The Hidden Sin of Anger

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 The fourth hidden sins in religious persons discussed by John of the Cross in his book The Dark Night is the sin of anger.


As with all 7 of these “deadly sins” the person who has them is initially unaware of their presence. Even with time we are relatively blind to the operation of these sins within us, and only the revelation of self that occurs when we see God can fully expose them. Purification from these sins is beyond the will and comprises stage two of monastic purification. As we progress with Teresa in our journey into the Interior Castle, or with John into the passive dark night of the spirit, we will become freed of these sins.


John identifies 3 ways that hidden anger is manifested in believers: a tendency to be irritable and lack grace, a proud judgmentalism towards the weaknesses of others, and a hypercritical impatience with our own progress.


Here then is chapter five of “The Dark Night”:


Of the imperfections into which beginners fall with respect to the sin of anger.


BY reason of the concupiscence which many beginners have for spiritual consolations, their experience of these consolations is very commonly accompanied by many imperfections proceeding from the sin of wrath; for, when their delight and pleasure in spiritual things come to an end, they naturally become embittered, and bear that lack of sweetness which they have to suffer with a bad grace, which affects all that they do; and they very easily become irritated over the smallest matter—sometimes, indeed, none can tolerate them. This frequently happens after they have been very pleasantly recollected in prayer according to sense; when their pleasure and delight therein come to an end, their nature is naturally vexed and disappointed, just as is the child when they take it from the breast of which it was enjoying the sweetness. There is no sin in this natural vexation, when it is not permitted to indulge itself, but only imperfection, which must be purged by the aridity and severity of the dark night.

2. There are other of these spiritual persons, again, who fall into another kind of spiritual anger: this happens when they become irritated at the sins of others, and keep watch on those others with a sort of uneasy zeal. At times the impulse comes to them to reprove them angrily, and occasionally they go so far as to indulge it and set themselves up as masters of virtue. All this is contrary to spiritual meekness.

3. There are others who are vexed with themselves when they observe their own imperfectness, and display an impatience that is not humility; so impatient are they about this that they would fain be saints in a day. Many of these persons purpose to accomplish a great deal and make grand resolutions; yet, as they are not humble and have no misgivings about themselves, the more resolutions they make, the greater is their fall and the greater their annoyance, since they have not the patience to wait for that which God will give them when it pleases Him; this likewise is contrary to the spiritual meekness aforementioned, which cannot be wholly remedied save by the purgation of the dark night. Some souls, on the other hand, are so patient as regards the progress which they desire that God would gladly see them less so.

For more on Monastic teaching see Stage One of Monastic Purification.