(3) Temptation is very often clever in that we are sometimes allowed to make some progress against one vice and, while we are celebrating, the doorway to another is left unguarded. While claiming victory over lust, we are defeated by anger. While reducing anger we succumb to sadness.
Here are some interesting thoughts on sadness by Michael casey:
We do not always see sadness as a source of temptation, preferring to see it as sorrow or grief caused by external events and/or depression to psychochemical imbalance. While it is true that in particular situations sadness is an appropriate or unavoidable response, there are other situations in which our movement into misery is deliberate and malign. More than a century before Evagrius, Hermas had written that sadness “is the most evil of spirits and the one most to be avoided by the servants of God.” What is at issue here is more than a melancholy disposition. Sadness is the opposite of vitality; it is best understood in terms of a lack of energy for appropriate good works. One who is sad is self-preoccupied, unable to be adventurous, or to reach out to others because of a lack of nerve or verve, or from an excess of caution or timidity. Indeed sadness and fear are often intermingled, producing a chronic condition of self-doubt and a reluctance to move beyond familiar parameters. Like acedia, the result of falling under the influence of this temptation is a failure to interact creatively with the real world.
As was so wonderfully portrayed in the movie “Inside Out,” sadness isn’t something to be stuffed or suppressed. I don’t think that’s really what Hermas was saying long ago in the above quote. Rather, it is allowed to surface so that it can be handled and dealt with, therefore, not allowing it to take over. Same with anger. We can’t just deny that we are sad or angry, but we sure can choose what we do with our sadness or anger and how long we hang on to it.
Exposing it to the light is the first thing to do. Converse with Jesus openly about it. Converse openly with a trusted friend about it. Right there, you’re hamstringing it. Then go the opposite direction of the negative emotion, whatever that may be, so as not to nourish the negative. If sad, you go to gratitude. Start counting all the things you have and are thankful for. You’ll not finish the list, ever. Focusing on what you don’t have has yet to bring anyone out of sadness. If angry, same thing. Confess it to God immediately. Confess to another. Then go to forgiveness. You must forgive. First off, it’s commanded, plain and simple. Second, not much will hold you back more in life than harbored unforgiveness (anger). Third, you will be forgiven by our Father to the same degree you forgive others. This should scare you at least a little bit.