Now we’re getting intense! Freedom from anger. How many occasions do we have for anger on a daily basis – driving, at work, at school, at home with our spouses or children -we’re surrounded by temptations to anger. Freedom from anger sounds almost like a fantasy. But as with all things in the spiritual life, we don’t jump from the ground flood to the heights all in one bound.

St John gives us a path forward:
“The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated; the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of soul; and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds” (8:4). 

We make the movement to lay aside our anger in stages. The first is a very consciously undertaken decision to stay quiet, even when we’re angry – to never speak in our anger. This begins to crush the snake of sin before we ever give it birth. The next step comes by forceful practice of the first and by the grace of God – the ability to keep even the thoughts calm when some disturbance comes our way. The final stage is wholly a gift of God’s grace – the grace to remain calm in the face of every adversity. This is the grace we see in the Saints.

As a soul lays aside anger, he becomes meek in his heart. St John writes, “meekness is an immovable state of soul which remains unaffected, whether in evil report or in good report, in dishonor or in praise” (8:3). This is, in a sense, one of our ultimate goals in the spiritual life – dispassion – where the things going on around us don’t impact our life in Christ in any way.

And as one last warning for us, we’ll hear a final word from St John:
“An angry person is a willing epileptic, who due to an involuntary tendency keeps convulsing and falling down” (8:11).

Matthew Jackson

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