Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Meekness and Anger

Recently I finished Fr. Hinnebusch's book on the Beatitudes that I mentioned a few posts back. It seems a rare thing that I read a book by a contemporary author that really deeply teaches me something like this book did. It had a lot to say to me, but the thing that I take away from it right now is this matter of meekness, as in "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

He writes about meekness as a virtue which regulates anger. But he makes a very important distinction that I need to sink my teeth into. Meekness is not a matter of simply being placid in the face of any kind of treatment, like some kind of soulless machine or Stepford Wife. It is the strength to be patient in the face of injustice without becoming vengeful, bitter, or resentful. It is the capacity to be in control of oneself in all emotional regards. It is also the capacity to express anger and zeal when it is appropriate, but in the way Jesus did.

I have long practiced a sort of unrighteous placidity. In more recent years I have "learned" to not-quite-randomly uncork anger as well, while I have moved away from both occasions of being treated in overtly bad ways and also from the unrighteous placidity to which I referred. For example, I could easily call to mind some examples where I have been treated with significant wrong (like the man in a grocery store in Japan who just reached up --he was short -- and grabbed my breast!) and the most I responded with was an eye roll. I guess the shock was too much to process for me, and then I just, you know, didn't bother to get angry about it. That's what I mean by unrighteous placidity. But there have been lots of more subtle occasions where I just overlook things, mostly because getting upset would seem too costly to my "peace."

Sometimes "peace" has to be sacrificed for truth and dignity, though. But that doesn't mean a righteous response is violently angry, or bitter, or all the rest. It seems a righteous response is like a lion's roar: timed naturally, to the point, and communicating that there is holiness to which we all are accountable. Failing to point to that holiness to which we are all accountable is to sin by not getting angry. So it seems to me.

It seems this requires virtue ready-present in the soul when the situation arises so that the response can rise without calculation. That is what I am finding the most challenging. I tend to rely on cerebralizing everything, but sometimes gut reactions are most fitting. The freedom to let holy gut reactions out, and to hold back not-so-holy gut reactions -- that's the matter.

Lord, have mercy, and help me learn.

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