Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.

For those of us who speak without thinking and spout off when we are irritated, the sobering words of our Lord in Matthew 5:22 are often dismissed. In today’s world, words uttered in anger may be considered to be a slight offense that can be justified by the circumstances. In our own mind, we may afterwards indulge in such justifications in which our focus remains riveted not on what has come out of our mouths, but on what the other person has said or done to us. “Well, I did get angry, but he was accusing me of something I didn’t do,” or “He had it coming to him. He didn’t recognize my hard … [Read more...]

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for They Shall Be Called Children of God

As we continue to explore the Lord Christ’s Sermon on the Mount with specific attention to the Beatitudes, it may be profitable to pause for a moment and reflect upon the nature of beatitude itself.  Beatitude encompasses far more than happiness or blessedness.  It is an eschatological lodestar guiding us to a way of life that promises eternal salvation. The Beatitudes initiate one of the main themes of Matthew’s Gospel, that the Kingdom so long awaited in the Old Testament is not of this world, but of the next, meaning, among other things, that it is not political or external, but spiritual … [Read more...]

Taking Captivity Captive: The Role of Mindfulness in Overcoming Mindless Compulsions

In our busy world we often perform routine tasks without giving them much thought.  We’ve performed them so often that after the rote tasks are completed we often wonder to ourselves, “I don’t remember doing that” or “I was so deep in thought about work or family that I don’t remember the drive to work this morning.”  This isn’t to say the work was done in a sloppy fashion or the drive to work was reckless.  It does tell us however that we didn’t have our focus on what we were doing at that particular time.   Most of the time there aren’t any adverse consequences in “spacing out”.  Yet, when … [Read more...]

Compulsive Buying-Avoiding That Which Leads You to Act

Compulsive buying is a psychological and a spiritual disorder that is symptomatic of a distorted and dysfunctional view of self, others, and the world around us.  The real danger in this disorder, besides the obvious social and financial ruin it can wreak, is the compulsivity with which it is practiced.  Compulsivity can easily become a way of living, a modus operandi for daily life if not checked and dealt with effectively.  In the next few posts, I will offer practical steps in dealing with compulsion. For the fathers, passions and compulsions are related concepts that distort reality and … [Read more...]

Virtue: The Ultimate Remedy for the Problem and the Passion of Anger

In the past blog posts on anger, we have seen the way in which modern approaches to managing anger can be used by Christians in a way that is consistent with the teachings of earlier ascetics. Consistency with Christianity and the message of Christianity, however, are not the same. The ultimate cure for the problem of anger is not to be found solely in techniques such as relaxation, reframing the situation, taking a time out, thought stopping , or assertiveness training, as valuable as these techniques may be. No, the ultimate cure can only be found in acquiring the virtues inherent in the … [Read more...]

Irritating Situations or Anger-Provoking Interpretations: It Matters Whom We Blame

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts concerning anger, there is a certain concordance between cognitive therapeutic and patristic approaches to this problem.  This harmony is particularly evident in the observations by ascetic fathers and cognitive theorists about one’s perceptions of an anger-provoking event.  The Anger Management Manual authors employ Albert Ellis’s straightforward A-B-C-D model in order to explain not only the relationship between events, interpretations, and consequences, but also the importance of countering one’s interpretation in order to modify the cycle of anger. … [Read more...]

A Time-out from Anger, a Time-in for God

In the last blog post on anger, I wrote about seeking out its causes or roots.  In the next several posts I would like to explore the various therapeutic interventions concerning anger from the perspective of the fathers and cognitive therapy. In their Anger Management Manual, the cognitive therapists note, “Theoretically, the more techniques and interventions an individual has on his or her anger control plan, the better equipped he or she will be to manage anger in response to anger-provoking events.” The same could be said from the perspective of the fathers, although they would not seek to … [Read more...]

Be Ye angry, and Sin Not: Let Not the Sun Go Down Upon Your Wrath

Cognitive therapists and the ancient fathers would agree that misdirected anger causes much human misery, destroying relationships, smothering compassion, and bringing about untold suffering in the form of emotional wounds and even physical injuries.  Both classes of healers would also agree that there are therapeutic interventions that can be applied in order to bring relief to the scourge of anger.  However, before I discuss similar therapeutic interventions in future posts, it’s important to note that cognitive therapists and the ancient fathers understand anger in quite different terms. In … [Read more...]

“Let Everyone who Names the Name of the Lord Depart from Iniquity”

The title of this post is taken from the second letter of the Apostle Paul to Timothy.  It is also the subject of reflection for St. Ignatius Brianchaninov in one of his essays on asceticism.  For St. Ignatius as well as the ancient fathers, those who strive to lead a spiritual life and to grow in the practice of the Jesus Prayer need to be vigilant in the fight against the passions.  Very little spiritual benefit is derived from the recitation of the Jesus Prayer if one makes no effort to root out the passions, for as Saint Athanasius the Great notes, such a state entails confessing God with … [Read more...]

Is it Really OK To Look But Don’t Touch?

There’s an old saying that “it’s OK to look but don’t touch” when it comes to relating to another human being. Given today’s minimalistic morality of not flagrantly harming others and naturalistic understanding of human beings as creatures with animalistic drives, it’s not surprising that this maxim has become a widely-accepted folk proof-text allowing a person to lust after someone else as long as that doesn’t include any sort of physical intimacy.  Of course, this maxim flies in the face of the Christian spiritual tradition that views lust as a passion, human beings as called to greater … [Read more...]