By Dorothy LaMantia | Correspondent
People need to learn how to deal with their anger and learn how to forgive. Otherwise, “If you don’t forgive, it’ll destroy you physically,” said Brother Loughlan Sofield during a presentation on “Forgiveness – It’s Good for Your Health” in St. Peter Parish, Point Pleasant Beach, on Jan. 29.
Anger, said the 54-year veteran of the Missionary Servants of the Holy Trinity, “will close your heart making it hard to receive God’s love and mercy. If you want to be like Christ, you’ll forgive. It’s a process. To understand forgiveness, you must understand anger.”
Sponsored by the parish’s Office of Lifelong Faith Formation, Brother Loughlan’s presentation used prayer, audience input and his years of expertise to explore anger’s causes, the role of forgiveness and the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
“Church teaching and the mental health field identify forgiveness as the treatment of choice for anger,” said Carol Pisani, parish pastoral associate and director of adult faith formation. “Wherever [Brother Loughlan] goes, he is an agent of forgiveness, healing and laughter.”
Brother Loughlan explained that anger occurs when people are frustrated, feel personally insulted or undervalued, see or receive injustice or physical injury or experience loss.
“These situations don’t produce emotions. It’s our perceptions. How we see the situation creates anger,” he said. “Anger is not a sin. Didn’t Jesus get angry? It’s not what you feel, but what you do that makes it sinful. It’s energy which can be constructive or destructive. Many social justice ministers use anger to find solutions to injustice. The problem is that religiously-oriented people, who think anger is sinful, bury their anger, which becomes a form of depression.” He noted substance abuse, passive-aggressive behavior, illnesses, and boredom are also symptoms of suppressed anger.
To address anger, Brother Loughlan recommended that one needs to “feel the emotion.”
“You can’t change anything if you don’t deal. Ask: Why am I angry?” he said, then offered suggestions such as talking with someone who can listen and respond objectively and praying for the desire to forgive.
“Forgiveness is a gift to yourself and an act of will. You have complete control of it. Without it, you remain frozen in the past,” he said.
Brother Loughlan addressed some common misconceptions about anger, saying that “The dumbest thing to say is ‘Forgive and forget.’
“Christianity is not about forgetting. It’s about remembering,” he said because when you do [forget], you must forgive again.
Brother Loughlan also pointed out that forgiveness is separate from reconciliation.
“You can try reconciliation, but it doesn’t have to happen, especially for victims of violence, who may be put in dangerous situations,” he said, then went on to share stories of modern day models of forgiveness, including St. John Paul II, St. Oscar Romero, and everyday people who chose forgiveness in the face of tragedy.
He then challenged his listeners to ask themselves, “When have I been a model of forgiveness?”
Afterward, participants lingered to browse through Brother Loughlan’s books and discuss the insights they had gained.
“I am devoted to Divine Mercy,” said St. Peter parishioner Marie Mylod. “Everything I heard fit in with it. We can’t be forgiven if we don’t forgive. We have to pick up our Cross, like Christ, and follow his example.”
“Very informative and inspirational,” said Roger Pisani, Sr., of St. Anselm Parish, Tinton Falls. “It changed my way of thinking. I learned it’s a process and doesn’t happen automatically. We want to forgive, but it takes a long time, especially when the hurt is deep.”
Pisani’s wife, Barbara, commented, “Forgiveness is tough. We think other people should forgive, not us. We need to get over anger. It’s easier as you get older. With age, you realize what’s important. You gain wisdom.”
Roseanne Palladino, St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, said she learned more about the idea of forgiveness, “that feeling anger is ok, but not acting on it, like slapping someone.”
“I had no huge expectations, but I’m changed after what I learned,” said Palladino. “Hopefully, I’ll continue to feel the wash of forgiveness and not hold onto anger.”
Brother Loughlan, a prolific writer of articles on ministry and books on forgiveness, has worked in 300 dioceses on six continents and served as director of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Consultation and Counselling Center and assistant director of the Center for Religion and Psychiatry in Washington.