Tag Archives: meekness

Anger Management

6 Sep

Why is anger considered a deadly sin? After all, didn’t Christ Himself get angry at times?

Anger is unique and tricky because it is both a capital, or “deadly” sin (gravely evil) and also a passion (morally neutral, or even amoral). All human beings have passions, feelings, and emotions. The passion of anger is rightly directed toward perceived evils, and the better formed we are the more our emotional response of anger will be calibrated rightly.

For example, a saint would be angered by sin; one with less virtue might be angered by having to wait an extra minute in a shopping line. But the intellect and will must call the shots, not the anger–otherwise, we will move from passion to sin. That’s why it’s often important to cool off–if necessary and if circumstances allow–before responding to a perceived evil or injustice.

The passion of anger can and must be put to good use. We have a duty to resist evil, and so the lack of passion is a defect insofar as it would lead us to indifference toward sin.

How we deal with our anger matters greatly. Any evil that comes our way must be opposed righteously–always with the goal of fostering the salvation of souls and never to exact revenge. The crosses, abuses, and frustrations that provoke us to anger are the very stuff of our salvation. That doesn’t mean we must become doormats. However, when we seek legitimate redress we must unite ourselves more completely to Christ and gratefully welcome these opportunities to grow in grace and virtue through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Above all, we should pray fervently for those who cause us to become angry. Having a godly attitude toward them won’t necessarily change them (though it might), but we’ll find that these prayers will change us, softening our hearts but not our minds.

Our Lord was like us in all things but sin. Therefore, He experienced the passion or emotion of anger, but He never committed the sin of anger. Meekness is the virtue opposed to anger, and Jesus said, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt. 11:29).

For more on the virtue of meekness, which moderates the passion of anger, click here.

Blessed Are the Meek

15 May

At first glance, meekness may be the most unattractive Christian virtue. Today, many people think of “meekness as weakness,” the antithesis of the “holy” self-assertion that enables us to get our own way. We picture a meek person as a wimp or doormat, not as a virile, Christian man.

Yet, those of us who are serious about following the Lord and growing in Christian virtue know that the Bible presents a different image of meekness. Our faith extols meekness not only as a desirable virtue, but also as a beatitude and fruit of the Holy Spirit. Moses, who boldly delivered an entire nation from bondage, is described in Scripture as the meekest of men (Num. 12:3).

Surely Jesus Himself embodied all the virtues, but when it comes to meekness, there can be no doubt. He says, “Learn from me; for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt. 11:29). Not only is Our Lord meek, but He also expects us to imitate His meekness. This message is for everybody, but in a special way it goes out to today’s men, for whom meekness sadly is a rare commodity.

Anger Management

We can often come to a richer understanding of words by examining their roots. Virtue (in Latin, virtus) is derived from the Latin word vir, which means man. Virtue, therefore, has historically been understood as implying a manly strength.

Meekness, sometimes used interchangeably with “gentleness” in biblical translations, comes from the Greek word prautes, meaning “not easily provoked.” This in turn comes from praus, which refers to a highly spirited trained horse. Such a horse has become so gentle and mild that a child may pet it or ride on its back. But the more important thing is that the horse no longer thrashes about wildly, but rather has been trained to take direction. The strength of the noble steed has been harnessed for good, not forfeited. Similarly, a harnessed river can generate power, and a harnessed or “meeked” fire can heat a campsite. Meekness, even in its etymology, has always implied harnessed strength, not weakness.

Applied to the human virtue, meekness implies an openness to God that allows Him to act through us, particularly at those times when our fallen nature might lead us to thrash about wildly. Meekness indeed involves a certain gentleness toward our neighbor, but it primarily applies to our relationship with God, as we daringly acquiesce to His harnessing of our gifts and talents for our own good and the good of His Church. Continue reading

Virtue on the Mount

10 May

In contemplating Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), one section that has really struck me is the part known as the “Six Antitheses”–the series of six statements by Our Lord that begin “You have heard it said . . .” followed by “I say to you . . .” These curious statements are found in Matthew 5:21-48.

There are many ways of looking at this passage. What really strikes me is that Jesus, in coming to fulfill the law and not abolish it (Mt. 5:17), is having us move from mere adherence to negative moral rules and precepts (“thou shall not . . .”) to the cultivation of the opposite virtues. Jesus’ words do not contradict what the people have been taught all their lives, but rather gives the motive and–through the gift of the Holy Spirit–the power to strive for a holiness and righteousness that exceeds the mere observance of the law (cf. Mt. 5:20).

So, let me summarize the “Six Antitheses” from the viewpoint of virtue development:

(1) You have heard it said that you shall not kill. Our Lord tells us to foster the virtue of meekness.

(2) You have heard it said that you shall not commit adultery. Our Lord tells us to foster sexual purity and the virtue of chastity.

(3) You have heard it said that you shouldn’t divorce and remarry. Our Lord tells us to foster marital fidelity.

(4) You have heard it said that you shouldn’t take a false oath. Our Lord tells us to foster the virtue of honesty.

(5) You have heard it said: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Our Lord tells us to foster the virtues of forgiveness and generosity.

(6) You have heard it said: “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Our Lord tells us to foster the virtues of charity and solidarity with all, especially with those who are most difficult for us to love.

In other words, we are called to be perfect, as Our Heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt. 5:48). We’re not there yet, and we’ll never get there on our own, but with God all things are possible. He not only shows us the way to happiness in the Sermon on the Mount, but also gives us His very life in the sacraments so we can get there.