Anger - a strong emotion; a feeling that is oriented toward some real or supposed grievance; A strong
feeling of displeasure or hostility.
Middle English, from Old Norse angr, sorrow.
Monastic spirituality initially teaches that we need to be adept at wise puzzlement because partial truths can quickly
and absolutely lead to blindness.
Thoughts of anger arise in all of us. They are sometimes frequent, habitual and even
uncontrollable. According to the desert monks, anger is learned and can be unlearned. The tradition also tells us that we
cannot act rightly or justly or wisely out of angry feelings. Anger is always, always an obstacle to prayer. Letting go of
angry thoughts and feelings takes time and it is a journey with passages.
Anger is a form of blindness. Because it
is a form of blindness we try to let go of all anger because blindness is blindness. It is good to be encouraged by Teresa
of Avila's observation that slow progress is sure progress.
In this monastic tradition, there are six traditional ways
we can let go of angry thoughts and feelings. The first thing needed is "vigilance." Angry thoughts always get stronger if
we don't try to let them go. When an angry thought comes to us, all our thoughts will silently feed on it. We try not to let
anger visit us even for a moment.
Three other things they help us root out anger are "reconciliation, " "memory," and
"solitude." It is sometimes very hard if not impossible to reconcile ourselves or reach out to someone we have harmed. The
monastic tradition tells us we will not have peace unless we have "reconciled" ourselves to those we have harmed or are seriously
trying to reach out. The "memory" of old angers and having thoughts of retaliation must be let go of or at least be worked
on. People who are angry often choose solitude or a distancing from the object of their anger. This does not work. The anger
doesn't go away and in fact it starts to direct itself to other things. Monastic "solitude" is tough work. With anger It means
we must face ourselves and the honest reasons for our anger.
This monastic tradition reminds us of our "freedom." We
are not responsible for angry thoughts when they intrude themselves on us. They will sometimes intrude themselves often and
sometimes very strongly. However we are free to not dwell on them and to try to reject them.
Lastly monks tell us about
"recollection. " Very simply this is our attempt to be present to ourselves and to be ready to listen and pray.