Fighting for Justice—But Without Anger

“It is my wish, then, that in every place men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger.” — 1 Timothy 2:8

When I started this blog a little over a year ago, my intention, amid the rancor and vitriol that seems to poison virtually all political, cultural, even spiritual discussion these days, was to offer what I hoped would be reasoned, civil discourse—and to invite reasoned, civil responses—in addressing many of the great issues that challenge us in today’s world.  

That is in fact what I have tried to do throughout the long course of my career in primarily Catholic communications. I don’t always succeed, even to my own satisfaction, let alone the judgments of others.

Some would note that I don’t always show the respect that I call for others to demonstrate—a failing that, on occasion, I readily concede. Particularly when I encounter a stridency and lack of respect from proponents of differing views, I don’t always successfully resist the urge to respond in kind. But I try.

Others want me to be more assertive, more confrontational, more angry, in challenging opposing viewpoints and those who express them—particularly on fundamental issues of justice, human rights, morality and the sanctity of life—and to call out, by name, those who—whether I agree or disagree with their views—resort to ad hominem attacks, hateful language, and mischaracterizations or outright distortions of opposing points of view.

So let me be clear. I do get angry, about many things that I see in this world: from the mass killing of innocent children in the womb, to the unnecessary scapegoating of immigrants; from insensitivity to all manner of human suffering, wrought by such maladies as poverty, illness and disease, mental or emotional disabilities, war and terrorism, crime and punishment, government oppression, and on and on; to attacks on the family, and on religious liberty.

And I get especially angry at efforts to shut down reasoned discourse and debate—either through, as mentioned above, distortions of other viewpoints and personal attacks on those who express them; or, in today’s cancel culture, outright prohibition of, or creation of “safe spaces” to avoid hearing, any views different from one’s own.

But I know I ought not indulge that anger, for several reasons.

First, because it is counterproductive. As I learned from my earliest days in the pro-life movement, the goal, in promoting any issue or cause, is not just to win arguments. It is to change minds and hearts. And that is seldom accomplished by responding with anger and intolerance toward those who disagree. I have always found it more effective to listen, patiently and respectfully, to the views of others. This helps me to respond more effectively; it has also prompted me, on occasion, to adjust my own views in light of a new insight I might gain from hearing a different perspective.

Certainly, with regard to abortion—while never lessening my conviction that innocent, pre-born human life must be protected—listening to others has helped me to be less judgmental of those who, genuinely moved by compassion for all manner of human suffering, erroneously see abortion as an acceptable and effective solution.

It is neither. But before I can try to make others see that, I must understand where they are coming from. Only then can I respond, persuasively, in a way that might open their minds and hearts to more life-affirming approaches.

The second, and more important, reason that I—that all of us—must strive to avoid indulging our anger is because of what it does to us. It hardens our hearts and poisons our souls. It makes us so much less than God wants us to be.

Yes, as Jesus showed with His haranguing of the money changers in the temple, there is such a thing as righteous anger. I remember thinking, again in my early days of pro-life activism, that anger was wholly justified—indeed, called for—by the massive, violent killing of God’s most precious beings: innocent, defenseless children in their mothers’ wombs. And we can all think of other injustices so cruel, so inhuman, as to justify our anger.

It is not wrong to feel anger in such situations. But it is self-destructive to indulge that anger.

Rather, when we encounter cruelty and injustice, we are called to act, in whatever ways we can, to protect those being victimized; to advocate for them; and to persuade their persecutors—forcefully, yes, but without anger and hatred, even if they exude such toward us—to begin acting with justice, with compassion, with respect for the humanity of others.

And we are called, above all—as Paul wrote to Timothy—to “pray, lifting up holy hands—without anger.”

Published by Rick Hinshaw

I have spent the last three decades in primarily Catholic communications work: as a reporter, news editor, columnist, and for eight years editor of The Long Island Catholic; several years as co-host and co-producer of The Catholic Forum program on the diocesan Telecare channel; two stints as Director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and a year as Associate Director for Communications at the New York State Catholic Conference. I also served for three years as Public Information Officer for the late Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, a staunchly Catholic and active pro-life leader. Over that more than 30-year career, I have gained an ever deeper understanding of and appreciation for the moral and social teachings of our Church. In my various roles I have lent my voice to articulating those teachings and their applicability to the critical issues of our time. That is what I intend to do with this blog. Moreover, at a time when our political and social disagreements seem to have degenerated into constant vitriol, vilification, verbal abuse and intolerance of those who hold differing opinions, I hope that this blog can contribute, in some small way, to a restoration of respectful debate and discussion, where we can defend our beliefs forcefully without demonizing any who disagree with us. As a Catholic commentator, that is what I have always striven to do--remembering that even as we are called to stand firmly in defense of our Church, her teachings, and our right to be heard in the public square, we are also called always to be the face of Christ to the world--most especially to those with whom we disagree.

4 thoughts on “Fighting for Justice—But Without Anger

  1. Rick, I wholeheartedly agree with you and my personal anger toward “devout ” Catholics like Pelosi & Biden has turned toward prayer for them – that feels so much better! Still, when I saw Pope Francis acting kindly toward Pelosi it brought back that old anger but then I thought further – being cold & cruel will not change her but love and prayer might.

    Here’s a quote from Bishop Cordileoine, her bishop, and I’ve signed up to pray for her.

    “Please join me in the Rose and Rosary for Nancy Campaign. Pray a rosary once a week for her. Fast on Friday, and you can sign the petition at BenedictInstitute.org. And if you commit to the rosary and fasting, we will send a rose to her as a symbol of your prayers and sacrifices,” said Cordileone.

    https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/249286/san-francisco-archbishop-clarifies-pelosis-papal-visit-not-an-endorsement-of-her-abortion-views

    Here’s another relates story where this former abortionist recommends the “kind” approach which helped to convert her:

    Aultman believes a gentle, loving approach is the best way to convince others to reconsider their position on abortion. She remembers the example of other obstetricians at her practice, when she was still referring patients for abortions. Several of them came to her when they were pregnant, and asked about her stance on abortion. When she told them that she supported abortion as a woman’s right, they calmly told her they could no longer stay in her practice and left.

    “That made a difference to me,” Aultman said. “I think that was also one of the things that began to change my outlook. They were brave enough, and they did it gently. They didn’t do it in a mean way.”

    https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/249289/abortionist-doctor-turned-prolife-advocate?utm_campaign=CNA%20Daily&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=171042075&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9Lq1u0Vwtl3Hy6N-qHhViBkASc9jfQ15lo5fHTZ3yIZFXUdIQdqP-fgxwoVFY2Vpm92TmnUqjjS5N66pB0mLh_JBtf-A&utm_content=171042075&utm_source=hs_email

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    1. Walter, thank you so much. I thought I approved this comment days ago, but as it still wasn’t posted today I approved again. I’m not really sure how this works, it seemed that once a person was approved once, their comments were just posted automatically. That’s the way it’s been, but somehow they wanted this one approved before posting. !?! Anyway, thanks for the affirmation, the powerful testimony from a former abortionist about how her heart was changed, and the great Archbishop Cordileone’s prayer initiative toward Nancy Pelosi. Such witness underscores that our best approach, as we fight for justice, is to be Christ to those whose minds and hearts we are striving to change. At the same time, such witness also teaches that advocating peacefully and prayerfully for justice does not mean doing NOTHING, as some of our Catholic critics seem to counsel.

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  2. Thank you, Rick! I recently had a similar discussion with my husband who feels a lot of anger towards Biden and Pelosi. I’ve been praying for their conversion.
    God bless Bishop Cordileone!

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    1. Thanks, Dorrie. I’d be lying if I denied getting angry myself with Biden, Pelosi, and other pro-abortion Catholic politicians–not only because they promote this grave injustice, but even more so because of how they seemingly flaunt their Catholicism for political advantage while flagrantly misrepresenting the Church’s moral teachings. But prayer is far more likely than anger to change their minds and hearts, and so that’s where I try to put my mental and emotional energies–even as I work to educate others and to effect political change, when I can, at the ballot box.

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