My Dear Parishioners,
“Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” is something I first heard watching “Little House on the Prairie” TV series. Little did I know at the time this proverb has thousands of years of history and is backed up by science.

The Ingalls family, whose lives as American pioneers were chronicled in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved books, tried to live their lives as good, godfearing people. Caroline “Ma” Ingalls was the mother of the family and was often called upon when the children were quarreling. She would often say to them, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”

You may know that this phrase comes from the Bible, in St. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. The full sentence is as follows: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are angry.”

This has been with us for about two millennia, as it was written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome (A.D. 60-62). When Ma Ingalls cited this proverb, or passage, she of course intended to have her kids make up as quickly as possible so that tomorrow could be a new day. We know that burdens, whether they be grudges or negative thoughts of any kind, do weigh us down. And sometimes, you can even sense this in people without their having to say anything. As these certainly aren’t good for the soul, how could they not be a burden on the body as well?

In fact, they really are. Some fascinating studies have looked at the importance of one’s mindset in relation to sleep quality. One published in the peerreviewed journal Behavioral medicine in 2019 looked at the sleep quality of 3,500 young and middle-aged adults and found that optimistic people sleep better and longer.

We know that positive thinking can help decrease cortisol and increase serotonin in the brain, allowing the body to be calmer and more relaxed. So does a good vodka gimlet!

If you think about it, this all really makes sense. For example, if you’re in a reactive mind-set and not “letting go”, it’s harder for your body not to react to stimuli during the night, and for it to “trust” enough to let itself sleep.

But this is certainly just one of the small side benefits of the wisdom contained in this proverb. On top of that, the sooner we can make amends, the sooner our relationships heal, and the better our families and communities are.

It’s helpful, then, to reflect on any burdens we may be carrying—any resentment, even if not anger. Doesn’t the thought of letting go feel good?

When many people think of such things, they realize that they sometimes have carried burdens not only into a new day, but even into a new year or decade. Perhaps we can trust more that there are reasons for things, that challenges are truly opportunities for growth, and that often the hardest times are the ones that lead to the greatest changes.

And if we can think this way, we will be modeling healthy behavior for our loved ones. We could genuinely say to them, “Don’t let the sun set on your anger,” and they would see us doing it too. The poet John George Fleet wrote: Words are things of little cost, quickly spoken, quickly lost; we forget them, but they stand witnesses at God’s right hand, and their testimony bear for us, or against us, there.

Enjoy this Labor Day Weekend! Let go of past hurts and look for a new day.

Fr. Monteleone

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