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Chapter XXVII.

How anger should be repressed.

We ought then to restrain every movement of anger and moderate it under the direction of discretion, that we may not by blind rage be hurried into that which is condemned by Solomon: “The wicked man expends all his anger, but the wise man dispenses it bit by bit,”20052005    Prov. xxix. 11. i.e., a fool is inflamed by the passion of his anger to avenge himself; but a wise man, by the ripeness of his counsel and moderation little by little diminishes it, and gets rid of it. Something of the same kind too is this which is said by the Apostle: “Not avenging yourselves, dearly beloved: but give place to wrath,”20062006    Rom. xii. 19. i.e., do not under the compulsion of wrath proceed to vengeance, but give place to wrath, i.e., do not let your hearts be confined in the straits of impatience and cowardice so that, when a fierce storm of passion rises, you cannot endure it; but be ye enlarged in your hearts, receiving the adverse waves of anger in the wide gulf of that love which “suffereth all things, beareth all things;”20072007    1 Cor. xiii. 7. and so your mind will be enlarged with wide long-suffering and patience, and will have within it safe recesses of counsel, in which the foul smoke of anger will be received and be diffused and forthwith vanish away; or else the passage may be taken in this way: we give place to wrath, as often as we yield with humble and tranquil mind to the passion of another, and bow to the impatience of the passionate, as if we admitted that we deserved any kind of wrong. But those who twist the meaning of the perfection of which the Apostle speaks so as to make out that those give place to anger, who go away from a man in a rage, seem to me not to cut off but rather to foment the incitement to quarrelling, for unless a neighbour’s wrath is overcome at once by amends being humbly made, a man provokes rather than avoids it by his flight. And there is something like this that Solomon says: “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be wroth, for anger reposes in the bosom of fools;” and: “Be not quick to rush into a quarrel, lest thou repent thereof at the last.”20082008    Eccl. vii. 9; Prov. xxv. 8. For he does not blame a hasty exhibition of quarrelling and anger in such a way as to praise a tardy one. In the same way too must this be taken: “A fool declares his anger in the very same hour, but a prudent man hides his shame.”20092009    Prov. xii. 16. For he does not lay it down that a shameful outburst of anger ought to be hidden by wise men in such a way that while he blames a speedy outburst of anger he fails to forbid a tardy one, as certainly, if owing to human weakness it does burst forth, he means that it should be hidden for this reason, that while for the moment it is wisely covered up, it may be destroyed forever. For the nature of anger is such that when it is given room it languishes and perishes, but if openly exhibited, it burns more and more. The hearts then should be enlarged and opened wide, lest they be confined in the narrow straits of cowardice, and be filled with the swelling surge of wrath, and so we become unable to receive what the prophet calls the “exceeding broad” commandment of God in our narrow heart, or to say with the prophet: “I have run the way of thy commandments for thou hast enlarged my heart.”20102010    Ps. cxviii. (cxix.) 32. For that long-suffering is wisdom we are taught by very clear passages of Scripture: for “a man who is long-suffering is great in prudence; but a coward is very foolish.”20112011    Prov. xiv. 29. And therefore Scripture says of him who to his credit asked the gift of wisdom from the Lord: “God gave Solomon wisdom and prudence 460exceeding much, and largeness of heart as the sand of the sea for multitude.”20122012    1 Kings iv. 29.

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