Welcome to episode 23 of the Behind the Catholic Counter Podcast. I’m Ian Rutherford, President of Aquinasnandmore.com. I interview Catholic authors, publishers and manufacturers to give you the latest news about great new Catholic books and gifts. You can listen to this and past episodes at aquinasandmore.com/podcast.
Fr. Morrow: You are welcome.
Ian: Father one of the things that is kind of hard to distinguish here from the start is, what is the difference between anger and hate?
Fr. Morrow: Well, anger could be either a feeling or something we take hold of and express in unhealthy ways, and hatred is one of the things that comes from unhealthy anger. So mostly you know, we can’t control the feelings that we have but we can control what we do with those feelings and we can either take care of that anger in a healthy way and dissipate it or we can express it in a very unhealthy way and make life miserable for all those around us.
Ian: So, you are talking about healthy and unhealthy anger. What is the distinction? I have an assume that Jesus is anger in the temple with a healthy kind of anger-
Fr. Morrow: Exactly!
Ian: What about Job’s anger?
Fr. Morrow: Job’s anger was misplaced and the anger of Jesus was what we call righteous anger and so some sequences – you know there is such a thing as righteous anger and it’s a virtue to have righteous anger but it’s also not a virtue to express anger in a harmful and nasty way. We need to express our anger in a constructive way or a way that expresses the outrage but again within reason, not the outrage of something that’s really way off the charts in terms of being a correct activity.
Ian: You mention within reason, do you mean that we use reason to make decisions about what we’re angry about instead of irrationally?
Fr. Morrow: We use our reason to try to forget what we’re angry about and decide if it’s worth being angry. Sometimes people get angry over things that are trivial and in fact I’ve worked with couples from time to time and “Oh, we had a terrible argument.” and I said, “Well, what was that about?” and they say, “Well actually I don’t remember, it wasn’t anything important.” So a lot of people get angry over trifling things and now, that of course stems from an exaggerated pride that- “How dare anyone inconvenience me?”
Ian: So you’re saying that having a little bit of humility is a good way to help stem anger?
Fr. Morrow: Extremely important to pray for the virtue of humility, absolutely.
Ian: So what are some of the other ways that we can tell if our anger is misplaced or actually heading into the territory of being sinful instead of righteous?
Fr. Morrow: Most anger is sinful so that should be our first thought is if we are getting angry- you know once a week or even you know more or less, we should realize that we’re probably overreacting or we’re probably not able to express our anger in a reasonable and gentle way, in a Christian way. We have the opportunity and we have the potential of expressing anger by just saying – “You know I’m really angry with you because of this, this and this.” If the person is reasonable and we’re being reasonable then we can probably get a resolution of the problem but the first thing that we have to decide whether the anger is reasonable, whether we are overreacting or whether we have a legitimate complaint. If we have a legitimate complaint then we have to decide – “Okay, if I say anything, would it do any good?” and if we’re convinced from past experience that if I mention it to somebody – you know they’ll go crazy then we won’t be able to mention it to them, we’ll give it to God and offer it as a sacrifice as a remedy for sin, our sins and sin of the world. But if it could do some good then we need to mention it in a rational and a polite way.
Ian: So when trying to determine if your anger is actually something that you should just overlook or something that you should actually address, it’s kind of hard sometimes to tell that “Okay, well my daughter lied to me, she’s a teenager.” or “My spouse burned dinner for the 4th time this week.” or something like that, how do you determine if it’s something that rises to the level of an anger that is actually justified?
Fr. Morrow: Well again it depends on how serious it is . Now if your daughter lied to you, you need to sit down and say “You know we can’t be doing this, we’ve got to be telling the truth to each other.” and so on, but if it’s somebody’s doing something to a child- you know harming a child right in front of us we need to, we get – you know raise our voice, pull that person off and say hey stop doing that, so you know most of the time we can express our anger in a quiet reasonable way but sometimes we have to intervene in situations with a very strong action and very strong voice.
Ian: Does anger rise to the level of a mortal sin or something that’s considered a venial sin or can it be either?
Fr. Morrow: Most anger is venial sin even, you know, very strong anger because we haven’t had sufficient reflection. However the decision, if we are getting, you know, violently angry, fairly often the decision not to work on that and try to overcome it that could be a mortal sin because it’s a serious matter and we have time to reflect when we’re not angry as to the fact that “Hey, this is something that’s really very evil and I need to change and develop different ways of dealing with difficulties and dealing with angry feelings.” And of course feelings of themselves are not angry though may what we do with them could be angry.
Ian: Now what would you recommend for people who are in situations where they almost have a constant temptation for anger whether they have a constant illness or they’re in a situation where at work where their boss is unjust, things like that. How do you suggest for people in those types of situations to deal with the temptation to anger that they’re almost constantly having to deal with?
Fr. Morrow: What we need to do is we need to write down for ourselves how we’re going to deal with these things and really drill into our minds that overreacting and exploding is not a healthy way to behave and what happens is, if parents have a tradition of getting angry a lot they teach that to their children and what happens is the children grow up and they think that’s a normal way to live your life, just get angry every day or two and you blow your stack and then you go on with life but that’s not healthy and that’s not the way we should live so we are.
One old man said he had two wills inside of him and one does good and no harm and lives in harmony with everyone with no offense intended, to fight only when it’s right to do so. But the other will is full of anger, the littlest thing will set him off in a fit of temper and so the old man says sometimes it’s hard to live with these two wills inside me for both of them try to dominate my spirit. A boy said “Which one wins, Grandpa?” and grandfather smile dand said, “The one I feed.”
So if we feed wrong anger then that’s very wrong. We need to feed the will that’s going to be kind and gentle, and we live a much happier life and all the people around us will have happier lives. What happens very often is people get angry all the time, they drive everybody away from them, no one can deal with them. Maybe that’s somebody who is sick a lot and so on. They need to catch themselves and say “Okay, I’m not feeling well today.” Or if somebody is in a bad mood say “I’m in the bad mood so I’ve got to compensate for that. I’ve got to try to overcome that with my will.” And people can do that. I’ve done that a lot myself.
Ian: Your book Overcoming Sinful Anger is only about a hundred pages long but you have two chapters on forgiveness and healing memories, why is this such an important part of dealing with anger?
Fr. Morrow: Because some people, they presume that they don’t need to forgive and it’s important to forgive and of course it’s right in our prayers, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And when our Lord gave as the “Our Father” in Matthew Chapter 6, right after he gave the Our Father he elaborated on forgiveness. He said if you forgive them their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive you. If you do not forgive their trespasses neither will your Father forgive you, so it’s really important that we work on forgiveness. And some people get stuck on their unforgiveness and it really causes them to be paralyzed in terms of being able to function as a decent person, as a Christian person, so it’s really important that we work very hard to get rid of all unforgiveness. One person said that unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping that will kill the other person so it does more harm to us than to the other person.
Ian: It’s always especially hard to forgive somebody when they don’t seem to care and aren’t sorry about what they did. How do you deal with that when you’re trying to say, “Well I want to forgive this person but I can’t really because he doesn’t even see what he did is a problem.” Or he may even have enjoyed it and is would be perfectly willing to do it again?
Fr. Morrow: So in some sense you don’t forgive because God doesn’t forgive those who are not sorry and don’t seek forgiveness but in another sense you forgive in the sense that you need to move on and you need to dismiss that and you’re not going to make this person your best friend in the future. I mean, you want to stay away from people that behave like this. They do bad things and they have no remorse about it at all. It’s important that we realize that these people are not people that we can be friends with but we need to move on and not hold a grudge. We don’t want to be people that hang on their grudges. That’s terrible and so certainly not Christian. There are two spiritual works of mercy that we should exercise to get rid of these thoughts and the 1st one is to forgive all injuries so we get a lot of grace for that and two, in addition to forgiving all injuries, to bear injustices patiently. So those are things that we’re supposed to do as Christians.
Ian: Now, bearing injustices patiently can sometimes turn into “I’m such a martyr because of what they did to me, look at me how great I am”. That could be a bad temptation.
Fr. Morrow: Pride, we have pride and it can enter in there so we don’t want to be the martyr. We forgive injuries and we move on and we trying not to brag about our virtuous behavior and then it was all the grace.
Ian: Now as far as dealing with anger in children, children typically seem to be on a much shorter fuse as far as suddenly getting angry about something. I have a whole bunch of kids and so I know that my kids can go from happy to furious just by saying no, or just by saying “Stop coloring on the table.” and suddenly there’s screaming and stuff. How do you deal with children their anger and try to move them to a more healthy use of their energy?
Fr. Morrow: Well you need to encourage them the way the world encourages us to good behavior, namely if they do, if they behave well they get rewarded and if they behave badly they get punished. And you need to be careful not to overdo the punishment. Psychologist recommend that you are very lavish in your rewards for good behavior. This is one of the ways that children learn is that they receive punishments and rewards but also I mean at the same time even when you punish children, you have to love them at the same time.
Ian: It’s very easy to show your anger when you’re punishing a child.
Fr. Morrow: One girl, she’s a member of our youth group, she ran up a $2000 bill on her cellphone and her father was livid. She said “You know, I can pay the $2000 in time but I wish you wouldn’t stop talking to me for two weeks.” and she was right. You uphold the punishment and actually, you know Dobson, who’s an expert on discipline, he says it doesn’t do any good to get angry at your kids to get them to behave better, you just punish them or you reward them and, so at the same time we punish children we must tell them that we love them and be willing to hold them and to hug them and even though they can’t have their Xbox, they can have us, our love .
Ian: What type of spiritual exercise do you suggest for people trying to cope with and better control their anger?
Fr. Morrow: Well actually there’s a wonderful prayer for humility that was written by Cardinal Marie Del Val. It’s a beautiful prayer on humility that we should strive not to expect to be praised all the time and to be willing to accept humiliation, being ignored, being insulted and all that stuff and that’s actually on our website, The Prayer for Humility. But it’s extremely important in fact when people tell me that they have a problem with patience or they have problem with anger, I’ll offer them the prayer for humility to pray that every day and to seek, to grow in that virtue and that’s one of the most important virtues. St. Agustin said the three most important virtues for the moral life are first humility, second humility and third humility. So that’s fundamental if we’re going to love God and then love our neighbors and we have to realize that we’re not so big and God is big and we are small and we have to accept our smallness by doing that. Then we shrink our footprints and we don’t step on anybody else’s toes.
Ian: Well, let’s talk a little about your ministry Catholic Faith Alive and you can find this at catholicfaithalive.org. Father, what else do you do part from this wonderful new book that you’ve written?
Fr. Morrow: Well, we have several books that are in print, the first one was published in 2003 by our Sunday visitor and entitled Christian Courtship in an Over Sexed World and that sold 15,000 copies already and still in print. I have a book entitled Be Holy that’s published by Servant Books, and that’s in the 2nd printing and it’s not just about the spiritual life. Actually the courtship the book is not just about chastity, it’s about the whole process of courtship but it includes a lot about chastity and includes information from Theology of the Body, but Be Holy, that book is a Catholic’s guide to the spiritual life about prayer and sacraments and how to grow in virtues and so on. So that book has been out since about back in 2009. Then I have another book that came out maybe a couple of years ago, Who’s Who in Heaven, a book that was written for families to read about the saints to their children so the vocabulary is rather simple but the theology is not dumbed down at all and there are a number of families have told me that the kids like it when they read. So this book is about eleven of the more amazing but more popular saints but there’s more detail in these stories than you would find in a short account of many of them. I also have a smaller book that is published by New Hope Publications and the title Achieving Chastity in a Pornographic World and that’s strictly on subject to chastity for everybody and every situation: dating or trouble with masturbation or all different areas of sexual morality.
Ian: That’s definitely is something we need nowadays.
Fr. Morrow: We have all kinds of leaflets out there on the page probably the most popular one is like Catholicism is used by the Legion of Mary a lot, basically it’s just an apologetic s as to why it’s really good to be Catholic. Another one that’s also very popular is Is Sunday Mass Necessary? and explains in detail why we have an obligation to go to Mass at least every Sunday.
Ian: Sounds like a good one to give to teenagers.
Fr. Morrow: Yes, and we also have both of those in Spanish too. And then we have a card on going to Confession that explains what are serious sins and what are the venial sins and has an act of contrition and so on. So, we have in Spanish and English as well. But, probably the thing that would, might help teenagers most is a little card, actually a bookmark that we put together with the prayer of thanksgiving and it just goes through all of the reasons, it’s a prayer to God but it’s a prayer why we should be thankful. We’re thankful for our family which we take for granted. We say thanks for our health, thank you for our bodies and our minds and so on and so forth, and at the end, this little paragraph, it says, you ask us to worship you at least once weekly on Sunday, It is our honor and pleasure to do so in gratitude for the all the gifts you’ve given us.
Ian: That’s a good reason to go to church isn’t it? I think that’s wonderful.
Fr. Morrow: Yes, we go to give thanks and Eucharist, the word Eucharist means thanksgiving.
Ian: Alright well Father Morrow I do appreciate your time today talking about your book, Overcoming Sinful Anger. It’s really a quick read. It’s only about hundred pages so I would encourage all of our listeners who have to deal with both anger in themselves and anger with others, because this does help you understand and cope with other people who are angry. The book is only $12 so it’s a great buy and definitely something that we all could use, Father Thank you for your time today.
Fr. Morrow: You’re very welcome.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.