An uneasy peace

An uneasy peace

Words come in all shapes, sizes and languages, in caps or lower case letters, written, typed, inscribed or said. Sometimes they are spoken in a whisper and sometimes screamed from the rooftops. We often say or write things when we don’t even know for sure what the words mean. Words can help heal, and words can cause unbearable damage, wrecking homes, relationships, professions and our lives.

I looked up the words “bad tempered” because that is where we are in our study of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. It is the exact opposite of “good tempered,” which is one of the attributes of love found in Verse 5. Real love is “not easily provoked.” That means we don’t fly off the handle and spew hatred everywhere we go. It takes a lot to make us angry, and let me write immediately that some anger is justified. I really don’t think Christ was smiling a big teasing smile when he was throwing the moneychangers out of the temple.

However, I was surprised to find good temper mentioned in this context dealing with love. Most of the time, we tend to relegate a bad temper to the bottom of the pile as not being that harmful or damaging, but it is something we should try to avoid in others and ourselves.

When we live, work, or associate with bad tempered folks, it brings us down and makes us sad. We are sad for them that they have no better control of their thoughts, words and actions; we pity those that live with them every day, knowing that they bring pain and a sense of uncertainty to their environment. One dear lady described living with her husband as not knowing what mood (or person) he would wake up to be each day. “I have to wait to see how he is when he comes into the kitchen for his first cup of coffee before I even dare speak,” she wrote. “He can either be nice, or if he is in a bad temper, very difficult and somewhat dangerous. Once I determine the mood of the day or of the hour, I know what I can say or ask, and what I cannot mention.”

I read that some folks we love are stuck in childhood to the degree that they still have temper tantrums. If they cannot have their own way, they simply get angry and say or do hurtful things. The same writer says society tells men they can have temper tantrums but women are more likely to internalize their feelings and not act on them. I am not sure about this because I have known some pretty bad tempered women, and their actions can be just as frightening as men’s. Several scholars that have studied this subject in detail say that the person with the bad temper continues to display it when he or she doesn’t get their own way as long as others in the picture let them get away with this behavior.

My friend told me that even her children now know when dad is angry and about to explode and that they fear it as much as she does. “When they sense his stack is about to blow, they either leave the house or the area, go to their rooms, visit a friend, or simply go to another place to avoid the clash. It is not a good way to live,” she said.

In thinking about what my friend described, and from some personal experiences, I have come to entitle this kind of living as having an uneasy peace. Although no one is screaming or throwing things at the moment, you know this could change in an instant. What peace you have is simply temporary or uneasy, and you live with the dread that it will happen again over something.

Professor Henry Drummond writes, “The peculiarity of ill temper is that it is often the vice of the virtuous. Someone (male or female) might have an otherwise noble character except for the temper.” 

“This compatibility of ill temper with high moral character is one of the strangest and saddest problems of ethics,” he added.

If we truly want to be Christ-like and live a life of love, we must learn to control our temper and realize the damaging effects it has while it is creating an uneasy peace in the home or workplace.