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“Ask a Priest: What Should I Do With Lingering Anger?”
Q: Back in March I mildly sprained an index finger. My family doctor was on vacation so I went to of those walk-in medical facilities. Unfortunately I was seen by an incompetent doctor who pulled and pushed on my finger as way of “examining me” and made my condition worse. Now here it is almost three months later and I am still suffering because of what this disgusting person did to me. I have been to two specialists and am still in pain! To make matters worse, I have tried filing charges against this individual, but because of New York State’s legal system have been given a hard time every step of the way. I am overcome with feeling of hatred for that doctor. Many days I wish it were possible to pay someone to give him a beating and put him in the hospital. I know as a Christian it wrong to feel this way and don’t know what to do. Please help! -L.S.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I am sorry to hear of your medical problem growing worse because of bad treatment. It sounds, though, that the pain this doctor inflicted on you has prompted you to inflict an even worse pain on yourself.
By nursing hatred toward this person, you are hurting yourself, spiritually and maybe physically as well. Hatred can gnaw at a person’s spirit and wear her down.
This isn’t coming from heaven; it is coming from somewhere else. Perhaps the devil is using the initial medical mistake to tempt you toward this hatred. Or perhaps there is something that has been troubling you, and this doctor was just the occasion for anger to bubble up.
Rather than try to analyze you psychologically (which isn’t my competence), I would suggest that you try to get to confession and put all this bitterness in Our Lord’s hands. You don’t want go through life harboring a grudge. To help you get over the anger, think of all ways Jesus has shown his forgiveness to you. In turn, he asks us to extend mercy to others. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
By asking us to forgive others, Jesus is actually trying to make our lives easier. It takes much more energy to despise someone than to accept them.
For more reading, see this interview.
To help you reflect more deeply on your own experience and to make the distinction between the feeling of anger (justified in this case) and the sin of anger, you might find this article helpful.
Perhaps it might be helpful to on meditate on the scene of Jesus on the cross, when he says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Then see if perhaps Our Lord is inviting you to imitate that same spirit of forgiveness. I hope some of this helps.