Monday, February 10, 2014

Can I Stop My Anger?

I have a dear friend who confided in me that sometimes she worries about her anger.  Sometimes her friends or relatives --- or even me --- do things that make her mad, and perhaps even deeper, hurt her.  (If you are married, surely there must have been days when you felt the same.)  Sometimes her bosses or co-workers don’t respect the good work she does, her dedication, or the wisdom of her analyses and recommendations --- or they can’t see beyond the arrogance of their own thoughts.  “They just don’t get it!”  And sometimes it’s even strangers, who offer her poor service or charge her way too much or just delay her day, and her anger rises up:  “Learn to drive stupid!”  (Um, you may recall when I confessed here my own frustrations about a slow driver --- and how I discovered his slow driving may have saved me from a serious accident.  I understand my friend’s frustrations.)
There seems to be many things which anger my friend, and she confided that her anger angers her!  And so we talked some about this difficult topic --- trying not to get angry as we recalled the things which made us angry.  For whatever reason, at the time of our discussion (okay, perhaps it was the wine) I had forgotten my own cure for MY anger, the cure which made the most difference in my life, lessening my anger.  It was a cure I stumbled across one day --- or truly, perhaps God gave it to me when I needed it most.
Before I say it, let me first state something which is obvious if you think about it:  When you are angry, you are feeling that someone or something has somehow belittled you.  They disrespected your value somehow:  your dedication, your hard work, your wisdom, your time, your money, and perhaps the most painful, your love.  Your anger is not really about them, although you may focus it on them, it is about you.  Your anger is because you value yourself highly, and others somehow indicated to you that they don’t value you so high.  And that made you angry.  You are worth more!
If you can see the truth of this, that your anger is about you, then you can really begin to overcome it.  If you become angry because you think you are worth more, a solution to the problem may come about if you could convince yourself that you are worth less --- (but not worthless!!).  For many people --- myself included --- this is a most difficult proposition to make.  But if you want to make progress in this direction, the task WILL be difficult, and it will be one which requires faith to persevere, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense to do so, even if you almost can’t believe you will see results, because up to now, nothing has worked. 
Know, my friend, that others have felt their efforts useless, and yet continued:  Master, we have worked all night and have caught nothing; but if You say so, I will lower the nets again.  One thing which will matter in solving your problem is faith and perseverance.
The way in which I tackled my anger problem was with prayer.  Stop that moaning, right now!!  That may seem like a simplistic solution to you, but I assure you the prayer I used was NOT simple.  I HATED that prayer.  In the beginning, I choked on the words of that prayer, and found myself quickly skipping over them.  I didn’t want to pray those words; I didn’t want to think those words.  It was only when I thought about my anger, the reason for which I was saying that prayer, that I found the courage to force myself to continue.
And slowly, after weeks of daily saying --- and then really thinking about --- this prayer, it began to sink into my heart.  And to my surprise, without my thinking about it, the frequency and length of my angry moods (and words) decreased.  And it happened because the prayer lessened my concerns about myself; I lessened the importance of myself in my own eyes.  I lessened the importance of someone saying or doing things which indicated my importance.  They just didn’t make me angry anymore.  I discussed or thought about many subjects that might be brought up, more calmly; I didn’t dismiss them in anger.  It’s not that I thought myself unimportant because of this prayer, but rather that it helped me see the importance of others; it helped me truly see how and why I should love my neighbor, which got easier once I got excessive love of myself out of the way.
And it all started with this prayer, which I came across one day:
The Litany of Humility
O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,     Deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,

That others may be loved more than I,            Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
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This is another prayer on the same subject, which I happened to read last night:
O most noble, most beautiful, most innocent Lord Jesus, You have loved me, a vile, ugly creature, deformed by sin; teach me to imitate Your great charity, so that I will love my neighbor with sincere, brotherly love, however imperfect and sinful he may be.
Teach me to love all men for love of You, and then I shall never lack motives for benevolence, even if I have to deal with those who are coarse, ill-mannered, and full of imperfections.  Only by keeping my eyes fixed on You, my God, who are infinite love, shall I be able to surmount all the annoyances and difficulties I meet in my contacts with my neighbor.
O Jesus, who took on my wretchedness in becoming man and in clothing Yourself with my weak nature, teach me how to accommodate myself to my neighbor and to bear with his faults patiently; help me to do my best to correct my own faults and to eliminate from my conduct everything that might be displeasing to others.
See, Lord, how far I still am from true charity and humility!  You show me that there is nothing wonderful about living in peace with kind, good people; nothing is more natural.  We all love peace and prefer those who love peace also.  But it takes great virtue to live in peace with obstinate, perverse, intractable people whose ideas are not like our own.
I beseech you, Lord, grant me that grace without which I shall never be at peace with my neighbor, but will ever be prompt to take offense.  It would be far better for me to correct my own faults than to criticize the action of others!  If I expect others to bear with my defects, I must likewise bear with theirs.
            -- Divine Intimacy, by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen (Sunday, 5th Wk After Ephiphany)
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It is wonderful to me to see how God helps my disorganized mind.  There were events of Saturday, which I wrote about that night.  There were thoughts from words said at Sunday mass, that helped clarify my initial writings, and then last night as I read my night prayers and meditations, I read and prayed those fitting words above, from the Divine Intimacy book of daily meditations.
The title of this blog is Do Not Be Anxious.  It is taken from Matthew 6:25-34, which says don’t worry about yourself: God will take care of you.  There is nothing to be mad over if others say or do things to you.  You do not need to justify your worth to them (or yourself) by your anger.  God loves you and He tells you not to be anxious; He will take care of you.  You could not be worth more.

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