Dealing With Anger

Marcus Aurelius

“How much more grievous are the consequences
of anger than its causes .”

Basically, the first question is ‘Do you want to stop being angry?”

Sometimes the answer is “no” and if so, the conversation is over. If however you do, there is a path to resolution  – but you have some unpacking to do.

Most profoundly angry people have a limited perspective and can only see the rage. Working through it begins with understanding that rage is just the wrapper. Underneath that is a sense of offense. You were offended and that too needs understanding. Beneath the sense of offense is a core of pain. The pain is the fuel, and the fuel source must be cut-off or it will continue to flame-up. Beneath the pain is a root cause. That’s where the real work happens.

The root could be disappointment, or it might be disillusionment or perhaps even abandonment. For many it is regret, but for some it is simply having to deal with accountability.

When you can unpack your anger down to that level and objectively examine it from every angle, without excuse, you can begin to live without anger.  The good news its that you don’t have to do this on your own power.

The God of creation wants to renew your mind.

IMG_0181James 3

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.


Dig Deeper

Art: The Seven Deadly Sins, Anger by Romain de Tirtoff (Роман Тыртов), 1892-1990

Literature & Liturgy: Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism

Roman emperor (161–80) and Stoic philosopher who was born April 26, 121 as M. Annius Verus, son of a consular family of Spanish origin. His industry and seriousness were soon noticed by Hadrian, who arranged his education and betrothed him (136) to the daughter of L. Aelius Caesar, his adopted son and designated successor. When Aelius died (138), Hadrian took as his new heir Antoninus Pius. Pius in turn adopted Marcus, and Aelius’ son Lucius.

After Hadrian’s death (July 138), Marcus moved into the palace with Pius. He began higher studies, chiefly with the rhetorician Cornelius Fronto. A number of letters between them (the majority in Latin) survive in Fronto’s correspondence, giving an insight into Marcus’ nature at this time. It was only later (146–47) that his interests turned wholeheartedly to philosophy.

It was during the northern campaigns that the Meditations (12 books, in Greek) were written. They contain few references to external events, but Marcus’ preoccupation with the traditional Stoic principles of duty and self-sufficiency, and his obsession with life’s transience and death as the common lot of humanity, clearly reflect the conditions under which they were written. Published posthumously with little editing, these personal, sometimes cryptic philosophical reflections rightly ensure for Marcus the fame on whose value and uncertainty he frequently ponders.

Like that of Epictetus, Marcus’ Stoicism is more religious than philosophical in nature, emphasizing the need to love both God and one’s fellow man. It is ironic, therefore, that Marcus should also be remembered as a persecutor of the Christians. Unjust too, for the anti-Christian hysteria of the 160s (Justin and his companions martyred at Rome, ca. 167, a date also given by Eusebius, perhaps wrongly, for Polycarp’s martyrdom in Smyrna [Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 4. 15; 16]) was a by-product of the plague, while the more extensive persecution at Lyons in 177 (Hist. Eccl. 5. pref; 1) was provoked by legislation allowing the use of condemned criminals as gladiators. The law was Marcus’, not the use to which it was put.


Birley, A. 1988. Marcus Aurelius. Rev. ed. New Haven.
Brunt, P. A. 1979. Marcus Aurelius and the Christians. Vol. 1, pp. 483–520 in Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History, ed. C. Deroux. Collection Latomus 164. Brussels.
Farquharson, A. S. L. 1944. The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Oxford.
———. 1951. Marcus Aurelius: His Life and His World, ed. D. A. Rees. Oxford.
Garzetti, A. 1974. From Tiberius to the Antonines. Rev. ed. Trans. J. R. Foster. London.
Grube, G. M. A. 1983. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Indianapolis.
Haines, C. R. 1919–20. The Correspondence of Marcus Cornelius Fronto. 2 vols. LCL. London.
Klein, R. 1979. Marc Aurel. Wege der Forschung 550. Darmstadt.

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Rick Wilcox

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