I’m curious what readers (religious or not) wind up doing when you’re frustrated by/or angry at someone. I’ve just been reading Letters to a Beginner: On Giving One’s Life To God by Abbess Thaisia of Leushino and she writes sharply against idle talk and gossip:
It begins under the pretext of conversing, of discussing some business, but then we proceed imperceptibly to an altogether unnecessary, empty, and sinful conversation. Like a deeply-rooted infection, this sickness does not easily submit to healing. It has penetrated all layers of social and private life; it is active in people of every age and gender, every class and social position, and has not even spared monasteries.
And what great evil results from empty and idle conversations and gossip! Sometimes one heedlessly spoken word causes a whole storm of indignation and hatred. So even a word that was not ill-intentioned, one we counted as nothing, can strike a mortal sin, just as a small spark often turns into a great fire burning whole villages.
I’m just not always sure what I should be doing when I’m frustrated. Sometimes I tell the whole story to a friend, but I usually don’t feel better as a result. I don’t want to be sympathized with (well, I want it a bit, but it’s not what I most want-to-want), and especially not at the expense of the person who irritated me. I’m more likely to get my friend to feel frustrated on my behalf and angry at the person I’m angry at.
But I don’t want (or, if I’m in a bad mood, want-to-want) to be angry, and I definitely don’t want to contagiously spread my anger to others. What I really tend to need is someone to help me develop a little more compassion for the person I’m teed off at, and then figure out if there’s something I can do for the both of us. When a conversation doesn’t help me move toward reconciliation, and makes the other person upset, too, I feel worse, not better.
Alternatively, I can keep mum about the irritation (which isn’t necessarily unreasonable — when this happens, it’s often a pretty minor thing), but I’m not great at moving from resentment to caritas on my own, and there’s something that feels a little dishonest about being privately angry and having no one know. Though that may be a weirder, modern thought, thinking the truest part of myself are my impulses, not the way I respond to them.
What I actually tend to do is pull out this Orthodox prayer for enemies (immediately, on my phone, if necessary) and go through it:
Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst command us to love our enemies, and those who defame and injure us, and to pray for them and forgive them; Who Thyself didst pray for Thine enemies, who crucified thee: grant us, we pray, the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, that we may heartily forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies. Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offences of people with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor. We further beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. And help us repay evil with goodness, and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil and from all the perils which threaten us, in the form of visible and invisible enemies. Amen.
I like having language I can rely on that starts by acknowledging my anger and moves from there to wishing real peace for the person who I’m having a difficult time with.
Plus, I like the juxtaposition of this “For enemies” with what appears under that heading in the Half Blood Prince’s potions book.
I get to pick revenge or reconciliation, and the stakes are always high.
Do you guys have any good alternatives?