By J.F. Pisani
Finding a peace the world can’t give us
My co-worker who shares an office with me – not to mention my snack foods and coffee pods – tarnished my exalted self-image last week after I said something and he promptly responded, “You’re an angry man. Why are you such an angry man?”
An angry man? His observation stunned me because, quite honestly, I’ve always thought of myself as a happy-go-lucky, pleasant, kind-hearted, compassionate, funny guy. (Did I leave out anything?)
I’ve never thought of myself as angry, although I certainly fit the definition of an “angry young man” back in the Vietnam era when I was a rebellious fellow; however, I’d like to think that social conditions have changed and that over the years my mood has mellowed somewhat.
After the exchange with my colleague, I tried to look at myself objectively, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. I’m angry and I’m not sure why.
I was recently reading Sacred Fire by Father Ronald Rolheiser, who made this troubling observation: “Once the sheer pulse of life, so strong in us during our youth, begins to be tempered by the weight of our commitments and the grind of the years, more of our sensitivities begin to break through, and we sense more and more how we have been wounded and how life has not been fair to us. New demons then emerge: bitterness, anger, jealousy, and a sense of having been cheated.”
Wow, that was a frightening thought. Here’s the dilemma. I don’t want to be an angry man – young, old or middle-aged. I don’t want to be justifiably angry or unjustifiably angry. I want to be peaceful, joyful and compassionate in what is an increasingly angry world.
I’m not the only one who’s angry. The mood of the country, from sea to shining sea, is very angry, and it’s spreading like a contagion. There are political protests and violence. People are quarreling on the highways and in the workplace. Families are facing turmoil and upheaval. Marriages are breaking up. Talk radio hosts and news commentators are inciting us, and just about everybody wants to force their opinion down your throat.
It’s easy to become a victim of the world’s anger. I read the morning headlines and I get angry. I watch news about the presidential campaign and I get angrier. I see the media and the government attacking my faith and I get really angry. I see organizations, activists, politicians and the average reprobate saying that what has been wrong throughout history is now right, and I think, “I have to head for the wilderness and live alone, and then I won’t be so angry.”
When I get home from work, I can always tell if my wife has been listening to talk radio or reading the news because she has a grumpy look on her face. I firmly believe that too much negativity can lead you to despair and it saps your inner peace. What’s the solution?
Jesus’ words to his disciples are as true today as when he spoke them 2,000 years ago at the Last Supper: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
I recently saw a bumper sticker that offered a profound truth for us all. It said simply, “No Jesus, no peace.”
If you focus on the world, there is no peace, and to have the peace that only Christ can give, we have to pray for it and keep our focus on him. I’m convinced that one of the surest ways to get the peace of Christ is to sit in front of the tabernacle in silence, if for only an hour a week.
The reality is that when you’re angry, the Holy Spirit can’t work in you and through you. The signs of the Spirit are joy and peace, which are two rare spiritual commodities nowadays.
Always remember that Jesus has the answers – not Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, not the Kardashians, not the entertainment industry and certainly not the media. If you want to be a compassionate and reasonably happy person amid the unrest of modern life, it takes commitment. The good news is that these are gifts God gives freely. All we have to do is ask, and then we’ll receive the peace that only Christ can give, regardless of what happens in the world.
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.