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The reasons we get angry can be many and varied — morning traffic jams, conflicting messages about health restrictions that constantly disrupt our daily life, and any number of the many tensions we face in our daily lives.
Valuable and dangerous at the same time
Feeling anger is normal. This primary emotion, like sadness, joy or fear, is shared by everyone, even if not everyone expresses it in the same way.
Anger is both precious and dangerous, according to psychotherapist Christophe André. It’s precious, because it is a source of energy in the face of aggression, frustration or injustice; and dangerous, because it can get out of hand and become a personal disaster (by causing us great stress) and a relational disaster (by damaging our relationships with others).
Anger is therefore neutral, good, or bad, depending on what it’s aimed at, notes Cesare Falletti, monk of the Cistercian order and former prior of the Dominus Tecum monastery of Pra’d Mill, in Piedmont, Italy, in his book La custodia del tempo (“The Custody of Time”).
But what should we do with our anger?
According to Falletti, we should not try to stifle anger, but rather transform it. But how can we do this? How can we keep calm, when the psalms teach us to get angry and cry out, “This is not right! Lord, why do you sleep?” (see Psalm 43).
Wouldn’t it be better to protect ourselves behind a shell? Shouldn’t we reject passions or strong emotions?
“No, Christians do not run away from passions, even if they know that sometimes these can lead to error or even to sin.” As Father Falletti explains, Jesus taught that what is worse than sin is “the selfish indifference of perfect people, of the faultless, of the unassailable, of those who look with contempt on the painful rise of anger in others. These people put themselves a little above their fellow men and give lessons or, as Jesus would say, they place great burdens on the shoulders of others, without lifting them themselves by a single finger.” (Lk 11:46)
Being angry does not mean, however, going on a rampage, but that we must know how to “cry out and speak the truth in conscience—while knowing that we can’t always be perfectly right, but who can?” the monk continues. It’s about knowing how to speak the truth without fearing “the world.” It is also knowing how to tell the truth to ourselves.
Keeping anger in our heart risks nourishing a desire for revenge. The answer is in the Psalms. Anger champions peace through the capacity for good that is always within human beings.
“Anger invents peace and offers it perhaps without us realizing it, because often it can only be expressed as the cry of the poor to God. It is this cry that gives voice to many prophets, those of the Bible and those who are present among us today,” Falletti concludes.