The Good and Bad Anger (Part I)

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

Anger or wrath (in old English) is a strong feeling of annoyance or displeasure for not getting what we want.  It is of three kinds.  First is the milder form of anger that goes against right reason.  We can be angry of something or someone but are not in a justifiable position.  A drunkard getting angry for example with his wife for not giving him the money to buy more alcoholic drinks has no right to get angry.  It’s the wife who needs to be angry so as to correct the wrong behavior of the husband.  St. John Chrysostom says, “He that is angry without a cause shall be in danger, but he that is angry with a cause shall not”.

The second kind of anger is anger directed to our neighbor or to God, and is worse than the first because it leads to hatred of God or neighbor.  The reason that anger is called a capital sin is not just for what anger is in itself but for what it leads to, for all capital sins are seeds for further sin.  The word “capital” comes from the Latin word caput, which means “head”.  As the head leads the rest of the body, so the capital sins lead to many other sins.  And anger’s special danger is that it leads to the worst sin of all:  hatred, the opposite of love (the greatest good).  This is why hatred is not one of the seven capital sins, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains it:  it is not the source of further sins because it is as bad as you can get; it is the last stage of sin, the satanic stage.  Satan is pure hatred, as God is pure love.

This is the reason why it is crucial to distinguish anger from hatred.  There is a kind of anger (the non-sinful kind) which, as we have seen, is in God himself, while hate is not in God but in Satan.  If we do not clearly distinguish anger from hatred, then we do not distinguish clearly distinguish God from Satan! The difference is that hatred wills evil to its object, while anger sometimes wills good things: the good deserved and the needed punishment, the will to justice and correction.  This is the good kind of anger which was manifested by our Lord himself when he drove away the money changers in the temple for disrespecting the house of his Father.  (Mt 21:12-13)

“The light of the Holy Spirit is shut out from a wrongful angry person.  The contrary happens to a calm person.  ‘Upon whom shall my Spirit rest, but upon him who is humble and peaceful in spirit, and trembles at my word.’ (Is 66:2) Anger steals away our peace of mind; the soul is no longer a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  Void by the Spirit’s departure, the soul is carried away into open frenzy.  Unable to think in depth, it acquires a shallow attitude.”  (Fr. Charles Belmonte, author of the book “Patience, the Path to Victory”) More of this in the next article.