We continue our exploration of the wounds of the heart by focusing on anger, envy, and confusion. Perhaps, these three do not seem like wounds at all, but more like defense mechanisms or appropriate responses to injustice. And, while that can be true, at least for anger and confusion, there are ways in which all three can wound the heart severely and relentlessly.
(Find Part 1 of this series here.)
Beginning with anger, let’s look at righteous or good anger. Think of the scene when Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple; this is righteous anger. The emotion of anger that Jesus felt was in response to witnessing an injustice toward God—people using the Temple as a marketplace—and taking offense to it. When we feel angry when injustices are committed, that is an appropriate emotional response to the situation; it would be unnatural if anger were not felt. This feeling of anger helps to fuel action and change, to amend the injustice and restore peace.
Anger takes a dark turn when it is held on to for too long or when it is an inappropriate response to a given situation. Holding on to anger leads to a desire for revenge, retaliation, violence of any kind, or the refusal to grant forgiveness. Anger can be an inappropriate response out of ignorance or out of the inability to see the good in another person. Not giving someone the benefit of the doubt, jumping to conclusions, accusing without evidence, or slander are examples of this kind of anger.
A good way to determine if anger has gone awry is to look for destructive desires, the refusal to forgive, or the refusal to see the good in another person. If any of these are present, then anger has moved past a desire to restore justice and toward pride and the desire to have power and control. Now blinded by anger, the heart is no longer able to adequately give and receive mercy and love. Like a heart attack, this kind of anger eventually will deprive the heart completely of the necessary flow of love—the constant giving and receiving of mercy and forgiveness—and it will grow cold.
Unlike anger, envy only has a dark side. Envy is the result of a lack of gratitude and humility. The envious person desires what someone else possesses—be it a material good, personal characteristic, achievement, etc.—and desires that the other person does not have it. The second part, desiring that the other person does not have it, is what distinguishes envy from jealousy. Envy wounds the heart deeply, first by robbing it from the joy and peace that come from gratitude and then destroying the heart’s ability to rejoice in another person and their gifts.
Not being able to rejoice in another can only lead to isolation. This is because the envious seek only the other person’s downfall or demise instead of seeking to uplift, celebrate, and bring attention to the goodness in others. Thinking oneself more important than others and robbed of what is owed to them, the envious see themselves as better than others or at least more deserving. With this sort of mentality, it is quite difficult for the envious to truly know themselves and how God sees them, preferring to be someone else instead. Since God’s love for each of us is unique, not knowing oneself, especially before God, makes an authentic relationship with God impossible. The heart has no other choice than to be alone.
Finally, turning to confusion, we encounter yet another blinding and isolating wound of the heart. Intellectual confusion can be remedied by instruction or demonstration; the misunderstanding is corrected and clarity is restored. But, confusion of the heart is often more difficult to detect and therefore repair. Confusion of the heart is confusion about one’s identity, worth, dignity, or life’s purpose. A confused heart will believe that it is unloved, abandoned, worthless, dirty, useless, or pointless. And, while the heart holds onto these beliefs as fact, it is unaware that it actually holds onto lies, and hence it remains unaware of its own confusion.
If you have ever believed any of those lies, then you know how difficult it can be to embrace the truth. This is because the heart grasps these lies out of fear of love, afraid of further damage in the future if it does not remain diligent in its self-defense. Self-reliance, an inability to ask for help, and a habit of destructive behavior or lack of kindness all indicate a heart that is fearful of loving and being loved. However, rather than protect the heart, this confusion only leads to further frustration and pain, as the heart aches for authentic relationships and meaning in life.
The Cure: Jesus’ Sacred Heart
All of this darkness from anger, envy, and confusion are boldly confronted with the light and burning love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The wounds of the Sacred Heart witness to the profound love God has for his beloved. Rather than ridicule, destroy, or condemn any of us for our sins, the Sacred Heart offers his life to us out of mercy, compassion, and delight. When he looks at each one of us, his Sacred Heart burns with love and desires to richly pour out that love upon us. He sees in us our great need for him because of our sin, and that draws him to come to our rescue. The wounds of his Sacred Heart remind us that he accepted ridicule, condemnation, and abandonment on the Cross so that we would not have to. And if that were not enough, he asks that we accept this gift by accepting him into our hearts, where he may delight in his beloved.
For those of us who struggle with anger, envy, or confusion, I invite you to stand with the Blessed Mother and St. John at the foot of the Cross. Hear Jesus say to you, as he sees you perfectly, “I thirst.” Feel the desire he has for you as he offers his life for you. Hear him also say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” In this encounter of Divine Love, our hearts can reject the lies that we need to rely on ourselves, that we cannot trust others, and that we are worthless or damaged. Free from the lies, we can embrace gratitude, love, peace, gentleness, and joy.
In Part 3 of this series, we will look at the wounds of fear, defensiveness and apathy, and how to allow these wounds to be healed by the Sacred Heart.
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Caroline Harvey is the associate communication director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Prior to working at the archdiocese, Caroline worked in various ministry positions throughout southeast Wisconsin, focusing on teaching and discipleship. She is pursuing a doctor of ministry degree in liturgical catechesis from the Catholic University of America. She has a master of arts degree in biblical theology and a bachelor of arts in communications media from John Paul the Great Catholic University.
Featured image of stained glass window of Sacred Heart of Jesus in St. Augustine Catholic Church (Lebanon, Kentucky), sourced from Wikimedia Commons