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Magnanimity

This has been on my mind lately: If I feel upset at a person who deliberately does something to make me feel upset, is that a sin or is that merely a natural human response? For example, if someone insults me and I feel angry about the insult, is my reaction a sin?

I used to think that it was, and so I always felt guilty every time I felt a bit of anger rise inside me after being insulted or hurt by other people. I used to pray to God to make every insult and injury feel like water off a duck’s back.

Then just today, after being insulted by someone, I realized that it’s expected for human beings to be upset about such things. Insults and injuries cannot ever be water off a duck’s back because we are created to love and be loved, with emphasis on the latter. We are called to love, sure, but we also need to be loved. That’s how we are created. Thus, when someone does not love us, we feel pain because an important need is not met.

What the sin is here is not the feeling of being upset, but the negative reaction to feeling upset. When we give in to anger and retaliate, then we sin. When we dwell on our negative feelings enough to hate the other, then we sin.

The good thing here is we can make a choice. When someone makes us angry, we have a choice: to act on our anger and retaliate, or to keep our anger in check, forgive and forget. For a few seconds (or for a few hours or even days, depending on your personality), it can be difficult because the feeling of anger makes us want to hurt the other person too, but it is possible to get over it. Then hopefully, with enough practice, the anger or feeling of being upset only lasts a split-second before forgiveness takes over. Hopefully, the day I achieve this is not far off. With God’s grace, everything is possible.

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