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Spiritual Anger


We now turn our attention to the fourth capital sin that St. John of the Cross considers in relation to the spiritual life and that is spiritual anger.  Many spiritual people are too eager for the gratification and too attached to the sensible consolation that comes from prayer and the practice of virtue which leads them to become downcast and dejected, angry and upset, when these sweet feelings pass.  They are like spoiled children who become petulant and peevish, irritable and ill-tempered, touchy and testy, when they do not receive their sweet treats.  Or, like grumpy and grouchy old men who have never developed the interior spiritual life and no longer enjoy their former sensual satisfactions.  The only remedy for this spiritual malady is the purification and purgation of the dark night of the senses and spirit.  St. John of the Cross notes that “these souls are not at fault if they do not allow this dejection to influence them, for it is an imperfection which must be purged through the dryness and distress of the dark night.” (DN, Bk. I, Ch. 5, No. 1)

Another form of spiritual anger is “bitter zeal,” not to be confused with that holy zeal which is an intense and sincere love for God and the spiritual good of souls.  Some people who are spiritual think it is their job to wipe out all vice with a vengeance.  “Setting themselves up as lords of virtue” they criticize and condemn others for their sin and angrily reprove them, or at least think and feel they should. (Ibid., No. 2)  At times, the demon of anger, an evil spirit of angry negativity that is dark and heavy, may come over them and greatly inflame their judgmental critical attitude and emotion.  If they would be free of this evil spirit, they must reject it with prayer and effort. 

Other souls, after becoming aware of their own sins, turn this bitter zeal on themselves and become angry and impatient with themselves and their own spiritual progress.  Trusting in themselves and wanting “to become saints in a day,” they give way to discouragement and anxiety in a restless impatience when their many and great resolutions are not kept and their plans for spiritual progress are not met. (Ibid., No. 3)  This angry impatience, with themselves or others, is contrary to spiritual meekness and humility which would be willing to wait for God’s mercy and help, in His time and in His way.  Their job is to obey God’s will, to trust and pray.


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