INDIGNATION,
A
NGER, AID, and
GENTLENESS
 

 The Betrayal in the Garden
 
Icon, Athos.


§ 1. General Reflections on Indignation and Anger


ALTHOUGH Evagrius and Cassian include the three logismoi of gloominess, anger, and acedia among the temptations of the thumikon or irascible appetite, it is anger that most clearly typifies this power of the soul.  The thumikon is the source of that vital energy which reaches effectively outwards when difficult problems loom, or when danger threatens.  It can manifest positively as eager commitment to accomplish difficult tasks, courage, patient endurance, or righteous indignation.  But when used “against nature” it can lash out destructively as rage, or constrict inwardly, shriveling the soul through cowardice, nihilism. or despair.  The struggle to use these energies well is a life-long task, challenging the soul up to the very moment of death.

HERE we will focus first on two different terms for the primordial energy of the thumikon: thumos/θυμός, usually translated as “indignation” or “anger;” and orgē/ὀργή, “anger, fury, or rage”. We will also highlight two terms used to describe what might be termed the transmuted or positive use of this energy: boētheia/βοήθεια,  “assistance;” and praotes/πραΰτης, “gentleness.” 

 


SOURCES: 1Kittel, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Eerdmans, 2000, c1964).   2 ) H.G.Liddell, R. Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. rev. H.S.Jones & R.McKenzie, (Oxford, 1940). 3 ) L. Dysinger, O.S.B.. “Perseverance”, The New SCM Dictionary of Christian Spirituality ed. Philip Sheldrake, (SCM Press, 2005) 


§ 2. INDIGNATION - θυμός / thumos
and
ANGER - ὀργή / orgē


IN the Greek philosophical tradition the thumikon/θυμικόν is the spiritual wellspring of the soul’s ability to respond to threat, which Plato and his predecessors associated with feelings in the chest and with the heart.

In Timaeus 70b-c Plato explains that the heart was placed in the chest by the lesser demiurges so that reason (logos/λόγος) might call forth the boiling up of thumos /θυμός force in response to any wrong arising from without or from interior desires (epithumia). Plato here describes the heart as the source of the boiling up of thumos force.

His depiction of thumos/θυμός in Timaeus is very positive, portrayed in its ideal state as the spirited ally and servant of the ruling principle (hegemonikon /ἡγεμονικόν or logistikon / λογιστικόν), a relationship he depicts symbolically in the famous story of the chariot in Phaedrus (246-248) and describes in more detail in Republic (4.440-444).

Aristotle incorporates Plato’s observation into his own definition of anger as a ‘boiling up’ (ζέσις); but unlike Plato he applied this image not to thumos /θυμός but to orgē/ὀργή. He notes that whereas a logician would probably describe orgē/ὀργή in moral terms, a naturalist (φυσικὸς) would define it as the boiling of blood and warmth around the heart.(De Anima 403a.29 -403b.1).

IN both the New and the Old Testaments the terms orgē/ὀργή and thumos’ /θυμός can be properly translated as  “wrath”, sometimes human anger or indignation, and sometimes the divine wrath that arises in response to sin.

 


§ 3. ASSISTANCE  βοήθεια (βοηθέω) / boētheia

THE function of thumos in its consecrated form, used “according to nature”, is depicted in the power to offer aid and assistance; eagerness to defend and do good for another, to respond with zeal in the presence of a threat.

IN classical Greek boētheia / βοήθεια  means “aid, assistance.” The verb boētheō / βοηθέω  originally meant “to run on a call to help,” “to hasten to the help of the oppressed,” then “to help.” The term was used both of military aid in time of national need, and of medical assistance in the sense of a cure. 

IN the Old Testament Eve is created as the helper (boēthos / βοηθός)  of Adam (Gen 2:18-20); but more commonly (very frequently throughout the Psalms) the Lord is the helper of His people, the One Who responds with salvation and power to those who cry out: “O God, come to my assistance, O Lord make haste to help (boētheia) me” (Deus in adiutorium meum intende, Domine ad adiuvandum me festina, Ps 69.2)

IN the New  Testament Christ responds to calls for help (boētheia / βοήθεια) with miracles of healing (Mat. 15:25  Mark 9:22).  In the Book of Acts Paul responds to the Macedonian's pleas for help (16:9); and in the Letter to the Hebrews the risen Christ offers His divine assistance (boētheia) to those who pray ( Heb. 2:18, 4:16, 13:6)   

 


§ 4. GENTLENESS  πρᾱότης (πραΰτης) / praütes

 

πρᾱότης (πραΰτης) / praütes

IN the Greek philosophical tradition praütes  /πρᾱότης (πραΰτης) is “mild and gentle friendliness.” It is the opposite of roughness (ἀγριότης Plat.Symp., 197d), of bad temper (Aristot.Rhet., II, 3, p. 1380a, 6), of sudden anger (ὀργιλότης, Arist. Eth. Nic., IV, 11, p. 1125b, 26) and brusqueness (ἀποτομία, Plut.Lib. Educ., 187 [II, 13d]). It is close to the epieikeia/ ἐπιείκεια which tempers stern law

IN the Old Testament  praütes /πραΰτης is the Greek word that translates anawim / ענוים, the “lowly (downtrodden, humble, gentle)” of Yahweh, who are his special concern, and who are particularly pleasing to Him.

IN the New Testament  praütes /πραΰτης is the “meekness” that will inherit the earth (Mat. 5:5) and the virtuous gentleness that enables the Christian to correct the erring brother without arrogance, impatience, or anger, (Gal. 6:1).


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