Anger Management

May 23 2022 | by

Dear Pastoral Counselor: I recently had an uncomfortable confrontation with a coworker after I felt like him and some of our colleagues were unfairly criticizing my work. They came into my office and asked when I was going to finish a project I had been working on as I was two days beyond the deadline. I had been experiencing stress at home, which was admittedly causing me distraction at work. I’ve worked hard at my present company for over twenty years and feel my work ethic speaks for itself at this point.

I started yelling at my coworkers; they yelled back and then stormed out of my office. I’m somewhat embarrassed and still angry, but I’d like to mend the relationship. How do I deal with this issue?


Saint Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologiae, writes about the manner in which passions – feelings or emotions in more common parlance – affect our judgments of things and subsequent actions in relation to them. He tells us that our feelings or emotions pull our judgment of a thing, such as our judgment of an exchange between ourselves and a coworker, to excess or defect – we see the thing as much better or worse than it is, but not how it truly exists in reality. Our feelings and emotions change our behavior to the degree we lack virtue, and whether this change is for better or worse is determined by our level of virtue.

Virtue – from the Latin word virtus – means strength or bravery, and refers to a good habit in relation to our behavior. Saint Thomas states that virtue is the middle ground between excess and defect, between seeing something as better or worse than it actually is or doing something more or less than one should. When we act excessively, or conversely defectively, it is often disproportionate to what is true or good in reality, and therefore to how we should be acting.

When we respond to others virtuously, we tend to address the situation effectively, at least on our part. While we can’t control the actions of others, with virtue we don’t become overly frustrated with the other person and take that out on them, but we also don’t act like a doormat and allow others to walk over us because we struggle to stand up for ourselves. Finding this middle ground between excess and defect allows for us to treat others, and be treated, with the dignity we possess as persons made in the image and likeness of Almighty God.

If we take this and apply it to your situation, we see that a virtuous response would require you to approach your coworker and apologize for what you did wrong in the situation, whether or not they apologize for what they did wrong. You would then share with them what you will do differently in the future, holding yourself – potentially with their assistance – to this manner of acting through accountability. Through these actions, you will be building multiple virtues, including caution – the virtue in which you apply your past experience to present and/or future situations in order to avoid previous shortcomings or difficulties – and meekness – the virtue which affords you the ability to moderate your frustration or anger at a perceived offense.

How you handle this situation can be a springboard to handling difficult situations more effectively in the future. The virtue we build now will help us to develop more effective responses to our feelings and emotions, allowing us to become the person God created us to be. 

Updated on May 27 2022