Both the Old and New Testaments include famous examples of saints and sinners losing their tempers. In one famous example, even Jesus lashed out. But what of today’s ordinary mortals? This week’s clergy discuss the pros and cons of unleashing righteous rage.
The Rev. Christopher D. Hofer
Rector, The Church of St. Jude, Wantagh
Jesus lost his temper, Paul lost his temper, the prophets were notorious for losing their tempers, the saints lost their tempers, I lose my temper, and every human has lost his or her temper at one point or another in life.
Why? Temper is an emotion. Emotions, in and of themselves, are gifts from God — it is what we do with the emotion that determines whether or not we are sinning. In his letter to the Church in Ephesus, St. Paul writes, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Our nation is currently filled with fear, anger and anxiety. Children are going to bed hungry; individuals are turned away from hospitals because they do not have insurance; whole groups are scapegoated as the root of all evil; and neighbor is turning on neighbor. These fears have caused many to lose their tempers. There have been verbal threats of violence, fistfights and acts of terror including killing innocent people — whether they are black, white, Latino, Christian, cops, Muslims, Jew, and/or members of the LGBT community.
Temper becomes a sin when we act out in negative ways. We sin the moment we separate ourselves from God, humanity and creation. At that moment, evil in the world dwells in us. Instead of acting on anger, let’s dialogue, seek to understand, pray and work for peace, and get back to loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Rabbi Mendy Goldberg
Lubavitch of the East End, Coram
What happens when one gets angry? Who’s in control? Do you lose control of your temperament? Instead of you controlling your emotions, you allow your emotions to control you. You may say things you never intended to say, but out of letting off steam and to create a sort of dominance, you will say and react in ways you may regret afterward. Job says “anger kills the fool” (Job 5:2). When you get angry you may think, “Hey I’ve got to stand up for myself.” Our sages teach us that anger is tantamount to idolatry. When you get angry, you unleash the toxic part of yourself, convincing yourself you are all about protecting and taking a stand. In essence you are placating your ego, and as your ego was hurt, you feel the need to respond. At times the response may even hurt you more than the original offense. It stems from a lack of self-nullification, and lack of faith. When we feel angry, we feel vulnerable and afraid of being hurt. However, if we have faith in God, we come to realize that it’s all a journey that God leads us on. We cannot be distracted by side issues that are only there to help us get stronger and overcome as we encounter them. So be happy, control your emotions and forever have faith that God will get you where you need to be.
The Rev. JoAnn Barrett
Senior minister, Gathering of Light Interspiritual Fellowship, Melville
How do you define sin? The world’s religions have a list of sins, which are considered immoral acts against divine law. Another definition would be an offensive or regrettable act. Each individual needs to internalize his or her definition of sin and the effect it has on his or her behaviors. If people do not choose a definition of sin for themselves, they tend to fall into default mode. We will unconsciously take on the belief in sin that we identified with as a child. Then, you have a 5- to 7-year-old inside of you, full of fear, restriction, guilt or confusion running your moral compass. We are adults now and need to take responsibility. I am constantly striving to grow and learn from all of life’s experiences so that I may be, as we say at Gathering of Light Interspiritual Fellowship, a being of boundless love, caring compassion and wisdom. So any behavior that interferes with this goal would be my personal “sin” that I can utilize to remind me to get back on track. Our temper is our state of mind, which could be angry or calm. It is not just a rant. We tend to consider the moment when the personal explosion occurs, and we have road rage, or worse, to be losing our temper. A situation in which I allow my mind to be taken away from my conscious awareness is a losing of my temper. Losing control of my own mind and being disconnected from Source is my personal “sin” because I am hurting myself, and any God/Goddess of Love would never want us to hurt ourselves.