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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Considering one’s own sin of anger

By Lorraine V. Murray
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

We had just come home from seeing “The Avengers” and were heading out to feed our neighbors’ cat, Prissy.

Their key had been on the couch all week long, and my husband went to get it while I rushed outside to retrieve the mail. Then came his dreaded question: “Where’s the key?”

“It should be right there,” I replied, pointing to the couch — but a quick glance revealed it wasn’t.

And then it happened.

In seconds, I morphed from a reasonably calm and patient person with a rather placid demeanor into my own private version of the Hulk.

My heart pounded dramatically as I began tossing around cushions, digging into the recesses of the couch and even plowing through the trash in search of the blasted key.

I was angry with myself because I was the last one to use the key. I was also upset because I hate losing something that wasn’t mine to start with.

And as my temper rose, I heard myself uttering rather terrible phrases I would be ashamed to repeat.

Later, I regretted my outburst. I don’t usually consider myself an angry person, and yet that one incident brought my temper to the boiling point.

True, I didn’t grow a few feet taller, gain hundreds of pounds and turn a menacing shade of green — but my anger had turned me into a momentary monster.

But at least I learned a lesson that day from the Hulk.

In the comics, the Hulk lurks beneath the surface of a mild-mannered guy — Bruce Banner — who was exposed in a medical experiment to a high degree of gamma radiation.

When he gets angry, a massive change is automatically ignited in Bruce, causing him to become a gigantic, terrifying green monster. On a rampage, he often injures many people and ends up remorseful later when he’s shrunk back to normal size.

He is an excellent metaphor for the deadly sin of anger.

Newspaper headlines blare the sinful results of everyday rage unleashed. There are too many Hulk-like tales about ex-boyfriends stalking and killing a once-beloved sweetheart. Too many stories about children beaten by parents in a fit of rage.

In fact, we can’t control the situations that provoke us, but we decide how to behave once the monster strikes. It’s up to us: We can nurse our anger and stomp around making a big scene — or we can let it go.

Fortunately, we’re not comic-book characters entirely enslaved by our emotions. After all, God created us with free will and the power to change.

And with God’s grace we can learn to count to 10, become more patient — and avoid the monstrous effects of anger.

Lorraine V. Murray’s latest books include a biography of Flannery O’Connor, “The Abbess of Andalusia,” and two mysteries, “Death in the Choir” and “Death of a Liturgist.” Her email is lorrainevmurrayyahoo.com.

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