This question about anger management was sent by one of our readers: “Why is it that the more we wish and yearn to do good the more we find ourselves doing wrong especially when it comes to anger?”
Firstly, it’s good to be able to share our human struggles such as anger management as we journey through life not as passive observers but as human beings who search for what is true, good and beautiful. Given that it’s a journey, we will always feel that we are not there yet! Somehow, it’s always works in progress. Thus the first emphasis is not whether we got it right but how we keep this desire burning and our search honest. Where we fail, we start again.
Secondly, with respect to anger, it’s quite common that people automatically think that anger is wrong. Yet, this is not the case. What’s more important is to listen to the anger that we carry to recognise the sign it’s giving us and then identify what kind of action we need to take in order to choose what is good.
Anger from an overload of work
For example, I might be getting angry and worked up because I am too loaded, becoming tense and don’t have the energy to deal with my commitments or with the people who are closest to me. In this case, it might be necessary to check whether I could find a better balance in my daily or weekly schedule, or find some time for exercise to release the tension in a good way.
Anger from injustice
I might be getting angry because of the injustice that I see around me, or when I see someone hurting another person, or else someone is taking advantage of me and not respecting my dignity. In this case, this anger is giving me the necessary energy to address injustice and improve things. Here I would need to channel my anger into good initiatives. I need to challenge injustice without resorting to violence or taking the law into my hands.
Anger from being self-centred
Yet it could be the case that my anger arises because I think that the whole world should revolve around my needs and I’m becoming self-centred and angry when I’m not the centre of attention. In this case, I would name my anger for what it is, and find ways of diffusing it to strengthen my outward and self-giving self.
You also refer to our experience of yearning for good but find ourselves doing wrong. Beyond what was said above, I would add two things:
We are on a journey which takes time
i. Keeping in mind the idea of a journey, one of the challenges but at the same time wisdom in life, is how to deal with the process. While keeping to our struggle for what is good and just, we should do that with a sense of realism. The good seeds need a lot of cultivation before they grow and produce the desired fruit. We need to allow time for the process, both with respect to our own growth and that of others. Sometimes, when we forget God’s gentleness and mercy, we can become too harsh with ourselves and with others. Rather we should keep our ideals in focus while identifying the next good step to reach there. In this way, we avoid being overcome by discouragement and frustration or indifference and relativism.
We have our human limitations
ii. Like St Paul, we also experience our limits. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7,19). This experience of Saint Paul is important because it gives us the right direction of seeking for what is good. It is not through our own strength on its own, not through presumption and a sense of superiority, but in humble trust in the Lord’s strength and courageous generosity on our own part. “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7, 24-25).
Feelings such as anger are signs. Rather than feeling guilty about them, we should:
– attend to feelings, listen to them, recognise them for what they are;
– humbly embrace them and recognise our fragility;
– recognise what they might be telling us and direct our attitude/behaviour in line with our beliefs and values.
– not get discouraged by our imperfect results, both our results and also those of others.
But rather pray to God and let God’s mercy be like a balm that heals and renews our ability to love, our ability to start again.
Updated: 1st February 2021
Catholic anger management.
Read more from Fr Jimmy Bonnici:
– Feeling Insecure – Love as the Greatest Security
– Comparing Myself to Others – How to Stop