The Se7en Deadly Sins: Anger

Posted: Jul 15, 2006 4:22 PM
Anger is the third of the seven lethal peccadilloes. Anger is a no-duh obvious and brutal vice. When this sin has a hold of your short and curlies you won’t be able hide it like you can pride or envy or porn addiction. This offense, as Madonna would say, wants to “express its self,” and when it does—the person saddled with this slop, those it’s unleashed upon and the general populace that’s unfortunate enough to be standing by this bunk will all pay retail for someone’s wrath.

Now, when I talk about the deadliness of anger, indignation, rage, wrath, going Rosie, whatever you want to call it . . . I’m not talking about the natural ebb and flow of our emotions. Heating up is not always evil and deadly.

For example: my wife’s Italian. She’s very passionate. She feels deeply about everything. If she sees a starving orphan from Africa on TV, she’s flying off to Namibia with a case of granola bars in tow to try to feed and then adopt the baby.

On the other hand, when I repeatedly pee on the toilet seat, go hunting for 22 weeks out of the year, smoke a cigar in her closet, leave dead bait in her SUV, or say the wrong thing while she’s trying on a dress—God help me! I had better run for my life, because the same passion she shows in saving a kid will manifest in attempting to sever my head (You’ve gotta love Italian women!). The cool thing about my hot wife is that these deep feelings don’t bring on disasters. Her justifiable anger at my antics does not end in my destruction.

Anger turns ugly when it latches onto to the will. Os Guinness says that, “Anger becomes a deadly sin . . . when the will is directly responsible for the rise and expression of the emotion.” Where the person starts going over to the dark side with anger is when the person (or party or religion) intentionally incites and directs unjust indignation to the end that his opponents are marked for destruction.

The classic over-correction to sinful anger is never getting PO’ed at anything any longer, which is sinfully Pollyanna-ish. Look, if something is evil, goofy, unjust, uncalled for and blatantly bogus, the sane person is supposed to get wound up. This type of understandable anger is not wrong—it is righteous. To not get ticked off when God and common sense calls you to is to assist wicked jack asses by sitting on your kum-ba-yah be-hind.

Where anger goes south is when it blows through the roadblocks of the love of God, the love of your neighbor and the good sense of your brain. When wrath hits this boiling point it is too powerful for the punk, party or people harboring such hatred, and it is here that the ramifications become rancid.

So, how do we know whether or not we’re being a conduit for hell’s wrath to be spewed out on our friends, our family or the masses? Os Guinness states that there are five typical skid marks that denote the bad kind of anger. They are:

1. The contribution of the will to our flipping out. (Already covered above)

2. The wrongness of the motive. The motives for anger are varied, but often tied to a sense of impotence in the face of entitlement, or self-pity. Entitlement-provoked anger rehearses to itself . . . “I deserve thus-and-such. It is owed me. If I cannot have it, I will become angry and, in my anger, find a way to get it.” Self-pity, in contrast, mulls over and over: “This should not be happening to me. I don’t deserve it. I’m angry and I’m not going to take it.” In either case, a purely self-consumed motive leads beyond the self to inflict its anger on others.

3. The third feature of anger—its uncontrollability—is central to understanding the deadly sin. As Henry Fairlie wrote in the ‘70’s, the reason why extremists and revolutionaries always corrupt and betray their own faith is “the wrath they will not check.”

4. The fourth feature, the desire for revenge, is also central to anger, as either an incitement or an outcome. However an insult or injury is perceived, anger simply wants to “get back” at the perpetrator. As a result, prolonged anger becomes a perverted desire for justice that grows into an obsessive rage and finally into hatred. No longer a thunderclap, it becomes a stoked furnace of potentially terrible destruction.

5. The final feature of anger is that, at its very worse, anger becomes contempt. Unlike the “quick trigger” of a hot temper, contempt is a kind of studied degradation of another. It is a complete denial of his or her worth. In anger there is a desire to hurt; in contempt, the perpetrator doesn’t care whether the other is hurt or not—he or she is not worth such a moment’s consideration. It is possible to be angry with someone without denying his or her worth. Holding others in contempt, however, makes it easier to hurt or degrade them again and again.

So, what do the anger-challenged do? Well, unless you want your life, your party or your religion to be tagged as an example of someone/something that’s been warped via wrath, I’d chill out. That is, also, unless you want to eternally slow roast over Slewfoot’s spit with Zarqawi, Hitler and Mussolini. Relax.

If you want to be rid of the rage that’s unrighteous then accompany me in my madness as I go to Christ, study His example and ask His divine assistance. Somehow, He was able to get PO’ed without being petty. He freaked out on people without becoming a foul person, and He cleared a tainted temple without becoming some glazed eyed al Qaeda rep with a ZZ Top beard.

Christ’s remedy for wrath, in the Sermon on the Mount, is not weakness but “meekness” and “peacemaking.” Y’know, I hated these words for a long time, or at least the way the neutered pastors had spun them. Meekness, the way I had heard a lot of evangelical Nancy’s preach it, meant you were to be a Christian wuss, and peacemaking meant you were to view insane BS and then hug the perp or just simply walk away. This is an effeminate evangelical mangling of the SOM memo Jesus sent several centuries ago.

The weak ones, in Christ eyes, are those who go ape-poop in uncontrolled anger, hold petty and deadly grudges and cannot be the big boy or girl and find a higher road in the midst of their rage.

The meek and the peacemakers, whom Christ cheers on, are not the people addled with inferiority, impotence, entitlement and general ego icky-ness that usually accompanies the anger addled. The meek are strong, solid and secure people who choose righteous restraint when everything within them wants to steam roll their enemies.

So how do we pull restraint out of our hat when we’d liked to unleash the beast on those who’ve wounded our wittle sense of self? The meek and the peacemakers are tapped into the revelation that no matter how much a person might suck, he’s still valuable because he’s human. And since the person who sucks is made in God’s image, no matter how hard it is for the meek/peacemakers to currently see that fact, they will walk the second mile with him.

The meek and the peacemakers are not like the thumb sucking rage-o-holics, full of ill will and venom, who see no intrinsic value in those that offend them and thus have no problem in seeking their demise.

If the meek person has to sort someone out, he will do this after all other efforts have been exhausted. The forbearance, grace and patience that the peacemaker carts will extinguish the unrighteous anger flames. This allows him to fulfill the biblical maxim when it comes to dealing with that which must be dealt with: namely, by being angry and sinning not.