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The sin of anger, the sin of timidity

  • FATHER GEORGE RUTLER

Timidity disguised as charity can do more harm than anger.


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Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko
1947-1984

Jesus did not appoint the brothers James and John apostles in spite of their temper but because of it. These "Bonaerges" (Sons of Thunder) had wanted to bring fire down on the rude Samaritans. Jesus knew that such anger, if harnessed, could become "righteous." There is a difference between using temper and losing temper, as there is between oil for energy and the Gulf oil spill. Anger rightly used and not lost becomes strength. James became the first apostle to offer his life serenely for the Lord, and John in his maturity wrote, "Little children love one another."

The risen Christ converted St. Paul's destructive wrath on the Damascus road. Later, the Apostle would warn the Galatians that their uncontrolled temper is a "work of the flesh." St. Jerome's letters to St. Augustine show how hard it was for him to control his tongue and pen, and the sun often went down upon the wrath of the Irish missionary Columba. No saint, naturally placid or aggressive, replaced anger with the opposite extreme of timidity. "God has not given us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7).

The cure for both sinful anger and sinful timidity is the virtue of courage. St. John Chrysostom wrote to Timotheus: "For if the wrath of God were a passion, one might well despair of being unable to quench the flame which he had kindled by so many evil doings; but since the Divine nature is passionless, even if He punishes, even if He takes vengeance, He does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness; wherefore it behooves us to be of much good courage, and to trust in the power of repentance."

Timidity disguised as charity can do more harm than anger, and the conceit that evil will melt away by ignoring it would be like Captain Smith on the Titanic saying, "Iceberg? What iceberg?" St. Augustine said, "God does not need my lie." St. John Fisher, speaking as the only one of his country's bishops who was a true shepherd, lamented: "The fort is betrayed even of them that should have defended it." Exactly four hundred years later, Churchill would say, "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

St. Alphonsus Liguori was not timid when he counseled: "Even when correcting faults, superiors should be kind." But his kindness was in fact the engine of his zeal to "admonish sinners," which is the first of the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy. Conversely, St. Leo confronting Attila the Hun, St. Joan of Arc trying to make a man of her pathetic king, and Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko staring down the Communists, were not foolhardy in their assertiveness. Their strength came not from Anger Management Therapy but from Christ whose very wrath is merciful.

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Acknowledgement

Father George William Rutler. "The sin of anger, the sin of timidity." From the Pastor ( March 14, 2010).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.

The Author

witwisdomrFather George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City.  He has written many books, including: The Wit and Wisdom of Father George Rutler, The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Bestand Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2010 Father George W. Rutler
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