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How do you help someone who suffers with severe anger?

October 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Anger, Capital Sins, Fr. Bartunek

Dear Father John, I am a priest providing spiritual direction to a young man suffering with anger problems. He has recently Saul Tries to Kill David by Julius Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld Wikimediareturned to the sacraments. He is frustrated with God that he has asked him to take away this hurtful anger but God has not answered his prayer. Can you offer advice about how to overcome severe habitual challenges with anger?

Anger is the most complex of the human passions. Understanding its underlying dynamism will help give you some light, but first we can begin with some general comments pertinent to this particular case.

When Not to Worry

The young man has recently returned to the sacraments. This means he has recently undergone some kind of conversion; he has repented, turned away from the path leading far from God, and turned onto the straight, hard road leading to greater intimacy with God. The initial turn, the repentance, the conversion, can happen in a moment. But the transformation of behavior – from vices to virtues – rarely happens quickly. Usually, it is a painful and gradual process. But you should be seeing at least some progress right away. For instance, if the young man feels intense contrition (more than before) right away after an angry outburst; if the frequency of his outbursts is decreasing; if the intensity of them is decreasing; if he is able to recover from them, ask forgiveness, and repair the damage more quickly…

His conversion was sincere, and he is now praying and receiving the sacraments, so there should be some sign of progress. If this is the case, I would recommend simply continuing the normal means of spiritual growth, and supporting him closely in this initial stage of his re-version. If he is showing no progress, however, or if his anger issues are even worsening, in spite of his efforts to grow spiritually, extraordinary means may be necessary. To understand what means can be used, we need to understand the internal dynamism of anger.

Why We Get Angry

Anger is a passion of the soul that follows on our experience of some present evil (an injustice, a pain, an attack against our person of some sort) that we judge to be overcome-able. If a present evil is judged to be non-overcome-able, we simply feel deep sadness and painful resignation. But if we perceive that a bad thing is happening to us, and we think that our resistance to that bad thing can actually yield good results, we feel anger, and the feeling of anger moves us to act out against the perceived evil. If someone, for example, is insulting me and causing those around me to think badly of me, I may feel anger if I perceive that I can counteract the insults and turn the tables to save face. And the feeling of anger will move me to retaliate, to defeat the insulting attack.

The Morality of Anger

Anger as a passion of the soul is morally neutral – we just feel it, because we are created that way; that’s how human nature is designed. It becomes moral (righteous anger) or immoral (the sin of anger) depending on how we deal with the feeling. The feeling is meant to be governed by our reason (and as Christians, our reason is meant to be enlightened by our faith). If a coworker insults me unintentionally in a meeting, I may feel anger welling up in my soul. If I choose to let that anger dictate my actions, I may lash out at my colleague, creating a scene, damaging a relationship, and disrupting whatever we were supposed to be working on. That’s uncontrolled, unjustified, disproportionate anger – it is a form of self-centeredness, of sin. If I choose to rein in the feeling of anger through the acts of patience and mercy, I avoid that damaging fallout, and I avoid the sin of anger.

From Sin to Vice

If a person has habitually allowed free rein to their feelings of anger, instead of governing them with reason and faith, they will gradually form the vice of anger: a habitual disposition to commit the sin of anger. Some people have by nature a choleric and stormy temperament, and they have a kind of built-in tendency to fall into this sin and develop this vice. For those people, forming the virtues of patience and mercy (the virtues we use to govern the passion of anger) may be very difficult indeed. And they may spend their whole lives engaging in the struggle. But with God’s grace, they can indeed form those virtues, and if the struggle is particularly hard, they will be crowned by our Lord with particular merit and give great glory to God through their spiritual battle.

If the person you refer to in your question is already showing small signs of improvement in this area, we can assume that he is beginning to grow in virtue, and that this growth will gradually eliminate the vice. But he must persevere. Growth in virtue takes time, effort, and decision, especially if the vice has been deeply rooted for an extended period of time.

Psychological Roots

If he has shown no progress, even though he has tried to improve, then another element may be involved. His anger may not merely be a vice (a habitual disposition to sin which has been formed by repeated, self-centered choices); it may also be a compulsion. Compulsive anger can have mixed causes. It can be linked to a vice, but it can also be rooted in a psychological condition. In such a case, the anger is a kind of defense mechanism. The person in question perceives innocent actions of others as attacks, and responds with angry outbursts – “acts out” in exceptionally unreasonable and uncontrollable ways. This is because there is some wound in his psyche that is festering. Like an infected cut, it is hypersensitive. And so, comments and actions of others that should not be seen as attacks (that are objectively not attacks at all) are perceived as attacks. And the resulting anger is the defense-mechanism; it is shielding a wound that has nothing to do with the specific situations about which the person keeps getting angry.

If this is a habitual situation, and normal means for spiritual growth have not shown any improvement, then a reasonable next step would be to have the person see a dependable Christian counselor or psychologist, someone who can help identify and heal the underlying psychological wound that is really causing the angry outbursts. Here is a link that can help you find Catholic therapists: www.catholictherapists.com. And here is a link that can help you find Christian counselors: Christian counselors in your area.

Spiritual Warfare

There is one more level of complexity that we should mention. If someone has suffered psychologically, and the anger is compulsive, there may also be spiritual forces present exacerbating the wound and impeding it from being healed. The devil’s favorite weapon is lying. And often, psychological wounds are based on lies: “I am unloveable; I will never be loveable…” If an experience of abuse or violent rejection at a young age created a deeply ingrained psychological condition in a person based on lies like this, then the devil can prey on that weakness, exacerbating the self-hatred, exaggerating the lie, and causing the psychological infection, so to speak, to spread. In this case, healing masses and prayers of deliverance can be a helpful complement to solid Christian counseling and a program for spiritual growth.

It is often difficult to identify this type of demonic activity. Personally, I would rarely recommend that someone undergo formalized prayers of deliverance without also having a program of spiritual growth and being involved in adequate counseling. Not everyone would agree with me on this point, I know. The reason I say that is because it is so easy to blame everything on the devil and become obsessed with deliverance, to the point of neglecting both our own capacity to grow in virtue, and also the value of solid psychological counseling. Nevertheless, as a priest, you can offer a prayer of deliverance over someone after confession, and this can have a significant spiritual impact. To find out more about deliverance ministry, this is a good place to start: http://heartofthefather.com/.

As you can see, anger is no simple thing! I promise to pray for the person you are helping, and I ask our other readers to say a prayer for him as well.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published four other titles: "Seeking First the Kingdom", "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions", "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at www.RCSpirituality.org and questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", "Inside the Passion"--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation".

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  • RobinJeanne

    Excellent article on anger. I have read the book “unbound” and been to the 2 day
    seminar/course and it was very, very eye opening and most importantly, healing.
    We are all wounded creature and in need of being unbound from those things that
    keep us from being all the God made us to be. I believe every Christian should
    go through “Unbound”.  Like anything, it’s not an instant fix, but it’s a
    wonderful jump start. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jhdobbins James H. Dobbins

    Very good summary of anger.  Many cases of anger I see, especially in the workplace, are rooted in pride. It is often because things did not go as we wanted them to go. It is almost the adult equivalent of having a temper tantrum, taking your ball and going home.  Pride is the opposite of humility and love, and is often characterized by the absence of self-knowledge.  We know from the writings of St. Teresa of Avila the importance of constantly returning to the rooms of humility and self-knowledge.  Anger feeds on itself, and grows as it feeds.  You can starve it with love. Love also grows the more it is shared.  In the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us in the same way we forgive others.  To be consumed by anger almost precludes forgiveness.  To get over that hurdle takes love, love for the one who angers us, and that love may be expressed by prayer for that person, or for their conversion.  We also need to pray for our own conversion, a conversion in Christ.  The book by Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ, is a marvelous source of wisdom.

  • JoFlemings

    I think this post is the best  brief I have read on this topic. And it is filled with hope, which is very important I think for people who suffer with anger. I want to echo what James Dobbins has said as well, and add a couple of things (stuff that probably still falls in the usual means category). 
    Sometimes, anger directed toward God is rooted in rebellion- ‘I want what I want and I am angry because God is not giving it to me…’ and that can be very complicated when the what-I-want seems to be also ‘what I need’; or the deprivation of the what-I-want seems rooted in a grave injustice or loss. Sometimes anger is a complicated response to a sense of powerlessness that is a side effect of an interior struggle with suffering. In both of these things a radical submission to the will of the Lord, His actual will or His permissive, while constantly reinforcing the reality of His inestimable and constant love for the soul is the thing the person needs to build in their character and understanding.
    So how to really be strengthened in understanding how much God loves us and how everything in our lives is ordered toward our greatest good, when experiencing this form of affliction? 
    God is always faithful to apply the gift of humility to souls He loves. Humility teaches mercy and increases joy, but the soul has to be willing to bend under humility in gratitude- I think most of this is strengthened in a person by repeated acts of the will.  And when we  read the lives of the saints, many of them experienced suffering, deprivation, injustice, things going way differently than they had planned on or envisioned, marginalisation in their professional or personal lives etc.- sometimes in embracing humility we have to have our idea of what that is going to look like reconfigured! :o)
    A couple of other practical points: regular recourse to contemplation of the Passion, especially the scourging at the pillar- where the anger of the Roman soldiers is exhausted in the flayed flesh of God Almighty (Who, with just a flick of an eyelash could reduce us all to dust, but chooses otherwise because He loves us); a silent retreat in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius can illuminate a lot of things regarding any habitual vice, and bring a person closer to God to hear Him speak tenderly to the soul and to give courage; frequent confession (weekly); memorizing acts of faith, hope, and love, and praying them every morning and in the face of  doubt and trial; the same with Sacred Scripture that reinforces the truth to the soul about how much God loves the person; and actively praying for the the cultivation of the gift of the Holy Spirit of piety- profound regard for and patience with the work of God in oneself, and in others. And support from loving and devout friends- the more one experiences the patient and merciful love of friends and in turn develops it reciprocally in those relationships toward others, the more one enacts the virtues that empower him or her to subdue disordered anger. Isolation is not a good thing.
    Last but not least, taking up an athletic activity that involves alot of physical effort- helps work out stresses that can wear out a persons resistance to anger- exercise can help rebuild the interior buffer against catalysts! Alot of words here but I hope some of this is helpful for those who have less access to the direct helps Father mentioned above- I know this is a challenge for alot of people, because so many experience stresses they do not understand or know how to manage.

  • Cecilia

    Thank you, Father for a wonderful explanation regarding this grave sin.  The person experiencing the explosiveness of the results of another’s anger (family history) and then seeing it in one’s personal life is frightening.  However, trying to logically understand the reason one responds to situations in this manner and then to combat it does take the Mercy of God.  For myself, I couldn’t understand the reason for the degree of anger in very minor situations until I entered into the Charismatic movement searching for the healing of debilitating migraines. This began an incredible life changing spiritual journey which led to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, a heightened desire for healing, a yearning for more study on all levels, a deeper prayer life and a great desire for healing throughout my family tree. Over the years we have offered a multitude of Ancestral Healing Masses calling for God’s healing waters to flow over our past generations and into the future lives of our children and grandchildren. God is “out of time” and greatly desires to bring order and His love into our lives by healing our pasts and insulating our futures. The miracles of grace we have witnessed is amazing and only thru the merciful love of God has this been accomplished.  The peace and joy that I experience and live with on a daily basis has been truly worth every moment of grace God has sent my/our way. Thank you……

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  • Guest

    Big conversions seem to come with big crosses.  This can be confusing to someone who has recently received a special grace and knows in the depths of their soul God could heal them, yet they’re allowed to remain the same contemptible creature day after day.  You can feel profoundly loved and ignored at the same time.  I wonder if God is already showing this person the severity of the post-conversion battle in store for them.  God may be teaching submission to His will.  God sometimes holds a mirror up to our ugliness and makes us look many times, or for a good long time, in order to fortify our commitment to choose something better.  I wonder if the suffering that results from this person’s new awareness and having to wait for resolution is a very light penance for the suffering wrought by their anger over the years.  This person may have to learn the intimate details of overcoming this anger in order to serve God’s purposes later on, or so as never to be prideful about their conversion.  No doubt if there is conversion and prayer, the circumstances will bear fruit. It is very hard, though.  I have never understood the faith that seems so easy for other people (not doubting the veracity of their experience).  My experience is where there is God, there is holy joy, peace, thanksgiving, etc. but also much suffering, forbearance, toil and constant pleading with our Lord for more help.

    • LizEst

      That explains a lot.  Those big conversions/big crosses in regards to sinful anger also apply to other sins as well.   Thanks.  Good stuff.  God bless you.

    • Cecilia

      Conversions are basically a healing of the soul. In the physical world the healing of a broken bone or the recovery from surgery, folks seem to understand the need for this period of time needed to take place. However when we move into the spiritual realm, we tend to want instant solutions to occur & we become impatient with the process required. Very often the dis-ease that caused the brokenness or the wound in the soul resulted over a long period of time.  In the same manner, the healing of the soul may need to be healed layer by layer over a period of time. Like an onion, as each layer of disease is removed, tears may pour out & pain may ensue.  At times, Our Lord will heal by “speeding up” this time & we call it a “miracle.” He, as the Divine Physician, knows the perfect treatment needed for each soul.  For some, the need to learn to be His “patient” may take putting more Trust into His healing balm of mercy and His treatment of Confession. We may have lessons to learn in how to live a life without this pain or soul ailment & that can take time.  Its all a journey back to the Father’s house & we all want to arrive in the best of heath.

  • sam

    Pray to St. Francis de Sales. He struggled 4 years w/his temper.In the end he became the meekest man & saint known for this.A most angry man accosted him in him monastery one day because of a perceived injury.He shouted, raved and even threatened as St. Francis de Sales calmly stood against the man’s fury.Having spent his fury on St. Francis de Sales, the man at last left. A young priest who had watched the whole thing, asked St. Francis de Sales his secret. St. Francis de Sales replied: “I was not about to let that man take from me in one instance what it took me 20 yrs to acquire. 

    St. Francis de Sales as he struggled w/himself was also very gentle w/himself as he was w/others. Whenever he fell he would say: well you have fallen into the ditch once again. Let us get up and begin anew. That is how he overcame his impatience and anger. 

  • thieba

    Am currently experiencing an infuriating situation.  This article knew I needed to see it  Thank you for it.

  • PFTM

    If I may dare to offer advice.  Pray the Litany of Humility nonstop throughout the day and beg God with all your heart to set you free – and never stop.  I guarantee that God will come and abide.

    • JoFlemings

      I can guarantee He will immediately answer this prayer! And you are so right it is a really great discipline to acquire!

  • Worried

    My wife left this open for me to see. I have been struggling with anger for years. I almost feel it is a part of me – yet in my remorse I tell her “that man is not me, that is not who I am”. Sometimes everything frustrates and angers me. I deal with so much from supporting my family with a job that I do not love, to helping my wife with the kids and having to come home to a small disheveled house that we’ve out grown. There are mornings I lay in bed and sob to my wife about how I am and what true dreams for our family are. I’d love to just experience joy and laugh and play with my children. I feel I can’t, I feel like I’m in an eternal struggle that I don’t want to be in.

    I confess my anger on a regular basis. I’m almost tired of having to repeat that and my other sins. I’ve gone through several counselors, only one of which helped me somewhat. This article is just what I needed. I will have to read it many times for it to sink in, but I pray it is the start of my release.

    Thank you.

    • Becky313

      I’m praying for you Worried!  The world tells us many lies about what our lives ‘should’ look like.  But we live with the reality of what God has allowed….the present moment is what we can deal with….we cannot do anything about the past or the future today.  Your job feeds your family and puts a roof over their heads….ask God for the grace to be thankful….for your job….for your home…….and most of all for your family.

      This was actually a penance I received once….coming to me from Jesus…through the mouth of my confessor……it has been a real blessing!

      One step at a time.

    • LizEst

      Praying for your, Worried.  It’s good you are confessing your anger.  Keep doing that.  The grace that the Lord gives in this beautiful sacrament will help you…even when you do not fully realize it. 

      Do you have a spiritual director?  If not, I recommend you find one.  Perhaps, the priest who has heard all these “anger” confessions could help or recommend someone.  There are also Catholic counselors who can help, and, again, a spiritual director or priest may be able to recommend someone.

      Finally, you need to find yourself a private place and have that heart to heart talk with God.  You can use strong words with Him, but you may not revile or curse Him.  He already knows what is in your heart.  But, you still need to have the talk with Him you can have with no one else.  Speak frankly, like you would with your wife, or like you would write something in this blog.  God wants to hear your honest prayer.  Find a place where you can say these things out loud to the Lord.  Can’t find a place to do this?  A great place would be your local Catholic cemetery.  It’s peaceful.  And, there will probably be few, if any, people there.  And, you can ask the intercession, or help, of those who have already gone ahead of you to the Lord.

      God’s peace to you.

      • Worried

        Liz

        Thank you for the reply. You are all hitting on good points for me. I’ve realized for a long time that my prayer life is out of balance. Everything is out of balance with my life, mainly due to my work situation. I found myself praying in bed this morning. Just an Our Father and Hail Mary and a little talk with God. Deep down inside, I’m not angry with God. He has blessed me and I know this. Yet, I can end up blaming Him for everything that happens to me – even though I know, again, this is not true. I love God and want to know Him better and serve Him through my life.

        Finding that private place has been tough for me. We’ve been in this house for about 15 years now. It is only about 1400 sq ft and not designed for privacy. We are on top of each other. That was fine when it was me and my wife, then our son – but now with three kids and one on the way it is cramped. We’ve looked at adding on and can’t afford it. We’ve looked at moving and can’t seem to find exactly what we want. It is a never ending circle at times.

        Yet, my anger has always been there. I don’t know what has caused it to stick with me or grow as it has. At times it is becoming rage anymore. All these posts in the forum have given me something to think about and I will be returning to re-read everything and the other replies.

        Thank you for your help.

        Worried

    • JoFlemings

      Worried- sometimes stress can wear your brain chemistry out and there are nutritional courses of action, vitamin and herbal supplements and medicines that can help restore it or mollify it – I know this is not a favorite option but sometimes it is a meaningful option- especially for people who are in a situation that is like the emotional equivalent of not having any more brake pads on your car tires- a physician can walk one through whether or not this is a meaningful course for a reprieve from some forms of stress that manifest as a constant irritability. 
      I am praying for you and your sweet family! Don’t give up!

      • Worried

        Jo

        I did take multi-vitamins and fish oil at one time. I haven’t done this much lately. I stress very easily and it is not helpful that my profession is Sales. This is very stressful to be in this, especially the industry I am in. Is there a website that recommends these supplements or courses to take?

        Worried

    • darice

      Reading 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 every day helped me become more loving and tolerant. 

  • leaves

    “There is one more level of complexity that we should mention. If someone
    has suffered psychologically, and the anger is compulsive, there may
    also be spiritual forces present exacerbating the wound and impeding it
    from being healed. The devil’s favorite weapon is lying. And often,
    psychological wounds are based on lies: “I am unloveable; I will never
    be loveable…” If an experience of abuse or violent rejection at a young
    age created a deeply ingrained psychological condition in a person based
    on lies like this, then the devil can prey on that weakness,
    exacerbating the self-hatred, exaggerating the lie, and causing the
    psychological infection, so to speak, to spread. In this case, healing
    masses and prayers of deliverance can be a helpful complement to solid
    Christian counseling and a program for spiritual growth.”

    So does this mean that the countless times I’ve stood in front of a mirror looking into my own eyes, saying with gritted teeth through pouring tears “no one will EVER love you” … that this is a demon?
    My father told me when I was five that I would never find a husband and I have more than taken it to heart. I’m 35, never married, never even been on a real date. Completely convinced that no one will ever love me and I hate myself. I just don’t see how it could be a demon.

  • Father

    Very good article. I would encourage a slightly different perspective; rather than saying that there might be spirtual (demonic) forces at work, I would say that there are certainly demonic forces at work. For years a “Spirit of Anger” has been permitted to inhabit this person’s life and has made itself at home there; it is deeply rooted and not inclined to leave. The power of Jesus can and will cast out this Spirit, but I would not see deliverance prayers as the primary method (even though they can weaken such a Spirit).
    The first mission of every Christian is, working hand-in-hand with
    Jesus, to conquer his own heart and soul for the Kingdom of Heaven, and so the primary method of deliverance is for this man is to wrestle
    against the Spirit and reject its temptations, steadily cutting off what territory it has access to.
    This is possible with the help of prayer
    and the sacraments, especially frequent confession. I very strongly agree with everyone who recommends humility as the primary path to overcome anger.

  • Srockers

    Dear Leaves, I know what you’re talking about. I, too, suffered emotional and verbal abuse from my parents as a child. Those things can leave deep scares. However, i have come to understand that when those things happened, jesus was with me and though i didnt see Him, He wept. he wept over my pain and sufferings. He wept over yours too. There are a few things I have done that have helped me to heal. I had to learn what forgiveness looks like and then forgive those who hurt me. I also sought counseling. I prayed constantly to the woman with a hemorrhage (from the gospels) because she, too, had an open wound that needed healing. Lastly, I ask Jesus to rebuke those thoughts and feelings that are not of Him. Sometimes I say this over and over if I need to.

  • LizEst

    leaves, you sound like a very intelligent person.  Whatever happened that caused your father to say that doesn’t mean you have to honor this horrible statement of his.  No one really teaches anyone to be a parent.  They, too, carry the scars of their own upbringing and personal experiences with them.  Some types of hurt are passed down over and over, through generations. It sounds like you are working on this.  Do you have a spiritual director?  If not, I recommend you seek one out.  Take every opportunity to avail yourself of all the helps that the Church offers.  You’re right that the healing Masses and prayers of deliverance can help.

    How much Jesus loves you!  Have you considered that, perhaps, Jesus wants you for His bride…perhaps as a religious sister or nun, a hermit….or maybe as a consecrated virgin (contrary to popular misconception, one does NOT have to be a virgin to be a consecrated virgin — the parameters are in the Church’s Canon Law)? 

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I have Asperger’s.  That means I often misinterpret the signals given to me through body language and tone of voice.  This led to bullying when I was younger, which in turn led to severe PTSD, which led to a burden of unreasonable and inappropriate anger.

    It took until I suffered a near mental breakdown from unreasonable anger over 9-11-2001 and the economy immediately following, for me to realize that I was either going to have to deal with the sinful effects or I’d end up in jail.
    I still battle anger nearly constantly- but understanding that it is unreasonable and ineffective helps greatly.

    • JoFlemings

      Bless you! You have a particular cross to carry in these trials- God will provide many many graces by your faithfulness!

  • buckeye pastor

    I would also inquire about this person’s use of alcohol.  In some people even one drink can start to bring vices to the fore that the person normally controls.  And several drinks — stand back.

  • Ralyge

    I like this post, Fr. John. Very balanced and comprehensive.

  • JoFlemings

    That is clearly a lie from the pit of hell. Jesus Christ loves you with a passionate, breath-stealing commitment you can’t even begin to imagine- and every moment with Him is the perfect romance! So, when the idea to hear that lie from hell in your face in the mirror confronts you, you can speak truth to your soul, (you have an obligation to rescue yourself from that lie by way of truth) from Song of Solomon, which God inspired the writer to commit to paper for you, because He was thinking of you when He says: 

    My dove in the clefts of the rock,
        in the hiding places on the mountainside,
    show me your face,
        let me hear your voice;
    for your voice is sweet,
        and your face is lovely.
    And there is so much more- gaze on the crucifix the most beautiful one you can find, I recommend some of the Spanish sculptors- they make some amazing statues of Jesus in His suffering- when you look at that you can know from the depths of your soul that this man, this God, knew you before you were created, and He died for you, every single drop of His blood, poured out for love of you—we can find all we need in this reality. From there you can be who you really are, grow in love and virtue yourself and then give yourself to the world in love as He gives Himself to you, in whatever way He created for you to do that- and you will find that your brothers and sisters in the Lord will know you, and love you unconditionally because they find Christ in you- not because you have earned their love or have some cool configuration of qualities others consider worthy of esteem, but because of who they are in Christ they love you, just as you love them because of who you are in Christ and it is the natural expression of that Truth. But you do have to shake away that stupid lie, like some dust on your clothes or smoke in your eyes- brush it away! And forgive your father as God enables you to- he made a tragic mistake in saying that to you, and he was wrong.

  • Guest

    I hope to see progress one day.  Thinking of myself as wounded rather than pointless , or toxic would also be a ni e victory

  • JoFlemings

    Worried! If you would not mind, because this might not be in concert with the purpose of the site here, can you email me at jcbf19@carolina.rr.com, and I will share with you what I have read, links that might be informative and any other thing I can think of that might help! 

  • Rachel

    I’m late to the discussion, so no one may see my comment.  I appreciate Father’s insights, which produced huge anxiety and, yes, anger concerning situations in my life.    As I prayed about it, the Lord, as He often does, reminds me of Psalm 131 (my memory may not be exact):
            My eyes are not haughty,
            My heart is not proud.
            I do not concern myself with matters too sublime for me.
            No, I have stilled my soul:
            Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
            I have stilled and quieted my soul.
            O Israel, hope in the Lord,
             Now and forever.  Amen.

  • LizEst

    “Lord, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.  Do not abandon me to the will of my foes; malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me. 

    But I believe I shall enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted and wait of the Lord!” (Psalm 27: 11-14).

  • JoFlemings

    I love this psalm! Bless you, Rachel!

  • JoFlemings

    I’m thinking of you today, Guest- as gift and blessing! Think about how God must think of you!

  • LizEst

    Please, please talk to your priest.  You’ve got to get to the bottom of this anger, why it is there and what can be done about it. Unchecked severe anger festers and grows.

    As to your housing situation, talk to him about that, too.  There may be some resources available to you and your wife, to help ease the stress.  Ask the priest to come and bless your house, if you have never done this. 

    You don’t say how old your children are.  Have a family meeting and enlist their help.  How can they help?  By reducing their desire for things and being understanding of the situation.  Children understand a lot more than we give them credit for.  If your anger is as great as you say it is, you probably need to apologize to all.  It’s humbling but you will all feel more like a family.  Try to pray as a family, with perhaps the little ones leading some kind of prayer.  My sense is that this whole situation is pulling at the fabric of your family, the family being the domestic Church.  The devil relishes this. 

    Put your trust in the Lord and seek assistance.  Yes, it’s humbling.  But, God will be with you if you ask Him.

  • NM

    Wonderful article and one to give me plenty to think on as I struggle with my own habitual feelings of anger. Might I offer one further suggestion as well? I have found that my diet plays a huge role. Until I found out I had celiac disease and other food intolerances, my anger seemed disproportionate to the situation and was worsening with each child. I knew I was acting wrong, and I was always repentant after, but still, while it happened I felt out of control and in a way, like a completely different person. Amazingly, once I was diagnosed and changed my diet, one of the first changes I noticed was way less of these outbursts. It did not clear it up completely as I still struggle with the occasional outburst and the habits of anger, but it did make a large impact AND now I feel better able to control myself, to draw strength from prayer and God to overcome the moment.

    Perhaps my experience may help someone. God bless.

    • LizEst

      Wow, NM!  Who would have guessed.  Yes, some of these things can have a physical component as well. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJPSTEVMQAO3LALLJEHDGQTXOI Teresa

      You are right I have celiac disease and too much gluten can send you over the edge. It does mess with tolerance levels. I notice this as well.

  • FrRamil E. Fajardo

    Thanks Fr. John, excellent article!

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

    leaves, my heart cries out for you.  All I can tell you, as I have come late on this Post is that : GOD LOVES YOU.  And that is all you need in this life to join Him in the next. Do not reject yourself anymore. There is no demon controlling your life. Turn to Him, perservere in active Sacramental Life and let God heal you in His own Way at His own Time.  Accept this humble advice from an old woman who has seen a lot along the way up to 74 years.

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

    Worried, at my age, this sentence says it all: “Deep down inside, I’m not angry with God. He has blessed me and I know this. Yet, I can end up blaming Him for everything that happens to me – even though I know, again, this is not true. I love God and want to know Him better and serve Him through my life.”.  

    I would like to underline “He has blessed me and I know this”….now you have a stressful job, the house is too small for you now with three kids. Just ponder that there are those who have no job and are desperately looking for just a single baby and none is forthcoming after, oh, 12 years of marriage.  Yours is justified rage. You feel you should be able to give more to your Family.  You feel as a Father you are a failure.  Oh, the Evil One loves that feeling to haunt you until you begin to hit your head to the wall.  Do not give him that satisfaction.

    God is down there with you, Worried. Try to contemplate that Joseph and Mary were living in a One-room shack with Baby Jesus.  God, the Almighty, the Creator all that is seen and unseen was brought up in a One-roomed shack.  And Joseph was content, and thankful for what God had decreed would be his life.

    All I can advise you is to stop beating yourself into a pulp. You will be surprised when I tell you, emphatically, that God is very pleased with your feeling of inadequacy because you cannot give your wife and kids a better life.  From what you write I conclude you are a young Father…..well, this is an advice from an old 74-year widow these 19 years with grown-up daughters.  We did not have much with my Angel husband….we married very young, came to the Capital City of Kenya during the difficult time of the State of Emergency. Independence came and we both got relatively modest jobs and were able to bring up and educate our four children.  I shall give you the Cardinal Rule of Life which my husband  of 37 and a half years had.  As long as we have a roof over our head, and are able to give our kids at least one square meal a day, we shall leave the rest to God.  And he was absolutely right. God took care of us all.  We were  able to put our children through College without any help. When our only son fell sick, it was hard and painful but again, we agreed, God knew why He had to strike the only son He had given us.  A brilliant boy full of life with a promising future ahead of him was sent into “Limbo” for 14 long years and the last three years before his death I took care of him alone, Daddy having died on 22nd January, 1994.  My son followed him on 22nd December, 1996.

    So, Worried, surrender everything to God and let Him give you the Gift of Discernment to know His Will for you each day and pray for the Grace and strength to fulfill that Will.  Live one day at a time.  Be faithful to your Sacramental Life and slowly God will give you Peace of Mind to accept the adversities of your life with serenity, offering them all to Him with Thanksgiving that He has found you worthy to share the hardships of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

    I hope my humble advice will give you some hope, Worried.  We should try to view life as God views it and not as the world views and expects from it.

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

    Having come late on this one, thank you, Father John, for your explanation of what anger is and how to deal with it.  The Respondents’ comments are so educative and Faith-building as usual. The reason why we love this Website. 

    All I can say in short, is that surrendering to God’s Will helps one to deal with nearly all the adversities we daily meet in life.  I read of the person who has been helped greatly by the Charismatic Experience – though the statement of a “Second Baptism with the Holy Spirit” baffles this Cradle Catholic. I was taught that the Holy Spirit is infused into a soul upon Baptism and there is Only One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins as we pray in the Creed.  That aside, as a Eucharisitc Apostle of the Divine Mercy, I have grown tremendously Spiritually and this Website has been invaluable to me and I share it with my fellow Apostles.Yes, reading the lives of the Great Saints one realizes the Indispensable Economy of Suffering in the Salvation Mystery.  To be a Disciple of Christ is to take one’s cross every day and follow Him.  The road to Eternal Life is through pain, hardships and adversities of every kind through which God’ moulds us and we grow through self-knowledge and self-conquest. Humily, and ever Humility is the Cardinal Virtue we should pray for every day.

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJPSTEVMQAO3LALLJEHDGQTXOI Teresa

    Hello father and the other priest hello father, I know from experience how anger is indeed an expression of hurt. I suffred different abuse and traumatic situations, physical, sexual, and. Spiritual abuse. I have to fight with the temptation of anger constantly and it is rather embarrassing bringing it up in confession in which I feel God surely won’t forgive me. Does this gentleman have other issues besides anger. I do I deal with feeling abandoned by my biological father and I feel I am the blame for everything and I feel I am predestined to hell at times. So intense I asked the Lord to take my life. I frequent the sacraments confession Eucharist weekly and adoration , and I have spiritual direction I also go to catholic counseling. When you are in the storm you are in the storm. My anger turns to deep sorrow and contrition. I am in the habit of saying the act of contrition Offten several times a day. I see anger in others I become hyper sensitive and panic. I would like to know how to stay in the grace of God. I am worried I am making God angry by my anger I have inside. I do suffer from PTSD and so I am dealing with alot. I have the habit of holding the benedict crucifix when angry or in panic it is blessed and it seems to help, yet anger is upon my soul and I confess it over and over again. Am I turning Luke warm! Meaning why do I fall into the same thing. It seems I can not control it. I can understand what the gentleman feels there are times when there is un controllable anger. This may be his cross and mine as well to live constantly with anger. Oh how much time is wasted on anger when can be used for love of God and neighbor. I too ask for prayers to be strong and persevere and to be open to God’s grace. I am praying for the gentleman who is dealing with anger too.

    • Becky Ward

      Dear Teresa,

      If you are confessing the same things over and over again you are not getting to the ‘root’ of the problem.  What makes you angry?  Lack of control?  Being taken for granted?  People not listening to you? 

      I have an example. I used to fly into a rage if I went to get a pot or pan, or another kitchen item and it wasn’t where it belonged.  I would literally slam doors, yell and swear about lack of consideration on the part of my husband (or child) who dared to help me in the kitchen but not put things where they belonged!!!  I knew it was not rational…..I hated myself for it…but I couldn’t seem to stop until I began to pray and ask God what was behind my behavior.  It was control.  I too have been abused….we were poor, etc. and I had few places in my life where I had any control.  My home was one place that I thought I should be able to have things ‘my’ way.  Yet it was crazy!!!  I would have preferred that the dishes pile up or clothes not be washed, rather than to be done ‘wrong’.  This is not of God.

      When I finally learned what was causing me to explode, I was able to pray about it, and slowly I began to change.  I stopped yelling.  (I still slammed doors, but I would go to the bathroom and mutter under my breath….and pray, until I calmed down.)  Then I began to lift a prayer of gratitude to heaven for my husband’s willingness to help.  It was difficult at first…….I wasn’t completely sincere….but it got easier.  Now…..I’ve told him that it frustrates me, and he often asks where things go, and when he puts something in the wrong place, I know it is the devil tempting me to grab for control again…..and I just pray, and ask my husband where he put my dishes!!

      Now I have given God control…….and I get better at dealing with the uncertainty He allows in my life every day.

      I’ll be praying for you!

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJPSTEVMQAO3LALLJEHDGQTXOI Teresa

        The anger is not any of those it is a sudden displaced anger. It is difficult to explain but I have had it since a child. Battled with it for years. Learned to not act out on it. It comes out in thought. Now other people’s anger is triggering it so I am more in trouble with it. My confessor says the anger I feel is uncontrollable that to stay close to the sacraments confession Eucharist and pray. Anger that is displaced with be a sudden attack especially during prayer or other activities when I have no valid reason to be angry. Anger has not been such a huge issue until I have deepen my relationship with God. It at times seems tense. With the anger comes despair. I avoid anything that expresses or shows anger or conflict in order to not have triggers. But other people’s anger sets this displaced anger and so it’s a battle. It does not make sense at all. I learned to trust in God and maybe he wants me to be humbled by these episodes of displaced anger. The root of anger lies in a lot of PTSD related to abuse, and trauma. This is what I am told. The devil is however creative with anger. Thanks for your prayers.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJPSTEVMQAO3LALLJEHDGQTXOI Teresa

    This is reassuring to know. I do believe humility is the virtue that helps rid anger. I cringe when I realize just how much anger has caused a disconnect with God and others along with other sins. I know also confessing temptations as well as sins of anger are a tremendous help. The newest dilemma is dealing with anger of others without being triggered to anger. Are there any reccomendations. Anger that the devil does intensify like I said in his creative ways have a hold on me since I was first sexually abused. I understand the anger is the struggles of the helpless child and later as teen who suffred abuse again and as an adult who suffred abuse again. It is that little child who cries out anger with herself. Most people who are angry are angry more at themselves. Realizing this many battles of dealing with this is not easy. Confession a sacrament which allows opportunity of humility to grow and to flourish. I am in the habit of bringing up anger as a root sin in confession. I am also aware I can cause others to be angry at me and particular one person in which even that I confess. I can not emphasize since I been having frequent confessions one a week it has helped me to control my anger and recognize it a lot quicker before it gets out of hand in my mind my thoughts as well as in my actions. Now how do we deal with other peoples anger?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJPSTEVMQAO3LALLJEHDGQTXOI Teresa

    You indeed have a cross to bear as to I I have had or still have the same thoughts as you do. However we have first Jesus who loves us. I would not worry about dating once you learned to love yourself as God loves you or try to come close to it. Gods love attracts other to you. The truth is with out Gods grace no one we could possibly love and no one could possibly love us. Love comes in different ways. Dating is not the only way of being loved. A pet such as my bird helps fills the maternal void because I can not have kids. I also became a CNA and worked with the elderly to help use my maternal love that God has given me. I was told I was going to hell Offten and I live with such a memory and sometimes I believe it but then I remember or rather God the merciful and loving father in which I never had a true father he reminds me he loves me unconditionally and so maybe I do deserve hell but he wants me to himself . At times I hate myself and I wanted to just someway express this hate I too believed I am no unnormal and who could love me. As soon as I left this in Gods hands I felt I was already loved by going to confession you can not help but to feel love by the Eucharist recieving it God into our hearts how intimate is that. These thoughts and feelings help chase the devil way as well as prayer, fasting and counseling, spiritual direction. Don’t fall prey to the devil lies. Lord let us not fall prey to the devils lies rather let us look up towards the Mercy and Love let us look up instead of down to the Eucharistic presence in our lives. Look upon us sinners Lord. Heavenly father we your sons and daughters cry out to you let us not be distant from your grace and have mercy on us sinners your children and on the whole world. Let us persevere in your love and mercy. amen. My prayers are with you always.