Anger: My Besetting Sin, Part 1 of 3

A Lenten self-examination

“I invite you…to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance…”[1]

When I examine my life…myself (my self) for signs of my sins, anger is chiefest among them.

Two necessary definitions…

Sin. The English word “sin” is a translation of the Greek hamartia; literally, “to miss the mark.” I visualize an archer whose aim is faulty, whose arrows fall short or far away and apart from the bull’s eye, the center of the target. The archer’s errant aim is a metaphor for my intentions (which include my thoughts and feelings) and actions. The bull’s eye is a symbol for God, the Creator, thus, the center of life, and my idealized best (authentic) self as made in God’s image. In my living life, I miss the mark. No, not always, yet characteristically, thus, the (my) norm.

Thus, the Apostle Paul, describing our inherent and ever-present human inner conflict, could write: Nothing good dwells within me. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. For the good I want to do, I don’t do, but rather the evil I don’t want to do, that’s what I do. Therefore, I know that it is because of the sin that dwells within me.[2]

Anger. A fundamental human emotion. As elemental as happiness and sadness.[3] And, regarding life’s dangers, related to our human fear-response of fight-flight-or-freeze.

However, here, I think of Jesus’ teaching: “In ancient times, it was said, ‘You shall not murder’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.”[4]

In the Greek, there are two words for anger. Thumos, which, like lighting dried leaves, is a flame that quickly rises and, as quickly, wanes. And orgé. Chronic, habitual anger.

Orgé is my besetting sin.

From whence, for me, does it come?

To be continued…

© 2023 PRA

[1] From the invitation to the observance of a holy Lent, The Book of Common Prayer, page 265

[2] Romans 7.18-20; my adaptation

[3] Many years ago, at a moment when I had trouble articulating how I felt, a friend, as a clarifying advisement, asked, “Paul, are you mad, glad, or sad?”

[4] Matthew 5.21-22

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