Did you count your blessings and give something away last week? Are you ready to move into a tiny home yet? Today’s “V” topic; how to use the virtue of patience to overcome the vice of wrath. Developing the “patience of a saint” to avoid the “wrath of God.”
Wrath is angry, violent, or stern indignation. Anger, rage, fury, outrage, displeasure, annoyance, irritation, ire, madness. This was the dictionary definition and synonyms I used when writing the “sAint Me?!” book last year. In my mind at the time, wrath and anger were synonymous. I now see a very important difference.
In my daily bible reading I came across a verse recently that had never stuck out to me before. It states, “Be angry but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Apparently anger alone is not a sin. Makes sense now that I think about it. Jesus was sinless yet he got angry a few times as I recall. Like overturning the money changer’s tables in the temple. Or calling the religious leaders of the time hypocrites quite often.
Jesus’ anger was righteous indignation at sin that was being committed. Of course he was angry at the sin, not the sinner. He obviously showed great love for the sinner. We are called to do the same, to be angry at the sin we see in the world. That anger is designed to spur us to action to avoid sin ourselves, and to not put up with it in others as well. But we must take care to hate the sin but love the sinner. To judge not lest we be judged.
So what exactly is the deadly sin of wrath then? Anger directed at a person is wrath. And anger that is generated by something other than a sin is wrath. Well technically maybe it’s not wrath unless you act out in some way. But even just feeling angry is bad for your health; physical, mental and spiritual.
I have a personal wrath test. When I am feeling annoyed, disturbed, upset, disappointed or angry about something I ask myself; Is this feeling the result of a sin that has been committed by myself or someone else?
I do something about a yes answer immediately so the anger does not fester and grow into something worse, like hate or rage. It’s usually something really simple. Like acknowledging my mistake and asking for God’s forgiveness, or saying a prayer for the offending person. Remember, hate the sin, love the sinner.
Here are a few hypothetical situations to try out the wrath test:
Situation 1 – You are driving and approaching an intersection. You have a green light. As you are about to pass through you notice that a cross-traffic driver is speeding through their red light. You slam on the brakes to avoid a collision. The driver of the other car honks and makes an obscene gesture at you.
Test – Are you angry? YES! Was a sin committed? Yes, wrath was directed at you. So you can be rightfully angry, but what are you going to do about it? Don’t react back. Say a quick prayer for the other driver to get over their wrath and to arrive safely at their destination. Nice job, you avoided turning your anger into wrath and showed love for your neighbor.
Situation 2 – You are starting up your pressure washer for the first time following the winter. You go through all the preparation steps and pull the cord to start it. You have prepared yourself to be patient because past experience tells you it will likely take at least 10 pulls. 25 pulls later you are really annoyed. It finally starts but the hose to the sprayer flies off and water is spouting everywhere including on you.
Test – Are you angry? Oh yeah! Was a sin committed? No, machines can’t sin. Did you get over it? No…I said a couple choice words and noticed a neighbor laughing. Oops…that’s wrath. But then I got over it and laughed with the neighbor. And yes, that actually happened to me yesterday…oops.
Situation 3 – Your spouse has the tv remote control. You are watching a recorded show so you don’t have to watch the commercials. They keep forgetting to fast forward through the ads. You remind them several times but it keeps happening.
Test – Are you angry? Getting there. Is it a sin not to fast forward? Ah…no? Okay, definitely not. Did you manage to keep your mouth shut and just go with the flow? Amazingly yes. Nice work, no wrath…this time. Keep up the great work, that takes true patience. Maybe the patience of a Saint? Not really…but it’s something.
Patience is the capacity to endure pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calm. Tolerance, restraint, composure, indulgence, resoluteness, fortitude, serenity, stamina. Think before you react. Serenity now.
I thought about becoming a doctor but I have no patience…or is that patients. Sorry, bad old joke. But truly, I struggle with consistently demonstrating patience. And I know exactly why. Expectations. How I set them in my head occasionally sets me up for impatience. An example may help here.
Do you like to fish? I can’t stand it. I have no patience for it. Why? My expectation is to catch many fish quickly. That is an unrealistic fishing expectation leading to impatience. So I choose not to participate. By contrast, those who enjoy fishing love the whole experience, not just the catching part. Their expectation is to relax in nature and maybe catch a few fish. The only thing that could make them impatient is fishing with someone like me.
Managing expectations will help you to become significantly more patient. Here’s how it works. Whenever you set out to do something, imagine the best possible outcome. Then develop a plan to achieve that outcome. And finally, very briefly think through the things that could go wrong along the way. Then go forward with your plan expecting the best, yet being mentally prepared for the worst.
For example, every time I drive I expect people to obey the laws and to be courteous. But I drive defensively knowing that will not always be the case. When something goes wrong I am then mentally prepared and therefore more apt to be patient.
You can use this patience strategy on anything that could potentially annoy you. That’s your challenge for the week. List all of those things. Then pick one and try it out. Personally, I’m going to give Melanie full control of the tv remote for a week. I declare this “Patience of a Saint” week. Take care to not let your anger become wrath. Remember, patience is a virtue.
One last note. Do not use the managing expectations strategy to reduce your anger about sinful acts. Instead, channel that anger into redoubling your efforts in striving to become the saint you are meant to be. And to show others the way.
Godspeed (an expression of good wishes to a person starting a journey, a patience journey in this case), Scott