I struggle to control my anger and rage when I witness individuals who appear to me to intentionally mistreat others needing assistance: the ill, the injured, the oppressed, the impoverished, or the marginalized.
I have used strong words—but not profanity—in voicing my objection to such mistreatment. I feel out of control during these moments and have even lost a job after one such incident.
I need help interpreting the rage I experience and how I can permit God to work through me. I need help interpreting Jesus’ action in the Temple when he turned over the tables of the money changers.
St. Francis of Assisi often said, “You are what you are before God, and nothing more.” With no disrespect to Francis, I always add, “and nothing less.”
When we witness an injustice, we need to respond with a controlled anger. Francis told his friars that they should not become angry over the sins of other friars because such anger does not accomplish God’s justice.
Some people find it very easy to remain angry. It takes very little to set them off because they are always near their boiling point. You cannot make the injustice that you have just witnessed “unhappen,” but you have many options for how to respond—some more useful than others.
There is always a way to speak the truth in love and act on that truth, but these options are usually not the first things that come to mind.
If I follow the advice of St. Francis, the more truthful that I am before God, the more ready I am to identify my options beyond simply venting. As I become more truthful before God, I will always become more truthful about other people. I will also be more honest in how I see myself.
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus, inspiring the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Wasn’t she both angry and constructive? Good people may differ about the best way to respond to an injustice, but they will not waste considerable time or energy in venting.
When Jesus drove the money changers and merchants out of Jerusalem’s Temple (Mt 21:12–13, Mk 11:15–17, Lk 19:45–46), he was demonstrating a controlled anger.
Mark Twain once said that nothing is so enjoyable as examining another person’s conscience. That is true, but it is unlikely to counteract positively whatever injustice has just made you extremely angry.
Anger is not always bad; neither is it always effective. A controlled anger arises from a person who knows who she or he is before God—and then acts on it.
Your question shows that you realize that God wants to work through you more effectively. I suggest that you start by swallowing your anger for a moment while you consider which response to a particular injustice reflects your deepest values. Of which response will you probably be proud 24 hours later?
Perhaps you should pray to St. Jerome, who learned to control his terrible temper. Ask him for help in controlling yours.