Cooling Anger and Warming Sadness

Cooling Anger and Warming Sadness

When we are intensely angry it becomes hard to see straight. Conversely, the low drag of sadness can leave us with too little energy to pay much attention. So, for the sake of those in the thick of these emotions, we’ll get straight to the point.

Recently a circle of people gathered at the Benedictine Center to talk about the dynamics of anger and sadness in our lives. Together we discovered a series of images and a handful of concrete actions that help us get practical about cooling our anger and warming our sadness.

Picturing Anger and Sadness

photo of white hot fire

1. Anger burns as a fire too hot.

photo of burned out log without flame

2. Sadness burns as a fire too cool.

photo of kindling used to restart the blaze

3. By God's grace, we can act to kindle the good fire.

photo of logs catching fire again

4. By God's grace, the fire of truth and humility burns warmly.

Some Actions

  • Remember, feelings are a God-given capacity.
  • Go gently with yourself. (Try a body scan meditation)
  • Notice and name what you are feeling. (Explore new words for anger or sadness; pray the Psalms to borrow language from others)
  • In anger, increase the movement of your body to match the influx of fight-or-flight chemicals. (Engage exercise or hands-on work)
  • In sadness, increase the movement of your body to breath deeply and open to the world around you. (Consider "sauntering," which Thoreau says improves our morale, and makes us frank, cordial and single-minded)
  • Stay connected. (Keep reaching out to friends/mentors who help you keep anger and sadness in the light of day)
  • Turn toward God with whatever you are experiencing, especially the unpleasant. The monk Michael Casey illustrates the benefit of this trust in God's healing mercy through an image from the Church Fathers:

"A basket of manure is not valuable on its own, but in the hands of a master gardener, it is placed around the roots of trees to produce growth. Our sadnesses and pain may not seem worth much, but they are fuel the Holy Spirit kindles into love" (Toward God, Ligouri Publications, 1996).


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4 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing the thoughts on "Cooling Anger and Warming Sadness." The Holy Spirit knew I needed to see these reflections in these days of transition from one ministry position to another. The practices suggested will, I pray, help me to transition well spiritually, emotionally and personally.
    • Ellen, it is very good to hear from you and to realize anew that the Spirit is moving mightily in your life. We will be praying for you in the midst of transition, trusting that those you serve with your many gifts and bright joy will be blessed!
  2. Sam, as always - thank you. Was not feeling anger or sadness, but more stress. And the image captured me to open this and read. And breathe.
    • Thank you for your comment, Joy. It reminds me of something we have exploring in more depth these days--how images invite us into spaces we least expect and where the Spirit is doing good work! Peace to you!

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