Peace and Righteous Anger

Salvete, omnes!

We are very often told in Sacred Scripture to be at peace with all men.

However, do we not also have the right to be (righteously and properly) angry with epople when they intentionally do wrong to us or others and even to express that anger (but not in an irrational/personal way, of course)? I have always believed in what I call a “reasoned anger” – an anger that is mad at the person for sinning but not mad at the person for being a person, in other words, an anger that is upset at the badness of the sin but does not want to blot the person committing it out of existence or something like that. I think most also define this as indeed a “righteous anger”.

The only problem with this is that very often righteous/reasoned anger results in such a way that the otehr person, usually out of offended pride, responds with irrational/“unrighteous”, if you will, anger. In both instances, one could argue, a lack of “peace” is created between the righteously angry and the unrighteously so.

We could also argue that our being righteously angry with someone very often causes them to stumble into sin when they become unrighteously angry. So, then, in some sense, when we show righteous anger, we can often be sure that we are, in some sense, causing the other person to sin. Would this, then, be considered scandalizing the other person by having a good feeling that a person is likely to, even momentarily fall into the sin of unrighteous anger? Even if that person eventually takes our words to heart and learns how horrible their sin is and not to sin because of our strong reaction to it?

Indeed, Christ Himself, I would argue, often expressed righteous anger at sin, particularly of the Pharisees which, obviously, caused discord between them to the point that they had Our Precious Lord crucified! Christ didn’t seem, still, to ahve a problem with this or even with causing them to fall into sin. And certainly Paul and, arguably, all the other Apostles experssed righteous anger with their flocks when they were intentionally and obviously sinning.

Some may counter, though, that these men were men in positions of authroity and thus had the right to exercise it in the way they do, with firmness. However, I would argue that firmness often results from righteous anger at the sin and rarely from sweet and easy feelings about it. I would also ask what exactly gives someone only in authority the right to be righteously angry and takes away from those who are not the right to express what they genuinely, sincerely and, I would argue, properly feel? To my mind, it is very good to be angry about sin and even with those who do intentionally sin. Sure, we can mitigate even this anger if we know Factor X or Y may have sadly influenced some sinful act, but I’m speaking of out and out sin that has little to mitigate an angry response to it. But, yes, each situation is very case-dependent.

Are we never to express righteous anger against anyone for fear that peace will be destroyed and/or for fear of scandalizing them in some way? Are we rather, insincerely and unnaturally, to be all nice and sweet to everyone every time no matter what they do?

Sort of related to the righteous anger question is the question of satirical anger as expressed, in modern times by folks like Stephen Colbert and in former times by many great writers of many great civilizations. Is even this permitted or not in the context of maintaining peace with all men? After all, satire is mainly presented to attack in a more humorous but also pointed (arguably righteously angry) way the sin/wrongdoing and not the person behind it (or, at least, it shouldn’t be). There may, indeed, be no direct hatred of the person in it, just a despising of the sin/wrongdoing. But, again, such satire may make people, even for a moment, unrighteously angry do to pride. So, then, what of this? Is even this permitted if we are told to be peaceful with all men?

Gratias maximas.

Only the person who becomes irate without reason, sins. Whoever becomes irate for a just reason is not guilty. Because, if ire were lacking, the science of God would not progress, judgments would not be sound, and crimes would not be repressed.

  • Further, the person who does not become irate when he has cause to be, sins. For an unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices: it fosters negligence, and stimulates not only the wicked, but above all the good, to do wrong. *
    St. John Chrysostom

Oh, wow! WOW!! LOL That is almost precisely what I was saying!! Oh my goodness!! blush I am actually rather humbled that I would see the exact sentiment expressed by someone so great! :smiley:

Thanks for the post!

According to Aquinas: “anger is a desire for vengeance.” Vengeance may seem a bad thing, but Aquinas defines it this way: “*Vengeance consists in the infliction of a penal evil on one who has sinned.” *That is, it is a matter of justice. The problem is not so much with anger per se, as that anger can make us act out of proportion to the injury.
*As stated in Ethic. vii, 6, “anger listens somewhat to reason” in so far as reason denounces the injury inflicted, “but listens not perfectly,” because it does not observe the rule of reason as to the measure of vengeance. Anger, therefore, requires an act of reason; and yet proves a hindrance to reason. *(ST I-II 46 4 ad 3)
As I understand this, anger is good in that it stimulates us to demand justice (understood as vengeance proportionate to the sin), but bad when it leads to excess.
*Now the object of anger is the same in substance as the object of hatred; since, just as the hater wishes evil to him whom he hates, so does the angry man wish evil to him with whom he is angry. But there is a difference of aspect: for the hater wishes evil to his enemy, as evil, whereas the angry man wishes evil to him with whom he is angry, not as evil but in so far as it has an aspect of good, that is, in so far as he reckons it as just, since it is a means of vengeance. Wherefore also it has been said above (A[2]) that hatred implies application of evil to evil, whereas anger denotes application of good to evil. Now it is evident that to seek evil under the aspect of justice, is a lesser evil, than simply to seek evil to someone. Because to wish evil to someone under the aspect of justice, may be according to the virtue of justice, if it be in conformity with the order of reason; and anger fails only in this, that it does not obey the precept of reason in taking vengeance. Consequently it is evident that hatred is far worse and graver than anger. *(I-II 46,6)

Wow! It seems that you have studied this quite thoroughly, or was it merely because of my little post? If the former, I am glad tha I am not the only one who has struggled with these questions, apparently either in modern times or in the distant past.

I guess, though, with all this in mind, could one not argue that the righteous anger referred to in the above passages is more a “private” anger rather than one expressed directly to the person with whom one is angry? In other words, you can feel it privately but you shouldn’t express it publicly, or at least to the person with whom you are angry?

Could actually expressing your anger to a person still be sinful because it runs counter to peace? So, then, are we still to be “nice” even though, inside, we are actually and justly angry? ARe we required to suppress our emotions for the sake of maintaining peace and even not causing the other person to stumble into the sin of unrighteous anger?

The latter case is quite puzzling to me. If we take Paul’s advice to not cause the man of weak conscience to stumble by being seen, for example, to eat meat by him, should we not also present as angry before someone with whom we are righteously angry because we just might (indeed, rather likely might) cause him to sin in being “unrighteously” angry? Are we responsible in this case, as we are in the meat case, for guarding against someone else’s potential sin? Or, is there some difference between the two cases of which I am unaware?

I guess we could say that, in the meat case, the other person already knows that you do eat meat, but, when you are in front of him or may be, you don’t eat it because you know that he might be tempted by it and eat and thus fall into sin himself. So, in this case, you are not hiding the fact that you eat meat but are just showing consideration for the otehr man’s weak conscience by not eating it in front of him. You are being sincere in that he knows that you do eat meat, but you are not tempting him by doing it in front of him. So, then, in the case of showing anger, at least insofar as sincerity is a factor, it is permitted, because, otherwise, you would not be sincere if you were all “nice” when you were actually feling a different way.

So, how much does sincerity figure here? Should it be observed? Should it not in order to maintain peace/prevent “scandal”? What does everyone think?

I must make a bit of a sidenote here: There are some (perhaps many) who, especially if they are prone to get out of control, should be very, very, VERY careful, obviously, in areas like this, i.e., when expressing anger, eve if it is righteous. I myself tend to be very level-headed (not a brag, just a fact), so, for me, I tend to be very controlled even in my anger; I don’t let it get out of control, but, again, some others should, I think, be cautious.

Forgot to add:

Is there any time when the Christian should NOT be sincere with people? Would keeping peace be one of those times? In other words, would God actually want us to act insincerely toward someone with whom we might be righteously angry simply to maintain peace and/or to keep the other person from stumbling into the sin of unrighteous anger? Would He want us just to act “nice” to them even though we sincerely felt anger?

And, perhaps a bit tangentially, but, what about in the case of eating meat that I alluded to earlier on Paul’s advice on the matter concerning those who have weak consciences? Do you think I am reading it correctly above? Does Paul assume that the weak person already knows that the other person eats meat? Or, rather, was Paul advising members of his congregation not even to reveal or to hide that they ate meat from those with weak consciences? Would the ones with strong consciences be permitted by Paul to reveal this to the weak brother and even to try to cinvince them of the rightness of their position (in love, not pride or anything else), but, then, if the weaker brother refused to accept what he says, ultimately to do what Paul advises? Again, to me, that would be acting truly and honestly and seeking what is ultimately best for one’s brother. It would also be a more sincere approach. However, there is one instance where Paul does advise men to keep what they believe to themselves where there is a similar controversy which, again, would imply that insincerity is called for at times and that we are sometimes not even permitted to lovingly show our brother the correct way if he is weak, thus not seeking the best for our brother. I guess Paul allows for this because, apparently, eating and drinking, as Paul says, does not commend us to God? However, I would think that even this, as with everything in life, has a spiritual component. Even eating and drinking has joy in it and, if the weaker brother could be enlightened, he should be so that he could also participate in that enjoyment.

At any rate, as I say, the immediate above is a tangential matter, but it surely to some extent touches on what we are discussing here, so it would be great if you guys could address it albeit briefly and insofar as it pertains to our current topic under discussion.

I think this is a matter of prudence; it depends on the situation. Expressing anger where it will just lead to more anger and an escalation of enmity is not helpful. Expressing a righteous anger can also, however, make it clear to someone that he has acted in a way that is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Could actually expressing your anger to a person still be sinful because it runs counter to peace?

  • Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons… *(CCC 2304)
    Peace does not require the sacrifice of justice.

So, then, are we still to be “nice” even though, inside, we are actually and justly angry? Are we required to suppress our emotions for the sake of maintaining peace and even not causing the other person to stumble into the sin of unrighteous anger?

How one acts in a particular instance is a question of prudence, but again, justice does not need to hide its face for fear of offending.


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