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The rule of three in the battle against sin

Q: Dear Dan, I am struggling with a recurring problem with anger that I can’t seem to overcome. I have read books, tried to understand how it surfaces in me, prayed fervently (I am living in a state of grace outside of this problem). But I seem to be making no progress. I am very very very very very very very very frustrated.

A: After years of observing intelligent, capable, and committed people work to solve recurring challenges like the one you face, I have discovered a rule that is almost universally true. Those who use this rule will be far more likely to overcome the challenges they face, those who don’t, will, more often than not, find themselves frustrated, dejected, and shackled with recurring sin and the debilitating and often disastrous consequences.

The rule itself is simple but it depends on a handful of foundational truths that are worthy of brief exploration.

  1. Sin clouds the heart and mind. Small sins and imperfections, left unchecked, cause a gradual and often unnoticed degeneration of the mind and will. Thus, when someone is caught in a destructive cycle, they often do not have, within themselves, all the necessary faculties to identify the root cause, isolate it, formulate a solution, and then implement that solution successfully.
  2. We humans are finite creatures. We come into this world with blind spots. Even in the garden before our natures were tainted by sin, we had blind spots. In our perfect state, these were merely dependencies on one another to allow the other to see what the other could not see and to serve them in their need. In our fallen state, these blind-spots and dependencies can and do morph into serious realms of spiritual delusion and dysfunction. Post fall, with respect to serious emotional, psychological, and spiritual problems, it is very rare that we can effectively identify and overcome them on our own.

What can we do about these limitations? Well, the traditional means of the sacraments, prayer, spiritual reading, etc. are essential. Even so, many people are still stuck in their spiritual battles even after years of faithful practice of these life-giving disciplines. Other, less commonly used but very powerful tools are the combination of a rule of life coupled with a daily examen. Together these dramatically increase our spiritual peripheral vision by making us more self-aware (these practices consistently utilized can also help to shed light on our root sin). These tools help us to become more cognizant of our blind-spots and delusions, not because we begin to see them clearly but because we see the patterns of the outcomes more clearly. Remember, you can never clearly or directly see exactly what is in your blind-spot.

Even with these wise and helpful practices, many people still are stuck in their spiritual growth. Why? It is because they don’t practice this simple rule:

If, with full vigor and commitment, we attempt to overcome a pattern of sin, imperfection, or any other major personal challenge three times without clear success or significant progress, we must seek outside help to properly diagnose and solve the problem.

Here’s an insight to the solution to this problem from God the Father given to St. Catherine of Siena on the inherent incompleteness of our design and our clear need for others in this situation and in the general reality of spiritual growth (Dialogue #7):

The same is true of many of my gifts and graces, virtues and other spiritual gifts, and those things necessary for the body and human life. I have distributed them all in such a way that no one has all of them. Thus I have given you reason – necessity, in fact – to practice mutual charity. For I could well have supplied you with all your needs, both spiritual and material. But I wanted to make you dependent on one another

So, we are designed with a fundamental need for one another. Humility, mutual dependence and charity, are absolutely necessary for our spiritual growth; they are absolutely necessary for us to overcome serious spiritual challenges. Our culture, fueled by the lies of the enemy, militates against these holy needs and seek to replace them with the anti-virtues of pride, independence, and hyper-individualism. These anti-virtues coupled with fear and vanity have locked up and destroyed many people of good-will who simply would not reach out and get help with the challenges they face.

Jesus said that He came to give us life and that more abundantly. Reach out for that life that he offers to you. Don’t settle for less. Get the help you need.

PS: For more in-depth treatment of these ideas, see Dan’s book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God.

 

Art:  The Four Apostles (detail showing Simon Peter), 1526, Albrecht Durer, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs. If you have an interest in having Dan come speak at your parish or Catholic event or group, contact us at rcspiritualdirection@gmail.com or call 818-646-7729.

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  • petrina7

    This is something i really needed to hear today. God bless you so much Dan. And next up, I’m going to talk to someone I can trust about this and be honest and upfront. :) 

    • JoFlemings

      Praying for your victory Petrina7!

    • judeen

      make sure it is someone who is spiritual .. or a retreat like koinonia 

  • Joanna

    This is a really interesting article.  I too suffer from a lot of frustration and anger.  Some of it is coming from past childhood traumas and some from the injustices I see around me.  Perhaps my anger is ‘justified’ but nevertheless, the fact that I feel that I ‘cannot’ talk about it, because our culture makes us depend on no-one, trust no one, and try and be as independent as possible for fear of seeming weak, only makes me more frustrated.  If I had to share my anger and see I am not the only one suffering from specific issues, I am sure that the frustration at least, would diminish.  It is a pity but we are only making our lives more difficult for ourselves by being so reserved and self-sufficient.  A certain amount of sharing and trust are necessary, I think.    

    • New Name

      May God give you much grace and strength in your battle against frustration and anger.  Many people have this issue including some very highly intelligent and otherwise self-controlled folks.  And, there are circumstances in life that bring out these emotions strongly when we would not otherwise be susceptible to them.

      Confession is a great help for this.  Because a sin’s roots are deep, many, if not most, people have to bring a “stuck issue” such as anger to confession over and over again.  But, don’t despair, little by little, God excavates that sin from your soul.  But, he does want your cooperation in working on this.  He has so designed us that we are happier when we can participate in the cure!  (By the way, emotions are just emotions and we all have them.  Anger, in itself, is not a sin:  “If you are angry, let it be without sin.  The sun must not go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on you.”  Ephesians 4:26-27.  It’s what we do with that anger that turns it into a sin).

      After the sacrament of confession, I would recommend seeking out a spiritual director for assistance with this.  Perhaps, while you are confessing this issue, you might ask the priest if he would assist you with this matter outside the confessional.  Then, neither he nor you would feel pressed for time.  If he says he cannot do so, for whatever reason, ask if he would recommend another priest who you might see.

      May bless you, Joanna, and give you strength.

      • JoFlemings

        I can testify to the benefits of the silent retreat, Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius; and a program of life and then frequent Confession for helping to get a clearer picture of personal persistent difficulty. I have miles to go, but I can see some significant progress through this pathway, and then a more disciplined prayer life- or daily rule with meditation in Sacred Scripture has also really helped me alot.

      • judeen

        st. peter has trouble with anger….and stubberness?   Jesus make Him the rock on which the church would be built after he repented and was healed…

      • JoFlemings

        This is such a good response, New- you remind me of someone I know by an old name ;o) But one thing I want to add here, is that I think that if anger steals your peace, then it is not neutral even if you are not acting on it but are trying to overcome it or master it or offer it up. Just experiencing it in that manner, I think, is detrimental and maybe something that someone can back themselves out of by prayer and conscience examen to find what sparked it in the first place. 
        Sometimes we are irritable because of physical reasons, fatigue, hunger, etc. and in those circumstances maybe we need a devised coping strategy for dealing with mounting stress. I think young mothers can be seriously sleep deprived and that makes me think of, you know when your brake pads on your car wheels are all gone and its just steel on steel? Yeah, that can’t be good. Sometimes there is a sense of everything being out of control because of disordered schedules, disorganization in the environment, unexpected crises, or overwhelming converging demands. Anger is often an adrenalin response to stress, fight or flight because of a perceived threat on some level. Sometimes knowing this helps people figure out what is on their nerves- when they can pin down what they feel threatened over or what is causing them suffering.

        • Becky313

          Good observations!

  • Josephinerue

    I have been in a faith journey for a few years now and recently it seems to have quickened.  I also had a temper that I could not control.  Then it seemed to quiten down.  Prayer is the kind of weapon that slows you down enough to listen to God.  I love being in prayer and I asked for the gift to be closer to Him, to do His work and He answered by helping me with this terrible anger which is generational as well as added to by my own sinfulness.  I could not understand when people said to me that i made the decision to be angry,  until He showed me in slow motion how this happens:  I was on my way to play at mass. I wanted to be early because the Priest I really enjoy working with was offering up this sacrifice.  I asked my daughter to be ready on time and to make sure that we got to mass on time, I asked her to be ready at least half an hour before.  At ten minutes to five she was still not bathed or changed and we had a way to go.  I got the instruments into the car and myself too.  I drove out onto the pavement and waited outside the gate.  Suddenly I became very angy.  I was furious that she had done it again and was being deliberately horrible in being late.  I was so angry that the emotion filled me making my head heavy.  I simply wanted to destroy – yes even her if it meant just releasing the emotion within me.  She got into the car.  Lo and behold – seemed to be unaware of the situation she had created – we were going to be late for mass.   I was so angry.  In slow motion almost i could see the scene playing out before me.  As she turned to close the car door some force within me caused me to lift my hands and want to grab her hair and pull it out of her head.  In  that moment I was given to understand that I could make a decision to be destructive in the worst sense or I could make the decision to let go of my anger which was fuelled by pride.  Pride in that we were late for mass yet again and it made me look bad, and sense of hurt and revenge because she had been so deliberate in her actions.  The force of the emotion was beyond control.   I wanted more than anrthing to serve God, and so I with my human strength called on God to help.  Without His help I could never have taken my hands away and placed them on the car wheel without hurting her.  I am grateful to serve a Living God who teaches us how in intimate detail to fight the spiritual warfare that we have been forced into.  I agree that sin clouds our hearts and minds and our decision making.  It is only as the veil is lifted that we are able to see clearly how we have lived.  Humility is a word misused and Prided a fools paradise.  Take heart – The Lord God is reaching out to you, He loves you and is calling you into a closer union with Him.  Please do not give up.  Look for unforgiveness – it is a curse that fuels uncontrolled anger.  Just keep talking to the Blessed Trinity, Our Lady and your Guardian Angel.  Ask all around for people to pray for you.  Be careful though whom you ask.  The Bible says that we should keep our house clean once we are rid of a demon or he will bring others stronger and so we will find ourselves invaded yet again.  Losing ones temper gives the demon the reason to remain.  Why you ask – because we give permission for him to remain because we take pride in our anger, unforgiveness and etc.  When you become angry for the first time it is because you have been hurt and anger is a very good emotion.  It is God Given.  When you make the decision to get back at those who hurt you.  It becomes sinful.  This is the natural reaction of most of us.  Then it happens again.  You respond in the same manner.  It becomes a habit.  It happens again.  You respond in the same manner.  The demons position becomes entrenched, he has permission to operate in your life and he remains.  He can only remain if you do not follow a life of discipline and prayer as mentioned above and if you allow him permission to remain by refusing to give up your pride.  Humility means that we embrace the pain, hurt, humiliation and etc that comes to us.  We love the one who does this and in doing so we let go of the need to respond in negative anger.  May God who sees everything and allows us to experience everything because of His intense Love for us help you in your journey.  I thank God that His Call in your life has begun. 

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  • Kmel

    Wow!  This was great advice.  Thank you Dan!!
    God Bless…

  • Guest1

    I like 

  • JoFlemings

    I think this is very wise, observant, and insightful, Dan! Where does that first quote above come from? Is that also from Catherine of Siena? 

    • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Oops – that shouldn’t have been in quotes – that is my own words. So does that make me a saint!?

      • New Name

        No, but hopefully on the way though!

        • JoFlemings

          Saving that one for a subsequent blockbuster volume entitled The Quotable Dan Burke…

          • New Name

             Ha, ha, ha!

        • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          Bummer

          • New Name

            Don’t despair…you have to suffer the first death to be a saint.  And, thankfully, you are still with us here and now!

          • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Oh yes… that would be an important step now wouldn’t it?

  • guest1

    The rule of getting help from others is very much valid.  There are many personal sins and challenges, especially the recurring ones, are very difficult to fight on our own.  Prayers are powerful but other humans provide tangible and interactive support.  However, as stated our culture is one of individualism and independence.  Some of us do not have the blessing of a close and supportive family, are not keeping in touch with our best friends from childhood, and just somehow do not have a social network to lean on. Ironically it is this group of “lonely” people that need the most help.  

    I go to confession and find help from priests sometimes.  Other times, the priests are also very busy themselves and do not have time to talk.  And there are issues that you can’t just talk to anybody who seems nice or devoted even among Christians.  The society teaches us to build an invisible wall around us.  We’d be glad to open the door for somebody or even let other cars pass us when driving.  But if a person starts to tell us about his/her personal story or hardship, we tend to draw the line somewhere and prepare to walk away politely.  

  • Barbaraksanders

    sometimes the enemy of the soul (Satan) has built strong holds
    in the mind (lies we believe) These keep the soul “stuck”.
    Finding a church where the person can go thru the
    healing of memories is often very helpful to unlock the blind
    spot and bring freedom and openess to the Holy Spirit
    barbara

    • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Sometimes it is also a matter of deliverance from bondage to sin and the spiritual forces that bind a soul when it has given itself to them through sin. This kind can only be overcome through prayer, fasting, and diligence (rarely alone).

  • MJC

    Wow! I was just talking to someone about the lack of real relationships when asked why I was not on Facebook. Among my reasons is one that is alluded to in Dan’s piece…that is, how can we be “our brother’s keeper” when everything about the technological culture perpetuates and propels having relationships via a screen medium. This culture has also resulted in many disfunctional people not able to have a proper conversation. As you’re trying to have a good conversation - their eyes are wondering the room, their body language speaks anxiety at varying levels, they sigh and smile simultaneously – all because they are thinking that they’re missing out on the next moment (whether it be with someone else or something else). On the screen, we can move from one channel, youTube, article, link, etc to another. This quick and mostly solitary interaction is so ingrained in many people that it has become difficult to have a calm, leisurely intelleigent conversation with people anymore – such that it becomes harder to be accountable Christians.

    • judeen

      theres more to eyes and body langueage…  eyes are the windows to the soul… if a person can not look you in the eyes…. be careful…   of trust…   body – exhaustion… so on… 1 can look at it as health.. or spiritually .. something can be happening….  a sigh can mean they can not breath… depressed, tierd… feeling heavy.. spiritually..   there is so many reasons.   look them in the eyes.. ask them if they are ok.  get their attention… ask them what is on their mind…  have I lost you?  so on.. get the the bottom of it… you could help, maybe that is why God put you there….

      • New Name

         judeen,

        We also need to be aware of cultural differences with the bit about looking someone in the eyes.  In some cultures, it is very ingrained not to look someone in the eyes when one is being corrected, or in deference to someone.  And, in the US, we have many people who come from different countries and cultures.   So, we’ve got to be careful with judging the body language of the eyes.

        • judeen

          I am learning that.. gets me in trouble alot… I have sesiours.. so I read people eyes and mouth and actions…. yet it can be taken very wronge… and very dangourous… 

      • Snerticus

        I’m not sure I agree with you about not trusting someone who cannot look you in the eyes.  I have always been shy since childhood.  I have never been able to look anyone in the eyes.  I feel vulnerable and scared when I do.  Although I am not nearly as shy as I was when I was a kid, this trait has followed me to adulthood.  When I talk to someone who never takes their eyes off mine, I get really nervous almost to the point of an anxiety attack.  Yet I still attempt to look them in the eye.  When I do I’m afraid the way I look at them makes them uncomforable because when I look someone in the eye for more than a few seconds it feels totally unnatural to me and I strain very hard to do it.

        There are probably many reasons for my dislike of eye contact for prolonged periods, but I don’t think any of them is because I should not be trusted.  I could be wrong but I think I feel more comfortable being submissive in that particular way.  Kind of like the way I don’t like sitting higher than anyone else in a room – I always lower my chair as much as I can so I can look up at everyone else.  I really dislike attention on me, and I feel attention is drawn to me the higher is sit. So I probably feel that looking me in the eye is way to much attention than I can handle.

        • Becky313

          Judeen is right in saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul.”  I find that while I can make eye contact in day-to-day situations, when I am trying to delve into my soul and express what is happening to me on a spiritual level, like during confession or spiritual direction, I must often look away or even close my eyes.

          I would agree that this alone is not a good reason for distrust.

  • Snerticus

    This makes sense.  However I’m very confused on how the desert fathers that chose to live a life in solitude could possibly have perservered if they needed mutual charity.  Unless I’m misunderstanding the role the individual hermits played…

  • 1946thom

    I can relate. I have had serious anger issues, and just lately I came to the insight that I was angry at other people for what they had done to me, and not trusting God to take care of me. When I was able to forgive them for what they had done to me, I could move on knowing that God is taking care of me. Whatever they did to me does not matter, The God I believe in will take care of me. All that really matters is trusting God and knowing that whatever happens. This has not been an easy thing to do. The first time I said out loud I forgive you for what you have done to me did not sound very forgiving, something closer to a loud angry voice that did not have any forgiveness in it. But I said the words, and with time it became softer and expressed true forgiveness. I also learned that if I don’t forgive on a regular basis, the anger and resentment comes back into my life.

  • New Name

    Thank you for your very honest and illuminating analysis of the anger issue.  It took courage to publicly put that down on paper.  It was refreshing to read and will help many.

    You said, “I wanted to be early because the Priest I really enjoy working with was offering up this sacrifice.”   As I see it, this was the underlying issue and the set-up for the anger.  When your will was not followed, you were terribly angry.  When God had other plans, you were not happy with them.  I believe this is one of the biggest issues with anger.  When we don’t get our way, instead of saying “Not my will but thine” like Jesus did in Gethsemene or “Fiat, let it be done to me according to your Word” like Mary did in the Annunciation, we say to ourselves “MY will will be done or else.”  And, that’s the beginning of our sin which we seem to be able to justify to no end.

    That doesn’t mean we don’t fight injustice, correct our brothers and sisters with fraternal love, raise upright children, and things like that, but everything in this life must be in accordance with God’s will.  We are so entrenched in our own will that it’s often hard to “Let go and let God.”  Here the Spanish have a saying says, “El hombre propone y Dios dispone” (“Man proposes and God disposes”).  Ultimately, God’s will will be done. 

    Let us pray for the grace to accept his will no matter what.  In that, we will find much peace and, yes, joy!

  • judeen

    koninia-  a catholic retreat , which is full of the Holy Spirit  which helps heal, wounds .  brings many back to the faith and God.. and touchs the heart soul and mind deeply…   so too rec. for people in Jail . tec.. so on..
         a women  had alot of problems and when she prayed and she remembered being cornored in Kindegarden…by 2 kids.. when she forgave them she had alot of physical and personal healings…
                so too we copy our parents .. whether we want to or not… alot of the times…  to be alert.  and atentive to what we do or say… so we do not fall into habits..  making them stronger.. and we weaker…  look at generational things..  if you can follow things back to parents, gr. p. so on this needs to be broken.. we need each other… it is the second greatest commandment.. yet if we do not like our selves how can we love one another 

  • CityKitty

    Anger is a normal, healthy reaction.  Unfortunately, as I am growing older I am seeing more and more people exhibiting signs of healthy and unhealthy anger.  My generation is the beginning of the “boomers” and we carry a lot of our own anger, but I’m constantly amazed at how many YOUNGER persons I see with deep, unrelenting anger.  Home life?  Social life?  Ability to make and keep friendships?  Computers/mechanization?  Our society is growing more and more angry.  BTW, I’m 65.  Anyone have a guess at WHY we are more angry?  There are an amazing number of anger management books; some churches have groups for anger managment.  Is it ANGER or is it FEAR?

    • judeen

      they are trying to do it themselves..- acheive.- be perfect.. also alot of them have never grown up… never disaplined at home or guided.. lach key kids… never learned .

  • judeen

      Josephinenerue..  reconize your attack for doing service to God… the devil using your daughter to make you angry , her disobeying you and being in control.. -confession.. also punishment , maybe going to 2 masses on suday..
         also your anger… attack.. this you see these happinging s when doing a retreat and bringing bad sinners back to God. also a sign there are people being touch by God by your service.  to God..  acr of Arcs …  your right on  but look deeper… and watch.. before something your going to do for God and what is happening.. devil stealing your peace or trying to make you upset or not do it….

    • New Name

      You are right about this. The devil is probably also involved. 

      Because the reason she wanted to be early was “because the Priest I really enjoy working with was offering up this sacrifice,” she set herself up for the fall.  In other words, she didn’t want to go early to meditate on the readings or recollect herself, but she wanted to be early because of the Priest (her words).  So, the initial intention of early arrival was for a platonic attraction for someone she enjoys working with, not an attraction for spending extra time with the Lord. 

      There could be any number of other issues going on as well, such as perhaps the Priest would not have thought as much of her if she arrived late (pride).  Jesus puts great stock in not doing things for show:  “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them” Mt 6:1.  From personal experience, this is a tough one to break!  And, the devil surely takes advantage of our missteps.  “Stay sober and alert.  Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, solid in your faith.” 1 Peter 5:8-9a.  So, you are certainly right about the attack issue!

      • judeen

         we see the spiritual , in attacks – when doing retreats in the prison.. before and after a retreat . our kids get angry.. mad… we break things.. things go wronge.. get sick  so something.. during the retreat , so many come back to God.. and confession…  have smelt crisism , everything oily in the prayer room .. and the other side too…   so too preist get attacked  with tempations.. reconize it .. praise the Lord.. ( evil has to leave when 1 praises the Lord… ) offer it up for souls…

        • New Name

           Ah yes, I understand this is very much the case before the Project Rachel retreats…to include phone lines being disrupted, etc.

          • judeen

            retravile  sp.  for marraiges on the rocks – how to heal it.. and communicate.. catholic retreat

          • judeen

            things like husband upset. kids mad at nothing.. car dosnt start or lost keys, glasses.. sick .. so on.. all attackes..  blessed holy water.. st michel prayer.. precious blood of Jesus.. fasting.. rosary.. I even have woren a rosary.. takes heart ack and pains and axiousness away. – blessed and life of Jesus …

        • Maria

          That makes so much sense! I joined a friend in their prison ministry’s Christmas party at a Juvenile detention center last year. And of all the time for it to happen, some teenagers elsewhere in the facility started fighting. Violent and shouting fighting… It hadn’t in several years! According to the social worker.
          So we were forced to leave early. The kids from the party and some of us were crying when we left. Especially since we’d never see some of them again.

      • JoFlemings

        You mention how this account might relate pride, but a priest can be a symbol of so many things in people’s minds- it could be vanity instead of pride-maybe she derived a sense of security from approval from a symbol of authority or an example she admired. It is pretty costly to embrace a hidden life-(if it were not so for me, anyway, then perhaps I would not be commenting here so obviously, pictured profile and everything.) I think it is really important to discover what is at the specific root too, because it can be so surprising what comes out of that. I have heard people out of hand assume that one with an anger challenge is given to sensuality- no question. And yes, running headlong into an unbridled passionate response in any circumstance is a self-indulgent expression. But the key ‘spark’ or igniting factor can make a real difference I think in the remedy. You know if you regularly over indulge your passions, maybe more regular mortification is in order. If your security is in the opinion, regard, or esteem of others, or in your perception of those things, then you have reshape your mind according to Jesus’ mind and love for you, and again maybe mortification is in order. If you think you are the only one who can get it right and everyone else is a supporting actor in the grand drama starring you, and sharing center stage violates your sensibilities- well, the Litany of Humility is almost always answered immediately, and hey, mortification could be in order. I don’t know- but also finding a positive opposite virtue to build on through prayer and an antidote to one’s particular weakness is crazy helpful too- in addition to, yes, you guessed it, some small but regular form of mortification.

        • New Name

           Great observations.  I agree, it could also be vanity as well.  In any case, getting to the root of it is so important.  To the mortification thing (You really like that as a solution don’t you?  Ha!), one might also spend some quiet time in meditating on God’s goodness and listening for his small still voice (come, Holy Spirit)…kind of like adult time out!

          • JoFlemings

            Actually, I way prefer your counsel. If I am brutally honest, I confess I am not really sure of the benefits of mortification since I practice it so infrequently and on such a miniscule scale, but I hear, from Saints I love, that it is a useful means of developing virtue! Check back with me in a decade or two and I might have experiential wisdom to share….

          • New Name

            Jo,
            I believe it is useful.  You mentioned it so much and that’s why I referred to it!  Ha! 

            We do have a widespread Church practice of it during Lent.  But, there are all kinds of ways of doing this. 

            Where I think there is danger is, like most anything else save virtue, it is not done in moderation.  Some get so good at it that they are now “into it!”  Before, they were fasting during Lent, now they are fasting all the time (not because they are called to it and it’s approved by their spiritual director) and they put their health at risk because they are now anorexic.  Before, they were using “the discipline” briefly.  Now, they are whipping themselves into a frenzy.  All mortifications of that nature should be approved by one’s spiritual director. 

            Better that one have a balanced “program” of mortification eg: meatless Fridays, putting others ahead of oneself in very small ways, anticipating others in kindness (where one would not be inclined to do so).  In that way, we mortify our desires AND open up our hearts to others, all done in the spirit of prayer and love for our Lord.  This balanced program, can be easily done and incorporated into our daily lives, and, I believe, does have much benefit.

          • JoFlemings

            This list of balanced mortifications is perfect, Liz!

  • Carlajplatt

    Ahhhhhh…..my favorite topic!  Anger.  The Lord has been working on this with me for years….about 10 to be exact.  The work began one night at Confession.  I had confessed anger every time I went.  This particular night, the priest looked at me and he said “why?”.  That was it.  “Why?”  My immediate and first thought was “you live in my house with my husband and children for two weeks, then tell me you don’t have an anger problem!”  I didn’t say anything though.  For some reason, given my intense desire to be done with the anger thing, his simple response made me angry!  I fumed during my penance, I fumed all the way home.   I figured Father didn’t know what he was talking about, and tried to let it go.  The next few days during the rosary however, it wouldn’t leave so I thought I would take some time to really ponder about the “why” question.  I wrote and wrote and wrote in my notebook…..then, it happened.  The answer.  It was “because I am not heard”.   I was angry because I was not heard.  I don’t know how much garbage I had suffered over the years because noone would listen.  I was the youngest in a dysfunctional family.  After this initial revelation, the Lord began to reveal more and more….it was actually painful as well as healing.  The next level He brought me to in the process was the simple word “shame”.  I began to research this “shame” issue and wow.  One of the effects of living in toxic shame is fits of rage and anger.  I could have been the poster child for shame, codependency and dysfunction.  That too was painful, but so very, very helpful!!  So, getting to the root….this is definitely the key….the Lord knows much of our sins are simply leaves on a branch that is connected to a root.  A rotten one.  The leaves/sins will just continue to grow back until you allow him to show you the root, and do the painful healing process of digging it out.  He will be there with you every step of the way.  He does not demand perfection.  I likened it to the Lord getting angry at a blind man for not being able to see….I gave up worrying about the Lord’s dissatisfaction with me (which brought more shame) and threw myself at his feet.  He brought me to this, He would most certainly in His infinite patience bear with me through it.  I still went to confession regularly, but the horrible burden to avoid anger at all costs was gone. 
    I would suggest you research the sickness of shame…..it has helped me tremendously. 

    • judeen

       when praying for people I have been taught to look for the 1st wound… (childhood) and so many things fall and heal after that… this is what we look for in the jails… during the retreat.. ( well some of us)  been through it to… it changed my life

      • Carlajplatt

         I agree.  I see this more and more in the people the Lord puts in my path….childhood wounds.  Rejection by dad being #1 on the list.  So many wounds, so many “handles” for the devil to get his foot in. 
        I truly don’t see any way to overcome habitual sin like anger until these wounds are addressed and healed by Jesus. 

  • New Name

     Excellent.  You are really on the right track.

    We are not just supposed to forgive once but “seventy times seven” (cf Mt 18:22) meaning a limitless number.  So, just because we forgive someone once doesn’t mean the devil will not keep bringing the offense back to our minds.  Thus, we must keep forgiving.

    …and, because we must do as Jesus did, we must forgive quickly and from the cross.  We must follow in the footsteps of the Father, as we see in the parable of the Prodigal Son. We must forgive the person even before they ask for forgiveness just as the Father did from a distance, even before the Prodigal was actually back home.  God has come down to meet us in our sinfulness, likewise we must meet others in their sinfulness and forgive those who trespass against us.

  • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

    It is a common misunderstanding that hermits live in perfect isolation. They often have superiors and must in some way have direction.

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    Thank you, Dan.  Your response is truly illuminating.  Going through the Respondents’ comments, has made me realize just how age, with God’s Grace as we strive to live our Faith, mellows a person.  In my younger days, I found it very hard to control my emotions.  Thankfully, having been brought up by devout Catholic parents, mentored my Consolata and Loreto Missionaries, they had instilled in me the realization that, whatever the situation is, the decision on how to react was in my hands. They taught us how to practice self-control in time of provocation or adversity. This is a life-long struggle and will only end when we leave this world.

    When I became a parent myself, I slowly learned how to control my emotional reactions, especially when the children had annoyed me….I was able to be the first to apologize to them.  This invariably made them realize they had hurt me and, yet, I was accepting my contribution in what they had done to annoy me. Consequently, they genuinely apologized and my attitude helped them to realize hurting a parent was not right.  And even now, whenever a person wrongs or hurts me, I take the first step to apologize even when it is evident it they, who need to apologize to me.  That way, with Prayers, it becomes less difficult to forgive.

    As a Career woman in the Corporate world, I was forced to defend my turf and, from time to time I was quite disagreeable and difficult to relate to.  It took me a long time to realize I was hurting myself more and prayed very hard for God’s Grace to become a more tolerant and humble Team-player.  And, as my Family matured, I too, matured emotionally. But my best anchor for the 37 and a half years, was  my precious husband……..he was simply an Angel……my best friend, and the stabilizing influence in my life such that over time, I emulated his loving, amiable, patient and tolerant Nature which influences how I relate with people.

    Now that I have been without this Angel these 18 years, he has been replaced by Jesus to whom I run whenever I am hurt or when I need solace….in His Tribunal of Mercy, He advises me on how to fight my habitual sinful tendencies.  My ex-Spiritual Director helped me greatly in identifying my Root sin and its derivatives that I needed to concentrate on fighting through Prayers, an active Sacramental Life and daily Examination of Conscience along with keeping a Daily Diary of my Spiritual hurdles that I encounter.  The 3rd Saturday of the month Divine Mercy Retreats helps us in Healing our past experiences which are responsible for who we become in later life. Fighting our negative nature is hard because the Evil Ones persistently uses it to undermine us.  But with God’s Grace one progresses steadily – even if upsets are frequent on the steep climb.  The Cardinal Rule is to persevere and to never, ever give up the struggle.  God is always at hand with His Graces

  • Maria

    Getting angry at myself… When others scold me or I realize something bad I did… I tend to despair and get angry at myself and beat myself up about it… Just tonight actually, I was really tempted to do that. Started doing it even…
    But then my conscience told me not to… And so I attacked an old magazine instead. It helped.
    I know that the root sin was pride and not being able to accept my sinfulness.

    With God’s grace, it’s not as bad as it used to be. And He taught the value of being grateful for self-knowledge instead of wallowing in pity and shame. Though I don’t always succeed at it.
    What helped me the most was this. That God makes our sins known to us because He wants us to grow closer to Him. And that He wants us to grow closer to Him despite our sinfulness, that is something to be truly grateful for!

    • judeen

      maria.. were you put down alot as a kid.. not good enough.. scolded all the time.. ? I did this,, they say once 1 leaves home we take over the verbal abuse , and do it to our selves….
         God does not make junk… You are a gift… He loves you… very much… dont put your self down… God knows you did your best.. and that is all we can do.. do not let anger. ( the devil take over.. getting mad..) offer it up… and ask God for help next time….

      • Maria

        I was bullied/outcast most of elementary through high school. And my Dad is an achiever, perfectionist etc… Though, in general I do come from a loving family. And I know my Dad means well. It’s still hard to live under his thumb.

        I guess those are the reason I’m like this. I tried to do that imagine- forgiving-someone-sitting-on-a-chair-opposite-you last Lent. And I was surprised how much the memories of being bullied still hurt.

        With God’s grace, I’m slowly learning to forgive them.

        • New Name

          My heart goes out to you.  The scars of the innocent are very deep indeed.  May your healing continue.

        • judeen

           a perfectist , usually does not like Him self.. or her self…  you will also find  if your parents have a problem with something you have..  look into their child hood.. , there too  is a wound..
               trust in God.. do your best.. then leave it in Gods hands…. He will do the rest.. what you say and do. give it to /God.. He will touch the hearts that need to be touched.

        • Becky313

          Maria, don’t forget that GOD loves you deeply and tenderly!!  You have a Father in heaven that is 100% trustworthy and consistent, and you can turn to Him any time, any place!

          Reflecting on this helped me to overcome issues in my life that are very similar to what you’ve mentioned.  It was also helpful to think about ‘why’ things from my childhood hurt so much.   In my case I was feeling left out….like I didn’t belong…..was unlovable.  With some time and prayer I have learned that I belong to God, and am a member of His family….it helps.  “God never rejects anyone.”  These four little words in a book by  Blessed John Paul II, turned my life around.

          • Maria

            Thank you Becky, Judeen and New Name! Thank you for your understanding, advice and support! Really needed to hear that today!

          • judeen

            maria, I have been there.. and still struggle with it… it is what I learned from others.. and what I have been led to know… God bless you in all your trials… remember offer them up for souls

  • Clare

    Posted yesterday- misspelled the most Important Word given to me by My Lord,
    daughter,STAY Transfigured in My Love,then My Transformation can take place,if not, any attempts to place self, sin and temptation, all together away,will only be short lived, and most likely, daughter, you will meet them again, sooner than you think.You Teach Well, My Lord, My Master, So CrucifiedI am in  “DEEM”unDeserved,unEarned,unExpected, and unMerited Favor in the Lord, So unExpected, I have come to find and never thought  that STAYing on top of this Mountain, He has presented to me would ever be harder,than it was, to climb it.  ClareWell said,”I also learned that if I don’t forgive on a regular basis, the anger and resentment comes back into my life”

  • judeen

    done this.. there are 2 preists , twins. that put out a vido.. long ago..  talks about unforgiveness and how it affects our personality .. even in the womb.. – how I found out about it is a long God thing.. well any way.. 1 is suppose to get 2 chairs. and sit in 1 then talk to the person who hurt you and what they did and how it affected you.. a person can stand in but only can say they are sorry. …. or the chair can be empty… it is a healing when it is said out loud an ecknowledgement of your pain . and then I forgive you is said.

  • judeen

    anloness…. sacrafice , prayer for others… constantly…. giving up all things.. learning to like themselves as God made them… seeking God in the smallest things…. its hard…..
          a life of offering and suffering… life becomes a prayer… and very spiritual

  • JoFlemings

    I completely understand what you are saying here.

  • judeen

    been there.  there is a fine line between love and hate.. I hated because I loved so much… and they would not love me back…  the relization of love.
           forgiveness is the 1st step.. even taken people to the grave to forgive…we cant change the past, yet we can use it by giving it to God as sacrifice. , prayer, and knowledge.. we understand, gifts.. so on.. when given to God we use this to help others.. forgiveness is a desision.. do beleive, unforgiveness is the bases of alot of homosexuality.. for men anyway… to their dads…  I prayed.. with my husband.. and God finally ,powerfully healed me. but there is more.. like a person in aaa the whole family is involved.. in it..

  • Sunnyshadow

     I have found chapter 35 of the Sinner’s Guide by Blessed Louis de Granada to be useful in understanding the underlying aspects of anger:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/granada30-39.htm

    This chapter, entitled Remedies against
    Anger and Hatred reveals all of the complexity the the emotion hides.  This description of anger and the underlying sins is very useful in understanding why one is angry, and is helpful in confession.The Divine Mercy devotion to be very effective in coming to terms with injustice.  Sometimes asking Jesus for deliverance by the merits of his holy passion is the only thing you can do.Christ is the supreme atonement.  And he did for those who injured me.  So when someone has the desire to wreak a terrible vengeance for a great wrong done to one, all one has to do is to summon Christ suffering in their mind.  IF one desires to lacerate, there is Christ scourged in atonement for the wrong that was done.  If one desires to murder, there is Christ crucified in their place.  How can one not be humbled by this substitution?  It is the desire for venegeance that destroys the innocence of those who have been sinned against,and meditating on Christ’s passion as atonement for the wrongs done against one is useful in bringing one to forgive as Christ forgave.

    • New Name

      “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19

      Your reference is really excellent.  Thanks for the cite.  It looks like there is much to meditate on there.

  • akpennongun_tarbunde

    Thanks, Dan, for the light you throw on the matter.

    Others contributions are equally engaging;
    & mine would be on your direct exhortation for us to ‘…formulate a solution, and then implement that solution.’

    Anger is Natural, but I quickly shift to the Supernatural, whenever I sense anger in my self.

    I have formulated a solution by the gear-shift of a short prayer.

    The words are:

    Lord, comfort me (as in Amina Christi)
    Holy Spirit, make me strong (as in Guardian Angel, rule & guide me)
    Mother, help me (as in Holy Mother’s intercession).

    I keep repeating: Lord, comfort me/ Holy Spirit, make me strong/ Mother, help me, several times until the anger ‘drains out’, & I overcome the object of my anger.

    If we see Dan’s point in urging us to formulate a solution &
    implement it, a short prayer we compose may be the ready & nearest spiritual tool to keep the devil of anger, ( & etc) at arms length.

    Words used in couching a short prayer ought to be related to a Catholic prayer, so we know what Prayer we are calling to mind in anxious moments.

    Bless you, brethren, to complete His work.

    • New Name

       Good ideas.  Thanks.

    • Marg

      thank you for sharing! it is so important that we turn to the Lord, the Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary. I think if we can’t engage in prayer and we find ourself trying to go with our ego, we certainly are going to find that we will run into great difficulties. I k now its human nature to try and make ourselves feel good with trying to grow spiritually with the knowledgewe obtain through books but the mistake we make it not putting our trust and faith in God where it belongs. People really do try and look important and in the end only suffer in doing so. Engaging in God should be our most Holy desire, which is our most important spiritual guide! thanks again for your insight today!

  • poetcomic1

    “The shortest distance between any two human beings is Christ crucified.”

    • New Name

      Would that be something from Hans Urs von Balthasar?

      • poetcomic1

        It is!  (well a paraphrase anyway) and gladdening to know someone recognizes it.  

  • 68transport

    A priest once told me in Confession to think of the words our Savior gave us from the Our Father – “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  We ask the Father to forgive us our sins and we know he does.  We therefore need to be able to forgive those that sin agains us.  I reflect on this often when I feel anger.

    • Maria Carvalho

      that is so true! It is only by Grace that we can do this. I have asked God to help to do this in the past to someone that hurted me to much and God helped me. It is now forgiven and forgeted and I never thought I would be able to do it. Be blessed.

      • LizEst

        Yes, isn’t it amazing? Forgiveness is a decision we make. And, we have to keep forgiving and forgiving and forgiving, burning that hurt within our hearts. One day we may wake up to find it doesn’t hurt so much or doesn’t hurt at all. It is truly a blessing and a supernatural grace, made possible by Christ’s salvation. I am so happy you have received this beautiful and wonderful grace, Maria. God bless you.

  • JoFlemings

    Seems like one could almost spend a lifetime meditating on this phrase.

    • poetcomic1

      It is indeed my ‘humbler’.  I can connect with ANYONE in this way (even Chaz Bono if I had to!) 

  • Carlajplatt

    Something came back to me this morning regarding a golden nugget another priest shared with me that I was seeing for direction.  I told him that I sensed the Lord say “I want you holy” one day in prayer.  I didn’t quite understand this.  I was going to Mass, Adoration, praying the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, taking care of my dad after my mom died, helping at Church, taking care of my kids while my husband was on the road….my first thought was “what else can I do?”  Father Mark’s explanation gave me such peace, and took the weight and pressure off once again.  He said we do not make ourselves holy.  GOD MAKES US HOLY.  To make someone or something holy, God sets it apart.  Our job is to make ourselves available to whatever it is God is desiring to do in our souls in order to bring us to holiness.  He used the example of the altar in church being set apart with three steps from the rest of the church.  Being one of those controlling sorts who likes to make things happen, this was totally surprising to me.  God makes us holy?  We don’t do it?  All of our prayers and actions and good works don’t make us holy? What relief!  Of course, the way God chooses has to be cooperated with.  We don’t get to choose.  This was difficult!  It made perfect sense however in explaining where I was finding myself those days.  Seemed everything I touched failed….I felt like I was constantly wrestling a bear….exhausting!  Loss of many things was also part of it.  Certain sicknesses/faults/sins were brought to my attention.  The Lord was asking me to look at some pretty ugly things!  The truth sets us free….Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  If I was “playing” holy, but not living in truth then the Lord certainly turned me in the right direction…toward “true” holiness.  I began to see that I could be doing a lot of “holy” things, but if I was complaining, yelling at the kids daily then really…I wasn’t living in true charity.  I was just being busy with a holy sticker on it.  So, I hope this helps others in realizing that the Lord leads our spiritual lives….we are not in control of that if we truly desire to be holy according to God’s standards.   Being obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, allowing God to do what He must even though it can be incredibly uncomfortable, disciplining ourselves into a consistent prayer life, reading the bible, and the most difficult….do your best not to “assume” with God.  We tend to base our decisions and opinions on our comfort level, and to be honest -on what others are doing….the Lord has taught me in no uncertain terms “My ways are not Your ways”….
    If you find yourself being “set apart” from the crowd…cooperate with that and don’t do whatever you can to get back in.  The Lord is going to start that beautiful, difficult work of making you holy! 

    • Maria

      Thank you! Lately, He has been teaching me not to be so controlling. Being “set apart” is truly a humbling gift!

    • Peg

      Carla, …I realize this is an older post, but I’m responding anyway based on the slim chance you or someone else will weigh-in. 

      What do we do when we know God is setting us apart, but we’re not sure what our next step is?  I’m currently without a Spiritual Director and about to be faced with, what appears to be, a large life decision.  Since the door to my true vocation doesn’t seem to be in sight at this moment, the decision I’m leaning towards seems to be a reasonable one. 

      Still, as I sit and think about it …I can’t help, but feel as if I’ve missed the boat yet again. 

      To simplify, what do we do when we don’t know what to do?  Aside from consulting the bible, and prayer (including adoration)?  I’m doing both, yet God is sitting by silently.  Do I assume that means he’s okay with whatever I decide?  If so, why do I feel guilty?  Guilty that I’m missing the mark again …the search for holiness is not for the faint of heart …this much I know!

    • Claire A

      what a wonderful response! So beautiful when our eyes are opened to the truth.. God bless

  • Becky313

    I’ve not yet read any of his work but the name keeps coming up – a good indication that I need to.  What would you recommend?

    • poetcomic1

        If you are an ordinary layman like me and not a super-theologian, there is only one book of von Balthasar and it is a treasure! – THE GRAIN OF WHEAT,(APHORISMS).  That and von Hildebrand’s LifeGuide and I’m ‘girded for battle’.

  • Alicjadobner

    give all this humbly to Christ and ask like a child of God for His help He will help you in the right time be pecient with yourself God is love and we are just humans God bless

  • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

    Dear Peg – I would contact Becky if I were in your situation. She can be reached at bward_313@comcast.net.

  • Camila

    It is amazing you bring this topic up, especially the idea of blind spots. Recently I have been observing and pondering upon ‘presumption’. This is what I find in researching about it:

    “when one hopes that God, by his power, will grant pardon for sin without true repentance on the part of the sinner. This is what we mean when we refer to presumption as a sin of excess opposed to hope: the expectation of salvation through God’s grace without our co-operation.” (The Christian Life by Francis Cunningham pg. 376)

    the sin of presumption destroys hope in one of two ways:

    ” either by excessive reliance on one’s power to obtain eternal happiness, or by relying on the power of God to give us something which is impossible to give, as to supply forgiveness of sin without repentance.” (pg.377)

    I see the attitude of the later form so often – where people imagine that because, God is so good He will forgive everything and they falsely conclude there is no need to repent and amend one’s life…. this is so dangerous. This is why I love the first step in the ladder of humility of St. Benedict, fear of God. A fear that loves God so much that desires to do God’s will and please God alone, not man nor one’s foolishness.

    Scriptures also talks about blind spots: “sometimes a way seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death!” (Proverbs16:25)

    Thanks for raising the topic of blind spots, soooo important.

    My spiritual director is an amazing instrument of God’s grace, especially in the areas of blind spots.

    • LizEst

      God bless you, Camila.

      Yes, for those who have not yet read Dan’s book “Navigating the Interior Life”, the idea of blind spots is introduced at the beginning of it and is central to the reason why we need a spiritual director.

  • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

    God wants us to ask for help far more than we want to ask for help…

    • Camila

      “Lord, you are good to the soul which seeks you. What are you then to the soul which finds? But this is the most wonderful thing, that no one can seek you who has not already found you. You therefore seek to be found so that you may be sought for, sought so that you may be found.” – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

    • hssuzanne

      Yes, and this is learned in the hardest and most difficult times, due to our stubborn and false humility. At least I have learned this in my personal case. I could read and reflect on all the wonderful books I have in my library, spend hours in adoration, daily mass and holy hour, reflect on all things in my heart and hide my complaints, offering all things up, and still suffer worse, worse, worse until I finally understood what was happening and submit myself. Only then did relief begin to come.
      Very profound, humility, trusting and resting completely in God and asking for others true help in prayer. To note, it is a serious thing to ask someone to pray for you. So many people say they will pray for a person, and do they actually honestly do it? And if they offer prayers, do they do it with a sincere heart, intent on that person? That is a topic worth a thread of its own… When one says “prayers for you” do they really pray or do they forget, just pay lip service etc…
      God will hold us all accountable for every word we speak- I keep that thought in my mind as much as I possibly can, though I know I fail.

  • Jeanette

    When I read the “Dialogue of Catherine of Siena” I was most struck by what you have related that God the Father said to her: “For I could have well supplied you with all your needs, both spiritual and material. But I wanted to make you dependent on one another…” It’s all about unity and love. God is most perfect in His plans for us, isn’t He? Praise be to God!

    This article is very helpful Dan. I printed it off as a reminder for a fruitful spiritual life. God bless you!

  • Elaine

    In addition to everything else said here, remember that there are fallen angels everywhere. St. Pio said if you could see them they would darken the sky (but good angels out number them 2 to 1 – Yeah). They are always looking for ways to trip us up and push our buttons. They are always looking for our weaknesses. One thing that I’ve found to help is to identify what you are feeling: anger? agitation? frustration? self pity? Then whatever you come up with use in this command: “Spirit of (anger), in the name of Jesus Christ I command you to leave and go to the foot of the Cross, where Jesus will do with as He wishes.” I repeat it a couple times sometimes to make sure I am saying it as a command. Then ask God to fill that empty space with His peace. I usually notice immediately that I feel lighter, more at ease.

  • Kelly

    It took me almost three
    years to overcome anger. For me it was two fold..1) result of many years of
    lack of God’s grace 2) pride.

    I started attending daily
    Mass. After every reception of the Eucharist, I begged God to take the anger
    away from me and blast out every part of me that isn’t in His image. I also
    begged Him to take away the spirit of Pride. Anger, for me, stemmed from what
    seemed an injustice done to me. Once humility began to flood my heart, my
    indignation and anger lessened. Furthermore, anytime I fell in to sin
    with anger, I RAN that day to Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation. I
    wouldn’t let the devil stand and accuse me before God on something I was trying
    to get rid of.

    Finally, St. John of the
    cross compared sin to the ringing of the bell. Even when one stops
    ringing the bell, the momentum of it still makes it ring. It rings further and
    further apart in time and will eventually come to a stop. Just when I’d
    go two weeks without an anger burst, it would well up out of nowhere. Then I
    would run to confession..and it would seem I’d be more angry over the next
    week, and then it would subside. Then it became once a month, then once every
    two, etc. Occassionally I get angry but it no longer has a hold on me. I
    pray that you get freedom..it CAN be done with your persistence! As my pastor
    says, “Don’t despair, that is the devil’s game.” May St. Peter,
    a known hot head, intercede for you. In Christ, Kelly

    • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear Kelly, your testimony is powerful. My nickname used to be “Nuke” as in short for “Nuclear”. 100% of the folks close to me today would be shocked to hear that I faced this challenge in the past. I want to join you in affirming that God can and will free us from this and ANY sin as long as we are willing to fight the bloody battle against it as you so valiantly have. God is good. Thank you for the testimony to His love and grace.

    • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

      “As my pastor
      says, “Don’t despair, that is the devil’s game.”

      Oh, Kelly, how I wish that one Priest I once in a while find int he Confessional would understand that. Instead, he berates me that I should be ashamed I keep on going to Confession to confess the same venial sins and imperfections and I am not improving at all. Last time he harshly told me I just take Confession as a routine. He was also angry that I have the temerity to daily receive Holy Communion!!!!. He made me feel like I have been piling Sacrilegious sins each time I go for Confession and receive Holy Communion. What consoled me is what St. Faustina laments of Confessors who do not have insight and do untold damage to the Faithful. So I have decided to just pray for him

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  • allisonricciardi

    Great post Dan. Three things I’d like to add: Once many years ago a friend turned on me in a big way. I was stunned and beyond angry. It was very unjust. But I decided to take Jesus at His word and “Pray for those who hurt you” Now, because I was so angry it didn’t really come from my heart. I was just following orders. I prayed one Hail Mary after another. Over time, the anger just left me and I had compassion on the offender and forgave. We reconciled years later. As horrible as it was, it was a great gift to me to see how Jesus does the work in us when we follow what He says. Second, another time I was very angry (can’t remember at all why now) but I asked the priest after Mass one day to hear my confession. He told me to offer my anger to God. I didn’t get it. He expanded and pointed out that it was making me suffer, so offer it up. Once again, it worked. Lastly, as a therapist, I believe that our emotions give us important information, just as our physical feelings do. If we’re hot or cold or have pain, those feelings tell us that something is wrong or needs to be adjusted. If anger keeps coming up, some therapy aimed at getting at the root of it would be very helpful. Sometimes praying it away doesn’t help because there’s a hurt beneath it crying out for healing. And that’s the ultimate goal with God- to heal us and set us free.

    God bless!

    • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Well said! I agree. There have been times that I have come to the realization that the root of my struggles with others really began with a seed of woundedness in my youth. Sometimes we can’t get to a deeper understanding and thus healing regarding how we react without a therapist to help us with the right questions and coaching.

      • allisonricciardi

        Very true Dan. And the good news is Jesus heals people every day! Don’t be afraid…He loves us…even when we’re angry. :)

    • LizEst

      I’ve had many experiences with continuing to pray for those who have hurt me in some way or other. Usually, it takes some time. But, the most recent, sharp one left me almost speechless…not with the offender, but with the Lord. I had begun to pray for the person in question and for the situation. In about a day, it was all over as the person expressed a form of regret and moved to reconcile. My response to the Lord was one of relief, gratefulness and surprise…but all I could muster was a look heavenward with the word, “Already?” I was utterly awed by how quickly the Lord moved both our hearts. It was truly astounding. Nothing is impossible for God.

      • allisonricciardi

        Amen to that!

    • MarcAlcan

      I would have voted your post up 10 times :-)

  • Jen S

    I haven’t read the other comments but wanted to throw in a thought or two. I too have struggled with a short temper and impatience for many years. I too have prayed over it and wrestled with it, only to make what seemed like no progress whatsoever. I never gave up though and kept trying. Now, finally, in the last year or so, I am finally finding myself making a slow and gradual improvement. One big thing was to get to Confession more regularly. Even if I didn’t have mortal sins to confess, confessing my loss of temper and anger as well as any other venial sins, helped a lot. I can tell now when it’s time to do some “time in the box” again. I start to get edgier and things start to bother me more. Time to get back to Confession!

    Another thing was to take better care of my physical body. I’ve always been a major “chocoholic” – never met a chocolate I didn’t like! Recently, however, I cut way back because I was eating too much and wanted to lose weight. At the same time, I realized that I wasn’t getting angry as often. I went for several months, feeling so proud of myself, thinking, “Wow! I’m really conquering this whole anger thing!” and then, WHAM! I’m yelling at everyone again! Yeah, it was the chocolate. So, make sure you are getting enough rest, enough exercise, and watch out for trigger foods that might be exacerbating the problem.

    Most important – don’t give up! Make a new commitment every day to be better and ask God to help you. When you lose it, ask forgiveness, go to Confession, and move on, trying all the harder the next time.

    Deo Juvante, Jen

    • http://catholiccoffeeklatch.wordpress.com Jen S

      I thought later that I should have mentioned, caffeine and food dyes are a common “trouble food” that often make people more irritable or edgy. I’ve known people who were almost like different people when they stopped drinking that daily Mountain Dew. Again, just thought I’d throw it out there as food for thought.

    • selizabeth

      Amazing, I realized this exact same thing in myself (extreme moodiness) after seeing the worst tantrums from my 3 year old after she ate chocolate.

      • selizabeth

        My spiritual director also said my moodiness was related to my lack of sleep…and that we wouldn’t be exploring anything else until I got that dealt with…that we need to realize we are human and it requires humility to realize that we are so bound to our humanness!

        • http://catholiccoffeeklatch.wordpress.com Jen S

          That is so true. Also, I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of, “If I only say the right prayers,” “If I just sacrifice enough,” “Maybe if I go to Confession 3 times a week.” Those things are important, but we are still human and we do have to recognize when something is affecting us physically, always keeping in mind that we are Temples of the Holy Spirit and it is our responsibility to take care of it to the best of our abilities.

  • JoFlemings

    B vitamin stress complex can help- especially women.

  • MarcAlcan

    I am struggling with a recurring problem with anger that I can’t seem to overcome. I have read books, tried to understand how it surfaces in me, prayed fervently (I am living in a state of grace outside of this problem). But I seem to be making no progress. I am very very very very very very very very frustrated.

    Could this perhaps be something similar to Paul’s thorn in the flesh?
    Could it be that this failing is what is keeping you humble?
    That you are aware of and desire to be loosed from it, to me sounds already like a great grace.

    Perhaps to be aware too, that despite this failing, you are so very tenderly loved by the Lord.

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