Anger: good or bad?

Matthew 5: 20-26
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When I was young I used to play a game called “Don’t get angry”.  For many of us it seems like the name of this game describes our motto for how we approach the issue of anger.  We believe that we simply cannot get angry.  Is this really true though?  Is it bad to be angry?  When does anger become a sin?

It is important to understand that the emotion of anger is not a sin.  At first I had a hard time appreciating this until someone asked me once, “did Jesus ever get angry”?  I had to concede that in fact Jesus did get angry, for example when He cleansed the temple.  The emotion of anger is normal.  We should feel angry sometimes.  Anger is the natural reaction to a perceived injustice.  When we see injustice in the world, such as Jesus did when He saw how people were treating the Temple, the house of God, we should feel angry.  There are moments in our life when it is important to feel angry and we should not suppress this emotion.  In fact, if we went through life never feeling angry, then something would probably be wrong.  To feel angry at times can be a good thing and is not necessarily sinful.

The emotion of anger becomes problematic when it leads to hatred.  There is an appropriate way to deal with anger.  First we want to be sure that what we are angry about is truly an injustice.  If it is not, then perhaps we need to adjust our attitude.  If there is truly an injustice, the correct thing to do is to work to rectify the injustice.  Often, however, we deal with our anger in a destructive way, transforming it into hate.  When this happens, this normal and healthy emotion is transformed into a serious sin against charity.  In today’s gospel Jesus is speaking strongly against this.  Often we become angry at someone and we call them names, we speak badly about them or we are unforgiving.  When we respond to anger in this way, it is harmful and sinful.  Such uncontrolled anger, especially when it leads to desires for revenge, destroys peace.  When we deal with anger inappropriately, it leads us away from God and is sinful.

Today’s Gospel is invites us to reflect on how we respond to feelings of anger.  We need to find a balance.  Thinking that we should never get angry is not a Christian attitude.  The emotion of anger should lead us to take positive action to rectify injustice.   Is this the case in our life?  Let us look at our life and see if there are particular relationships are circumstances in which our emotions of anger lead us to hate or seek revenge.