“Be angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26)

By Father Peter Farrington

April 8, 2021

Anger in the biblical dictionary is defined as “A violent passion of the mind excited by a real or supposed injury; usually accompanied with a propensity to take vengeance, or to obtain satisfaction from the offending party. This passion however varies in degrees of violence, and in ingenuous minds, may be attended only with a desire to reprove or chide the offender.” (King James Dictionary)

It also expresses “excitement by an injury offered to a relation, friend or party to which one is attached; and some degrees of it may be excited by cruelty, injustice or oppression offered to those with whom one has no immediate connection, or even to the community of which one is a member. Nor is it unusual to see something of this passion roused by gross absurdities in others, especially in controversy or discussion. Anger may be inflamed till it rises to rage and a temporary delirium.” (King James Dictionary)

Anger is allowed as long as we do not let it get out of control. But the great spiritual Fathers of the Church are clear that it does not it is OK to be angry with other people. They teach us the true purpose of anger; the two phrases in the first section go together.

It does not mean, to be angry if we need to, but within limits. It means use our anger to prevent the falling into sin. It means be angry at every cause of sin in us and in the temptation that is presented; use this energy of anger against sin to turn away from it forcefully and violently, as it is said, “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,” (Ephesians 4:26)

When we turn our anger towards other people it is harmful and destructive, both for us, for others, and for our relationships. Anger is not to be an energy turned against others. Rather, we are to learn how to direct all that energy, and we know how powerful it can be, against Satan, every temptation, our own self-indulgence and laziness.

The proper use of anger gives us strength to say, “How dare you tempt me in this way!” It gives us strength to say to ourselves, “Are you really going to act in this way?” It gives us the energy to say, “This is the person I want to be!”

Sometimes it is misrepresented but it is necessary to help us discover what triggers that lead us to become angry. The intention is not to produce a sort of dulled, emotionless existence where nothing moves us at all. This energy which we find overwhelming us is actually a gift from God.

Without anger we would not have the natural and God given energy to turn towards good and reject evil; so that when we become angry with ourselves and with Satan we do indeed not sin at all. Our problem is not anger, but that we direct it in the wrong direction, and in so doing cause harm to ourselves and to others, instead of using it in a way that brings us closer to God.