The Seven Deadly Vices:

4. Anger versus Meekness

by Don Schwager


"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control"

(Proverbs 29:11).

Anger in the good sense is a natural human reaction to obstacles. It is meant to mobilize us for accomplishing things that demand effort and to equip us to fight through obstacles to what is right and good. Anger can lead to good or evil. Anger is morally good or righteous if it is directed against wrongdoing and is expressed under the control of reason and will. Gregory the Great says: "Reason opposes the evil more effectively when anger ministers at her side."

Anger is evil or unrighteous if it is directed against something good; or if it is allowed to get out of control or in control of us. The deadly vice of anger is an immoderate desire for revenge. Anger is sinful when it leads to vengeful actions that are disproportionate to the injury suffered. An angry person will seek by any means to injure others because he or she considers their good a threat to himself or herself. Pieper describes the various facets of deadly anger:

The virtue of meekness moderates anger and its disorderly effects. It does this by controlling the passion of anger and by not permitting one's anger to be aroused over trivial things. It prevents a person from taking too much revenge on those who have injured him. It restrains inordinate movements of resentment at another's character or behavior. It has nothing to do with weakness or timidity.

Patience, another form of meekness, enables one to endure present evils without sadness or resentment. It is a strong virtue because it inclines us to suffer and endure present evils without self-pity. It helps us to handle difficulties without giving into sadness or reacting with a growing sense of rage.

Example from the scriptures: Cain killed his brother Abel out of anger (see Genesis 4:5-8). When Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses and spoke against him, Moses responded with meekness rather than unjust anger (see Numbers 12). Scripture says that Jesus was "meek as a lamb" when he was unjustly accused and condemned to death (Acts 8:32ff; Matthew 11:29).