Diffusing Anger

In his book Christian Patience, Archbishop Ullathorne discusses the nature of anger. He writes: “Anger is not a movement of power, but a weak affection of nature destructive of power, although the angry man mistakes it for power, and at the time revels in it with a sense of satisfaction, as if it were a triumph of strength.” And, speaking of temper, he adds: “Quick temper has a double sting; it stings the heart and stings the tongue.”

“One has seen from Alpine heights a little white cloud down in the valley below, which, unless some wind blows it away, will rapidly swell and grow until the whole region is enveloped in mist, fog, and rain. So is it with the first little cloud of trouble and discontent that moves in our lower nature: the breath of patience will disperse it, but if left to itself it will quickly grow on what it feeds, and will envelop and feed the soul with anger and vexation. For anger is a brooding vice that feeds on sensitive self-love and imaginary wrong far beyond the original offence, if indeed offence has been given.”

Anger also tends to blind a person: “When a man is filled with the impatience of anger from head to foot, he will tell you that he was never more calm or self-possessed in his life. He mistakes the equable balance of excitement and disturbance throughout his system for calmness and self-possession.” Hence, Ullathorne states that anger cannot be surmounted by human reason: “To reason with anger is to show a light to the blind; it is taken for reproach, and will only increase irritation.”

However, he does suggest a way to diffuse anger: “Mild looks and gentle words subdue the fire of wrath as with a spiritual charm, and will save us from catching the contagion. If you can follow this up with benefits, you will overcome evil with good. In mastering yourself you will master evil as well.”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Sayings of Catholic saints and sages: spiritual food for meditation and reflection.
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