgiven is no longer on this earth? Not to mention Our Lord, who forgave those who were executing Him without any repentance on their part. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

        I do agree, however, that anger also derives from selfishness….i.e., pride.

        Meanwhile, there is another type of anger which abounds in the Catholic blogosphere: anger about the crisis in the Church. Especially among sedevacantists and others, like people whose initials are Louie Verrecchio and Hilary White. It seems to me that this anger fails to acknowledge that the crisis in the Church is due to God’s wrath – in fact, as Bl. John Eudes pointed out, His most intense wrath and punishment results in the appearance of corrupt shepherds. In other words, the above-mentioned people are angry because we are being punished!

        • RCA Victor,

          Interesting about the different versions of the Act of Charity. The one I learned at school was simpler still – billed as the short form of the Act of Charity: “My God, because Thou art so good, I love Thee with all my heart, and for Thy sake, I love my neighbour as myself.”

          The longer version is the one you quote as being listed in the Missal as “For England”. It’s also listed, along with the above short form, in the Scottish Catechism of Christian Doctrine used in Catholic schools in Scotland during my school-days. But, as I say, we learned only the short form, and neither form contains the words about forgiveness. As you say, it is a puzzle as to who added those words to the USA version – get the FBI on the case!

          As for the example you give of Our Lord asking the Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do” – that’s different, don’t you agree, from you or I deciding to forgive someone who perhaps thinks they’ve done nothing wrong. We should, of course, ask God to forgive those who hurt us, because bound up in that prayer is a plea for grace for our offender’s repentance. I can say, till the cows come home, that I forgive RCA Victor for all the times he’s failed to laugh at my jokes or return my phone calls, or refused to marry me, but if he’s not sorry and doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong – well, nothing happens! There IS no forgiveness! I might end up being puffed up with pride, however, at my great charity 😀

          Seriously, though, there’s a comical story (if that’s not a contradiction in terms), most of the details of which I cannot recall, but maybe someone reading this can fill in the gaps – it goes like this…

          Two elderly Scots women up in the Highlands had fallen out years ago over something trivial. Refused to speak to each other and nothing anyone could say, could get either of them to make the first move back to friendship. One of them took ill, and, with death approaching, she was still nursing the grievance, and refusing to allow the other lady to visit to put things right before she died. Eventually, she was persuaded to allow her enemy to visit, who, when she entered the room, expressed her sadness at seeing her (former) friend so poorly, and then, mentioning the disagreement, added: “I forgive you…” to which the lady at death’s door snapped: “there’s nothing to forgive”!

          That’s my point. If we have suffered because of the selfishness of another, we can (and must) choose not to nurse a grievance against them, and, indeed, practise virtue towards that person (“love thy enemy”), pray for that person, and so on. What we can’t do is actually forgive someone who doesn’t consider they’ve done anything wrong. They’ll only snap back at us! Having said all of that, maybe I’m wrong. I’m listening…

          Finally, I agree with you about the decidedly UN-righteous anger of sedevacantists and others who rage about the crisis in the Church; apart from any interpretation (such as you suggest, the wrath of God etc) that kind of fruitless anger cannot please God. I hate to give the Jesuits credit for anything, but they’ve hit the nail on the head with their famous exhortation for the correct approach to apostolic work, the spiritual life etc – to pray as if everything depended on our prayer (in this case, to end the crisis) and then to work as though everything depended on our efforts. That is, arguably, the best way to ensure that we experience only righteous anger – that is, anger directed at the offence caused to GOD (not to us) by the various scandalous manifestations of the diabolical disorientation in both the Church and the world today.

          Here endeth the lesson. We will now stand and sing 25 verses of For…. she’s a jolly good fellow…”

          • Editor

            Your story about the ladies who didn’t speak to each other for years is, I believe, a wee* story from one of Dr Finlay’s casebooks – 2 sisters who lived together for years and didn’t speak to each other because one of them left the cat out and it disappeared – they blamed each other.

            *Please read in Scottish accent….

            • Therese,

              Forgiveness? You kidding? I’ll NEVER forgive you for giving away my [television viewing] age – Dr Finlay was centuries ago!

              I don’t know why, but when the two old ladies story comes to my mind I always associate it with Rob Roy. Say nothing 😀

              PS your Scottish accent is terrific…

          • Editor,

            Just to add to the puzzlement, my “Christian Warfare” book from the SSPX contains only the USA version I quoted above, with the final sentence on forgiveness. And…this book is printed in Canada!

            Maybe someone in the bowels of the Vatican decided, somewhere between 1945 and 1962, that we Yanks were a rather unforgiving lot.

            I think it’s important, as far as forgiveness goes, to distinguish between a moral injustice committed against you, vs. merely not getting your own way about something. It seems you were thinking about the latter, whereas I was thinking about moral injustices, in which case I will continue to maintain that the behavior of the offending party has no bearing on the behavior of the offended party (examples: Our Lord to His unrepentant executioners, as I already mentioned, as well as countless martyrs to their unrepentant executioners). It is our Christian duty to forgive the offender, whether he repents or not. And I don’t think it needs to be said in person, either, because frequently it can’t be said in person. Moreover, in the comical example you cite, saying it in person resulted in someone’s head being snapped off.

            As for “deciding to forgive someone who perhaps thinks they’ve done nothing wrong,” that is exactly what I was getting at in quoting Our Lord’s words. Did His executioners and accusers think they were doing anything wrong? Nope….“yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.”

            I brought this up because of the theme of anger on this thread. If the offended party reacts to the offense with anger, and does not forgive the offender, then anger festers and becomes bitterness. I am speaking from personal experience…moreover, the last sentence of the USA Act of Charity doesn’t tell us to inquire as to whether those who have offended me have had a change of heart. It just says to forgive them.

            Meanwhile, this reminded me that I should re-read two books on humility during Lent: St. Bernard’s’ Twelve Degrees of Humility and Pride, and Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo’s Humility of Heart.

            As for the trumpet sticking out of that woman’s ear, might she have inserted it in the wrong orifice?

            • RCA Victor,

              You do make some annoyingly good points. Great points, actually, Very irritating… 😀

              I do think we may be at cross purposes here, so I’ll quickly try to correct any misunderstanding before they come and take away my theology certificate and replace it with an application form for admission to the local funny farm…

              First up, (here’s one you omitted, she said, gloatingly – didn’t think of this one, did you????) , when we say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” we are saying the words given to us by Our Lord and so, yes, clearly we have a duty to “forgive” those who offend us. Gritted teeth, pulling hair out…

              Letting go of the anger and getting on with life, is how I tend to think of “forgiveness”, rather than dwelling on the offence and hating the offender. If only I could do both… Seriously…

              I remember, for example, the female vicar who had a daughter killed in one of the London terrorist attacks. She shocked everyone by saying that she just could not forgive her daughter’s murderer. I can’t remember all the details of what she said in the many TV and radio interviews at the time, but I suspect that if she had been asked different questions, she may have displayed a more forgiving attitude than presumed by those who tend to think we need to actually say or think “I forgive you” to fulfil the command to charity.

              Not to hold the grudge, not to wish the offender harm, to pray for his/her repentance, to will that person’s repentance and salvation is surely evidence of “forgiveness”. In summary, “forgiveness” is an act of the will, not the emotions. If we WILL to forgive, even if on the surface we struggle with it, that is to keep the commandment – if the vicar really did NOT will to forgive her daughter’s attacker well… we need to pray for her.

              And I hope that Jewish gentleman doesn’t mind you posting his shofar to replace my ear trumpet! The last thing we want to do here is damage Christian-Jewish inter-faith dialogue…

              • Editor,

                I think you have solved this problem:

                That is, you seemed previously to be referring to an exterior, verbal forgiveness whilst I was referring to an interior one. Or, as you put it, “In summary, “forgiveness” is an act of the will, not the emotions.”

                And I admit, I didn’t think of that part of the Pater….but….not having any hair to pull out, it appears I must resort to some other form of penance….

                • RCA Victor,

                  I’m so glad we are now at one on this, peace perfect peace. Sometimes we can be almost addicted to going round in circles when debating, so phew! Glad that’s over. One less addiction to worry about…

                  • Editor,

                    I rid myself of an addiction recently as well: I used to be fascinated with banking, but eventually I lost interest….

                    • RCA Victor,

                      Love it! Reminds me of my youth, when I would arrange to meet friends outside a bank so they’d think I had money behind me 😀

      • Editor,

        “OR we accept the fact that we cannot or did not get our own way, in a spirit of holy resignation to God’s will. That is the road to grace. “

        But if we always did that how would it be possible to put right some injustice? Isn’t it because of just anger that certain wars are permissible, and what about fighting the injustices against the poor etc? If we see injustice, it should make us angry in the right sense, and we can’t just say “well, it’s God’s holy will” – if everyone did that, nothing would change!

        • Lily,

          Of course there is a time for just anger but that sort of anger is not “emotional” in the sense of a temper tantrum. To recognise an injustice and consider ways of righting that wrong, taking whatever action is appropriate and possible for us, is quite different from having a bee in one’s bonnet about something and nursing a grievance, whether real or perceived.

          To illustrate, it is highly unlikely that someone who is justly angry over some social unfairness will be so emotionally charged that he/she will not be able to approach for Holy Communion. That is a clue that our anger is not a holy anger but, on the contrary, is something we need to address asap. I know that scenario is unlikely to be commonplace but it serves to make the point. Anything that disturbs our soul in its depth, as opposed to surface annoyance, is not from God.

          Similarly, if I find that I am so angry at someone or some group (Government excepted! 😀 ) that my sense of injustice has grown to the point where I feel hatred towards that person(s), then, again, that is not a holy anger and must be addressed without delay. It’s like a cancer that must be cut out before it gets totally out of control.

          Those are my “off the top of my head” thoughts – I’ve not been on a course (!) so please correct me if I’m wrong. I won’t hate you!

          • Editor,

            I think you are right. It’s perfectly normal to have righteous anger and to correct a wrong. This is completely different from losing the rag and exploding at someone, calling them names and destroying their reputation.

            I would also say it’s justifiable to be forthright when correcting a wrong. I’ve taken a few Modernists to task over the years, online and in person, and I find that when engaging in this kind of apostolate, being angry and forthright in a charitable way is very effective.

      • Ed it’s like the so called St Augustine Prayer . Lord remove all Impure thoughts from my Heart . But not yet . As Humans we have a built in radar to Passion and to Daily Feelings Forgiveness is not a Feeling it’s a Decision. Whereas I believe Anger is a feeling of course unless that person is a Bully. As I have gotten older I thought that lots of these feelings would recede. But am actually just off The Mail Online reading an article about 2 Women whose Daughters were Murdered and who’s killers have not told where they hid the bodies. Both Women have made it their lifelong Passion that their Daughters killers would not be paroled until they told where their Daughters Bodies were buried. Of course this is an extreme case but perhaps it’s the only thing that keeps them going. For God Forbid anything like that would happen to me am afraid that all thoughts of forgiveness would be out the Window and that only Hate and Anger would probably keep me going. Yet on The Cross Christ Forgave his Killers and that’s the complete forgiveness he wants us to achieve. As for so called Daily Anger I don’t think that I would chase a driver of a car and try and push them off the road for making a mistake although twice that has happened to me and when your on a busy road with a maniac trying to run you off it most certainly is no fun .

        • FOOF

          One of my pet hates +++ is when Catholics quote that favourite alleged prayer of St Augustine: “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” Any school child should be wrinkling their nose and pointing to furrowed brow when they hear that, as should anyone who knows the slightest thing about God and prayer. Is that REALLY what anyone with saintly inclinations would say to God? Anyone who knows that we must never pray for anything that is so obviously contrary to the will of God, as is surely the case with a prayer like that, essentially asking God to leave us in sin.

          I don’t have time to search a source right now, and a quick Google isn’t working, but from my (albeit flawed) memory, I believe that, while the saint did say what is claimed, it wasn’t as a prayer – he was making fun of his attitude in his youth. Like you or I might say, “when I was young my prayer more or less was along the lines of ‘make me holy, Lord, but not yet…'” That is, even then, in his youth, he wasn’t saying those words, but that was the impact of his lack of a resolute purpose not to commit that sin again. I’m sure we’re all guilty of succumbing to temptation after Confession, but we would know better than to ask God not to send us the grace to stop sinning…. We may acknowledge that that attitude, is, in fact, sadly, too often what displays itself in our continued sinning, and may even use those words to underline the truth of our own laxity, but a real prayer? Nope. Get it now?

          Well, you’re in the minority. Most people, self-acclaimed academics, even priests, included don’t get it, and are among those wittily quoting that fake prayer in speeches and sermons. To those I would like to say right now, next time you hear this claim tell the idiot to “gerragrip” – and then some…

      • Editor,

        I think a lot of the time when I feel angry it comes from lack of charity or pride. Maybe I should meditate on charity and humility?

        • Petrus,

          The word around town is that you have a black belt in both humility and charity, so my suggestion is to leave well alone, now – otherwise you’ll end up being very proud of your humility and you’ll be so heavenly minded about everyone and everything that you’ll be no earthly use… In other words, avoid becoming too inward looking…

  3. This bit from the introduction is worrying: “I am often surprised to discover Christians who pray ardently, who receive the sacraments regularly, who even attend Mass daily, and yet have an anger problem.”

    I’m not a daily Mass-goer but go when I can – apart from Sundays and Holydays of Obligation.

    I think there have been great saints with anger problems, and they must have been daily Mass-goers, surely? So, I don’t think it’s the anger that’s the issue, because it’s like any other sin, if we repent and try to overcome the temptation, that’s fine. I think it’s the hanging on to anger that is the real issue, nursing a grievance, so I’d agree with Father Morrow there, that if someone is hanging on to the anger and going to Mass regularly/daily, that’s hard to understand. It can only mean there’s no genuine sorrow for the sin in the first place.

    • Fidelis,

      There have been many saints who endured bad tempers and worked hard, virtuously, to overcome that weakness. St Jerome is infamous for his bad temper and there are others, so it is heartening to have their example before us, if we find ourselves less than even-tempered (from time to time 😀 )

      • St Louis Marie de Montfort had a violent temper. He’s said to be an example of how God writes straight with crooked lines!

  4. There is such a thing as ‘righteous anger’, this was demonstrated by Our Lord Himself when He ejected the wheelers & dealers from the temple. …’Stop turning My Father’s house into a market’… John 2:16.

  5. There’s something kind of intriguing, to say the least, about Our Lord’s forgiveness of His executioners. He forgave St. Dismas all his sins Himself, yet instead of doing that for His executioners, He asked the Father to forgive them….and not all their sins, only the sin of deicide. I think I understand that He did that because there was no repentance, but why did He ask the Father instead of doing it Himself?

    • RCA Victor,

      Isn’t the formal prayer of the Church always addressed to the Father. (“We ask this through Christ our Lord”…) and so Our Lord set that example during His time on earth. Indeed, He told us that “Whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give you.” (St John’s Gospel)

      He told the Good Thief that “this day you will be with Me in Paradise” implicitly recognising his repentance which was a different situation from those who were viciously crucifying Him.

      I think of the situation where a person receiving instructions to become a Catholic, worries about taken from this life prior to Baptism; we would be able to tell that person that their soul would not be lost, due to his/her desire for the Faith which desire, in that circumstance, would act as Baptism. It seems to me that by His implicit recognition of the salvation of the repentant thief, Christ confirms or even prepares us for this teaching of the Church, just as so much of Catholic dogma was confirmed at Fatima (e.g. teaching on the Real Presence as discussed on the Cardinal Sarah thread recently.)

      Does that make sense?

      • Editor,

        You mean I have to admit you’re making sense again? Sigh….OK…..

        But seriously, I thought of another take on this. When Our Lord forgave St. Dismas, he was acting in his capacity as our High Priest (of the Order of Melchizedek). But when He requested forgiveness for His executioners, He was modeling the behavior we faithful are supposed to practice, including “love your enemies.”

        • RCA Victor,

          Not sure about that, but anyway, I want to say that I have learned SO much from this discussion – you have no idea. I can’t thank you enough, everyone who has commented on this very touchy topic (well, touchy for me, guess why, LOL!)

          You’ve made me think through so many issues, you’ve no idea. This is a great thread. Thanks again.

          • Nicky,

            You speak for me, as well, that’s for sure. I certainly have had to examine my own conscience after reading the contributions on this thread.

            I knew it would be the right thing to do, to keep RCA Victor on the staff. He was bound to be right about something, some day! 😀

        • With regards to Righteous Anger, when,oh when, is Cardinal Burke going to get the finger out with the Dubia and get wellied in to Rome??

  6. This is a video of Bishop Fulton Sheen talking about how to psychoanalyze yourself. It’s very funny at the start, really LOL stuff. I thought his talk might help in the “anger” discussion.

      • “Anyone who goes to a psychoanalyst ought to have his head examined.” LOL – I bet he stole that line from you, Editor….

  7. My point Fidelis is that there has been hold up after hold up with this process and only again slowly starting in 2016 as they argue with the New York Diocese, attorneys over exhumation etc…Compare that with the 3 Pope fast track, Jose Escriver of Opus Deo etc.

    I wonder why?

        • St Miguel,

          Nothing to be baffled about there. Same reason they rushed through the canonisations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II – it’s really Vatican II they’re canonising. Surely you can see that? Paul VI merely completes the unholy trinity of pontiffs who presided over that scandalous event.

          To achieve this outcome, of course, they had to change the rules of engagement, hence the new process of canonisation minus two key elements, the Devil’s Advocate and the several, rigorously investigated miracles. We really don’t need Sherlock on the case. Clear as a bell, when you think about it…

          • Agree, premeditated and carried out with unabashed ruthlessness. And this is the crew we are dealing with.What this makes me think, especially with the German Bishops current escapades, is perhaps they would love to bully the German SSPX with AL and Communion for non Catholic spouses (in the hand of course) and set up a Cause Celebre by trying to set up an impossible to accept situation within the SSPX with the caveat that 3 Canonised Popes could NOT possibly be wrong and the Society had better just get used to it and start these practices in their own chapels….just a mad thought there as I sip my coffee !

            • Now, St Miguel,

              this is where the chickens come home to roost. If you’d read the links I posted to our previous discussions on these fast-track canonisations, you would have read an excellent analysis of the issues by an SSPX priest, writing with the authority of Bishop Fellay. Very well worth reading to see for yourself that the scenario you paint, is never going to happen.

              • Yes, accept that it would not happen. But I get the feeling that somewhere down the line Cardinal Marx and his entourage would attempt some kind of wind up.The German Bishops are totally out of control and no one is reining them in. It’s like a separate church. Why does Rome tolerate that crowd (who seem wealthy and shall we say well nourished), yet try constantly to tie the Society up in knots.The Dubia is sorely needed and would be a shot across the bows of this out of control juggernaut.

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