Today’s Old Testament reading depicts Jonah’s hatred of the Ninevites and his consuming anger towards God for not killing them as He threatened to do. Yet Jonah’s anger turns to contentment as his personal situation improves, but he grows irate again when his situation deteriorates. Jonah’s oscillating emotional state, based on his hatred of others as well as his own personal contentment, reveals the depths of his narcissism and his lack of compassion for others.
Seeing ourselves in Jonah, we might assess if we allow anger to consume us and if our desire for vengeance against those we dislike, or believe deserve punishment, prevents us from living a full, emotional life. The reading indicates we should choose God’s compassion, forgiveness, and redemption for those who sin against or upset us rather than choosing vengeance and allowing anger to consume us. Sadly, Jonah’s narcissism prevents him from thinking beyond his own immediate feelings, anger and vengeance included, when circumstances beyond his control ignite his emotional anguish. Perhaps the takeaway from today’s lectionary reminds us: to forgive since anger accomplishes little, to ‘get outside’ ourselves and try to think of others, as Atticus Finch so aptly recommends in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” Truly, our world would be a better place if we each followed Atticus’ advice.
—Kathryn Brandin P'13 '16, St. John’s writing and learning coach