Anger and forgiveness
Today’s readings are of a piece and remind us once more of one of the greatest and deeply felt of human passions – anger, rage, hatred, animosity, a desire for revenge, resentment. It is the deliberate harbouring of these emotions that are so un-Christian.
We need examples of forgiveness to inspire us, that it is possible and attainable, and worth letting go of deeply held rage and violations.
The funny thing about anger is that we often fail to recognise that if the world is full of angry people (and if I am one of them) where does all this anger come from, and have I caused other people to be angry? I have to accept and admit to occasions when I have made mistakes. Perhaps I have said and done something tactless (I know I have, and recall being corrected, and rightly so – and remembering the pain of correction can also be embarrassing). I know there are times when I have been misunderstood, that the intention of something I was attempting to say or do was jumped on and exploited, or totally misinterpreted by someone.
Any reasoning with some people is fruitless as sadly there are some people who, for their own reasons, insist in being offended at every turn, or see the worst in everything or are suspicious of other’s motives or are prickly to begin with. We tip-toe around them for an easy life; rather than face up to them, which is actually what they may want or need. They respect people more for facing up to them, and often back off, whereas my knee-jerk response is to avoid conflict; but the day comes when there is a long-awaited and necessary showdown!
I have to accept as a fact of life too that there are just some people I will never fully understand or get along with – we are totally incompatible, and have nothing in common, so the effort to attempt to do so is too much for us, but the best we can do is wish them peace and move along.
However we must try everything that is within our power to forgive and overcome anger.
There are some steps in the 12 step AA programme that are applicable to all and are worth living by. The steps in relation to anger include steps 5, 8, 9 and 10.
THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS : We...
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Is anger always wrong?
There can be righteous anger and indignation over injustice, but I have all too rarely showed it and thought to do something about it. The point is that this anger or energy can be directed for good, to overcome what I perceive to be wrongs and injustices, as well as exerting effort to do something constructive and positive. Not just to forgive, but to create conditions in my life and in my society where seeking forgiveness is not necessary, because I am a force for peace, and grant forgiveness readily.
It is true what they say, ‘to err is human, to forgive divine’. With God, all things are possible. That is why frequent confession helps me not only to be forgiven, but slowly and surely, to be healed where humanly impossible.
The root of so much human unhappiness is pride, which can leads so easily to anger. We also have to forgive ourselves, oddly, and it then becomes easier to forgive others, because we can then identity the faults in them which we also have (or had), and therefore we become more tolerant and understanding. We say to ourselves, ‘I see how that could happen’ or ‘I can see how he/she could come to that wrong conclusion.’ An analysis of our own faults, weaknesses and frailty helps us to be more accepting of these same faults in others. That is the road to peace.
'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'.