22. Not to give way to anger.
23. Not to nurse a grudge.
24. Not to entertain deceit in one’s heart.
25. Not to give a false peace.
26. Not to forsake charity.
27. Not to swear, for fear of perjuring oneself.
28. To utter truth from heart and mouth.
29. Not to return evil for evil.
30. To do no wrong to anyone, and to bear patiently wrongs done to oneself.
31. To love one’s enemies.
32. Not to curse those who curse us, but rather to bless them.
33. To bear persecution for justice’s sake.
34. Not to be proud.
35. Not addicted to wine.
36. Not a great eater.
37. Not drowsy.
38. Not lazy.
39. Not a grumbler.
40. Not a detractor.
41. To put one’s hope in God.
42. To attribute to God, and not to self, whatever good one sees in oneself.
43. But to recognize always that the evil is one’s own doing, and to impute it to oneself.
Continuing with the list of instruments, it seems that a good many are related to anger. If one lets the sun go down on one’s anger, it can grow inside, festering and lead to a number of sins. I’m not a person easily roused to anger, but when I am it’s not a pretty sight. And how many times if I pay attention, if I catch myself in the moment, does it not seem like the anger wants to be “fed”, as if there is a needling inciting one to stoke the flames.
The home, especially when one falls on hard times, may be a battlefield. Nerves may be wracked, tiredness may be taking its toll, a sickness or indisposition… Then suddenly the noise the children are making is unbearable; a word the spouse says is interpreted in the wrong way; the noise coming from the neighbors is purposely to annoy us… Small things are blown out of proportion and the more one fans the flames, the more distorted they become.
One thing I have tried to do since the beginning of the relationship with my wife is to not let the sun go down on our anger. I was very aware of the effects of not addressing anger from my home growing up as a child, where problems were ignored, swept under the rug where they festered until they finally blew up. The more one gives way to anger, the more one is inclined to act out of spite, to repay evil for perceived evil, to be uncharitable, to bear grudges…
St. Benedict mentions grumbling. He will return to murmuring several times over the course of the Rule. Murmuring is infectious; it spreads easily, and causes havoc. What springs most to mind as I write this is the workplace, where murmuring can always be heard. And even if one is not inclined to it, after hearing it so often and from so many fronts one is is caught up in it in the moment if one is not on guard. It makes for a bad atmosphere, of mistrust, of laziness, of cynicism.
Over the years since my return to the Church, after fighting with what I thought were my main sins I have gone on to discover others which I was not aware of, sins which I ignored and seemed new to me until I looked back and realized that they had always been there in one form or another and I just hadn’t really considered them. I have come to do good things over the years, taken steps to walk down the straight and narrow, and these steps I know are not of my own doing because I am aware of my weaknesses (though they aren’t always before my eyes as often as they should be).