Jesus is described in the gospels as being meek, gentle, and humble. But this doesn't mean he was weak. According to the New Testament, Jesus was blunt with the Pharisees and he turned over the tables in the temple. He was not a pushover. What these traits point to, in part, is the fact that Jesus had no unrighteous anger. Just as Jesus did, his followers "are to endure wrongs humbly and patiently and...let go of our anger, which is the fruit of pride" (p. 63). What can we do to become more like him in these ways? St. John of Climacus offers practical advice about how we can rid ourselves of anger.
Here are 3 steps we can take to rid ourselves of unrighteous anger:
1. Keep our mouths shut even when our hearts are stirred up with anger. This is a beginning, a way to start taking back territory in our hearts that we've given over to anger. It is also a way to keep our anger from harming others. When we lash out in anger, the words we utter can often do serious damage.
2. Silence the thoughts that cause our anger to fester. Many of us tend to dwell on situations, events, circumstances, or people that make us angry. But this feeds anger, when we should be starving it. We must seek to let our anger go (Ephesians 4:26). We can choose what our minds dwell on, it is one of our greatest freedoms as human beings. We can undermine anger by wisely choosing where to place our focus.
3. Don't take offense at insults or be grieved by injuries others inflict on you. Of course, if John of Climacus is right about this step, it reveals how few of us are able to make this much progress in the spiritual life! But we are not left to our own devices here. According to Christian teaching, God is with us, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and so over time and with much grace such change is possible.
There are other things we can do as we seek to rid ourselves of anger. Developing patience is one remedy. Anger can be thought of as one of the many fruits of the vice of pride. And if pride is the ultimate cause of anger, then cultivating humility will be helpful as well. I think most of us have more anger in our hearts than we care to admit. Hopefully, this advice from John of Climacus will be helpful as we seek to rid ourselves of this destructive force in our lives.
For more on this, see Thirty Steps to Heaven, by Theodore Christopher Vasilis