I have recently been meditating on the juxtaposition between anger and vulnerability. The role it has played in my personal relationships, including my relationship with the Lord, is to say the least, a profound reckoning. During a recent discussion in the confessional, my shepherd shared with me that anger is the most confessed sin. Well that’s not very juicy, I thought. He explained that while feeling anger is not in of itself a sin, expressing that anger towards others or myself does great harm. Knowing that I was quick to anger and struggling in an interpersonal relationship, I invited God to speak to my heart. In my seeking, I turned to The Diary of St. Faustina and opened to a random page, passage #119 to be precise:
I tremble to think that I have to give an account of my tongue. There is life, but there is also death in the tongue. Sometimes we kill with the tongue: we commit real murders. And we are still to regard that as a small thing?”
I sat in stillness after reading that passage, letting it soak and marinate into my heart. That certainly was a juicy account of the consequences of anger. Anger, even in words, does violence to a soul. My heart mourned and ached in that moment as I recalled the violence I had done on account of my tongue. Praise God for His mercy.
That day in confession, my shepherd instructed me to pray for acceptance of God’s will, for often it is anger that arises when we resist God’s will for us. Angry emotions represents deeper underpinnings of our vulnerability and helplessness as children of God. With such timeliness, a friend shared with me a passage on anger from poet and philosopher, David Whyte:
“What we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or identity or voice, or way of life to hold it. What we call anger is often simply the unwillingness to live the full measure of our fears or of our not knowing, in the face of our love for a wife, in the depth of our caring for a son, in our wanting the best, in the face of simply being alive and loving those with whom we live.
Our anger breaks to the surface most often through our feeling there is something profoundly wrong with this powerlessness and vulnerability. Anger in its pure state is the measure of the way we are implicated in the world and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics.”(Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words)
Anger is often the wall and moat we build to protect the deepest vulnerabilities that reside inside the castles of our souls. Our love for others and our powerlessness in loving others can indeed invoke true fear and an unwillingness to accept that which leaves us vulnerable.
With layers of anger, or maybe for some it’s distance and withdrawal, we disconnect ourselves from our full capacity to love, and be loved. This often begins sometime during our childhoods as we maladapt to wounds inflicted on our deepest vulnerabilities. I like to believe Jesus had us in mind when he said: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3
I’d like to propose that we start the journey back to our little, vulnerable selves firstly through our relationship with Christ. I can attest that the layers and walls I have built to protect my vulnerability have disconnected me from God. There are days that I question His love and plans for me. I become angry that His ways are not my ways. I am, in particularly painful moments, unwilling to fully live the pain of helplessness, of waiting. Praise God for His mercy. It is for these particular moments that His mercy endures. When we kick and resist him, He lays all bare for us.
When I begin to feel anger bubbling up, I try to bring myself before Christ and share with him these sludgy, raw emotions. This is what my friend and I call a really, really good prayer. God desires our authentic selves, even the parts that don’t look so pretty. It’s all a beautiful prayer to Him, even the gunk and dirt that come up first. He tends so compassionately to our resistance, patiently consoling us until we soften back into the vulnerable little children that allow Him to take care of us again.
We are not created for anger, withdrawal, or distrust. He created us for love and for others. We are created to love, and be loved. And as Jesus demonstrated in His life, love often requires that which makes us most vulnerable: self-sacrifice. He created us to trust Him in all our powerlessness and vulnerability, surrendering every moment to His will.
This is the way of trust and love, the path we are to walk in our relationship with Him and with our fellow brothers and sisters. It will not be easy or painless, but it is redeemed by the One who will never cease loving us into eternity.
Copyright 2019 Kate Huhn