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Conquering Anger

by Brant Pitre August 19, 2021 0 Comments

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Dr. Brant Pitre gives some insight regarding conquering anger in your life. Subscribers to Dr. Pitre's Mass Readings Explained can find the full video here:


What about just the moral side of it? There’s another line from St. Gregory the Great, and I’ll end with this. When Paul talks about the virtues that Christians are called to of kindness and gentleness and forgiveness toward one another, St. Gregory the Great gave some really great practical advice about how to live that out. So you might think, “Well, Dr. Pitre, it’s nice for Paul to say I need to be kind and tender, but I’m German. I’ve got a German temperament. I’ve got a short fuse. What do I do? What are some practical ways to strive to grow in the virtue of patience, tenderness, and kindness towards others?”

Well, Gregory the Great wrote a little book called Morals in Job. This is not all of it. This is just the only volumes I have. There are a couple more. It’s actually a massive commentary on Job. It’s one of the first great works of moral theology in the history of the Church, so what Gregory did is he walked through the book of Job, but he did a moral exposition. He would allow the verses of Job to kind of inspire him to give these various reflections on morality in the Christian life. So the book is called Moral Reflections on the Book of Job. And you’ll sometimes just see it called Moralia in Job — that’s the more traditional title.

In any case, in book 5, paragraph 81 in the Morals of Job, Gregory gives us this advice, so listen to this holy, holy pope. He says:

[One] way to retain an even temper is that when we notice the transgressions of others, we may recall our own sins and transgressions against them… Just as fire is extinguished by water, when anger rises in the mind, all should remember their own guilt, because we should be ashamed not to forgive sins when we remember that we have often sinned against God or neighbor and needed forgiveness.”

I’ve mentioned elsewhere about how we so easily forget Jesus, and when we forget Christ dwelling with us, we tend to sin. Gregory is saying the same thing about our own sin. We, especially if you’re inclined to harbor grudges, if you harbor grudges, that means you remember other people’s sins very well. How well do you remember your own? Or do you forget about those? Do you accuse others and excuse yourself? That’s a great recipe for always being angry, because if you call to mind your own sin, you’ll tend to be more merciful toward those who sin against you.

And so what Gregory is saying here is, when someone sins against you, when someone makes you angry, try to take a pause and remember the times you have sinned against that person. And when that does, like water can extinguish a fire, so too the memory of your own sin can extinguish the fire of anger that’s starting to get kindled in the heart. St. Frances de Sales says this … don’t even let the fire — don’t let it get started. Put it out immediately, because like gasoline, the flame of anger grows fast and it spreads quick. And once it’s raging, it’s much harder to get it under control than when it’s just getting started. Which if you’ve ever played with fire or built a fire, you know what I’m talking about. Anger is that way.

So the way to douse it at the beginning is when someone sins against you, as soon as they sin against you, call to mind something that you’ve done against them in the past, and it’ll help to extinguish it. Because we need to remember and not forget — we should be ashamed, actually, he says — not to forgive people when as Paul says:

… God in Christ forgave you.

Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


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