independent

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Anger unmanaged can be dangerous

FR BRIAN WHELAN

ALL OF us experience anger from time to time, not just at what's going on around us in society, but more often closer to home, with family members or friends or even with people who manage to rub us up the wrong way and provoke us.

Anger is a human emotion, it's something that we can't help, it happens to the best of us. But at the end of the day, it's what we do with our anger that can be even more problematic. If we act out of anger, then we do ourselves an injustice, and often it's the case that we act rashly, and we do things that in the cold light of day we regret.

If we handle anger properly, it can be a positive thing, but if its managed in the wrong way, then anger can cause health and relationship problems. For some, especially those who didn't have positive role models for anger management while growing up, it's hard to know what to do with such a powerful and potentially destructive emotion.

A while ago I received an extremely angry letter from a lady, who for the purposes of this story, we'll call Polly. Now Polly had attended a funeral at which I officiated and she wasn't happy with it. She angrily chastised me for the lack of a homily, and the lack of incense, which she said was highly disrespectful to the deceased and highly offensive to the bereaved family. What Polly didn't realise was that I was under instruction from the family that they expressly didn't want any homily, and didn't want any 'smells and bells' as they called it. They wanted as simple a funeral mass as possible and the shorter the better. Now Polly it seems didn't know that, and in her anger and in her haste she wrote possibly the most un-Christ-like letter that has ever been written! But I can only assume that Polly had pent up anger from somewhere else, and it needed to be let out, and I was the right guy in the right place at the right time.

Because sometimes that's what happens, we allow our anger to build up inside of us, sometimes from many different grievances we have going back over many years, and eventually it explodes. How many people do we know who we could call an 'angry person'? I know of a few who immediately spring to mind. And maybe we're all in danger of becoming that some day. Issues which we haven't resolved or forgiven, or moved on from, can resurface and come back to haunt us.

To varying degrees, I think we all drag baggage around with us. But if something is not ' life-giving', if it saps our energy and limits us, well then we need to let it go. If something's holding us back, we need to lose it. We hold grudges against people who treat us badly, or treat us like we don't deserve. In those cases it is more important than ever to let it go. Because, ultimately, allowing someone to make us angry gives them power over us. Why would I want to allow someone who has treated me badly to control how I feel? It's ridiculous isn't it? Allowing someone else to decide your mood, to control how you feel. Allowing someone to control your life by making you angry, is like handing them an even greater victory. Anger doesn't serve either the person it's directed to, nor the person who feels it. It's wasted energy.

There's a fantastic line in the Bible which speaks about anger. 'Do not let resentment lead you into sin, the sunset must not find you still angry. Do not give the devil his opportunity.'

St Paul wrote those words in a letter to the people of Ephesus, and they are as true today as they were back then. Sometimes when we get angry we need a period to 'cool off ', maybe a few days and we're fine again. But if we are still angry longer than that, then we need to do something about it. Anger isn't easy to let go of, but we must let go, because it gives the devil his opportunity to sow seeds of division and hatred in us. The longer we feel angry, the more chance there is of it turning into hatred.

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