“If, therefore, you desire to attain perfection and rightly to pursue the spiritual way, you should make yourself a stranger to all sinful anger and wrath.” –St. John Cassian, On the Eight Vices¸(On Anger, p. 83)
Anger is not a word I would typically use to describe myself or my main vice. I’m generally positive and encouraging and don’t easily snap into fits of rage. In my marriage, I’m the more stubborn and prideful one and my husband is the angrier one…yes, he’ll be the first one to admit it. This past Monday night, however, I was confronted with an anger I didn’t know I had…and one which St. John Cassian (with a small dash of Evagrios) has helped me to wrestle with.
On Monday night I dreamt that I met 2 girls who my husband had fathered back in college and whom I never new existed. I can’t remember exactly how we met, but I do remember becoming very angry. I was angry at Tim (and his family) for keeping this ‘secret’ for our 5 years of marriage. I was angry at him for betraying my trust and for acting like our son was his first child when he really wasn’t. In my dream it was almost like it wasn’t a big deal at all. I’d summarize his response in this way- “Yeah, those are the daughters I fathered and who I have not contact with in over 6 years. Big deal. You and our son are all I care about now, so why get angry about something that happened in the past?” I remember waking up in the middle of my sleep and not knowing what do to. My dream was so vivid and so real. I was really angry at Tim. I rolled away from him to the opposite edge of the bed and just lay there, fuming with anger and confused. I sighed deeply and hoped that when I went back to sleep I’d learn that it was all a big mistake. I wanted to freely and joyfully love Tim like I had before that dream began, but in that in-between sleep period I was really angry at Tim. Deep down, though, I think I knew it was really just a dream, but then I began to wonder why I was dreaming such things!
“‘Do not let the sun go down upon your anger: and do not make room for the devil’ (Eph. 4:26-27)…If we take Paul’s saying literally, it does not permit us to keep our anger even until sunset. What does this say…about others who do not express their anger, but keep it silent and increase the poison of their rancor to their own destruction?” (p.84)
The next morning I was very glad to see Tim and have him confirm the illegitimacy of my dream and not of his ‘other’ children. However, I was still perplexed at why I’d have a dream that provoked such anger within me. Should just blame it on getting adjusted to sleeping in a new room? Indigestion? Probably not. As I’ve reflected upon my dream in light of what I’ve been reading in On the Eight Vices this week, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have been successful in not being an expressively angry person, but as one who experiences anger and keeps it silent. I know when Tim is angry- at me, someone else or something else, but he doesn’t always know when I am angry. I can repress it pretty well. I grew up with parents who were never expressively angry at each other and so I’ve tried to model that in my life. However, that doesn’t mean that I’ve freed myself from anger. What exactly triggered my dream of anger? Frustrations about the long-drawn out move process of the previous weekend? Feeling that I was unjustly the cause of Tim’s anger on an earlier occasion? I am not sure. Right now it is more important for me to be able to name my silent anger and commit to praying for the Doctor of souls to root out the excuses and anger from my heart.