Word for Word 2/27/19

Fr. Mark Osterhaus
Fr. Mark Osterhaus

Anger Can Be a Good Thing?
Our gospel passage for our Sunday Mass recently was this teaching of Jesus:  “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.” I don’t think there is a more challenging instruction in the Scriptures than that!

Today we are often encouraged to protect ourselves by by separating ourselves from those others who hold opposing opinions and worldviews from our own. Today our anger and lack of trust in people and institutions can be stoked by a variety of sources. In way too many cases, anger has led to violence.

As I considered this gospel teaching, I was also thinking of an article I had recently read in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “Why Are We So Angry?”. The article was written by Charles Duhigg.  The author makes several interesting points, including that expressing one’s anger is often an important step in making bad situations BETTER! This surprised me, since when I am confronted by my own anger, I am often embarrassed and repentant.  Duhigg writes, “ (At times) the expression of anger can result in all parties becoming more willing to listen, more inclined to speak honestly, and more accommodating to each other’s complaints.”  There is a certain kind of righteous anger, for example, that can actually improve situations where people have been treated unjustly.  Anger, however, also has its dark side. There can be great damage when the expression of anger leads to a desire for punishment of the opposing person or even violent revenge.

The teaching of Jesus in Luke 6:27-38 can encourage the honest expression of emotion, and the greater willingness to listen to the injustice others experience which Charles Duhigg describes.  After Jesus commands “Love your enemies”, he adds, “Stop judging, and you will not be judged. Stop condemning, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

These are the attitude adjustments we need to make if we are to work for the greater good.   When it comes to anger, we have a choice. We can transmit the anger, and remain in our tribes, behind a protective wall. Or we can transform the anger, by a desire to listen and keep the hope alive of accepting as potential allies those we once thought of as enemies.

Fr. Mark Osterhaus
Catholic Parish Pastor
Waukon, Hanover, Dorchester


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