Whenever I hear the word temper, I think of two things: Road rage and moderation. It’s the same with the word sobriety. I think of a drunk working hard not to drink and moderation. And by moderation in both cases I mean self-control.
Or do I mean observation, as in to moderate or be reasonable? Of course I do. Interesting that the word and idea of temperance comes up with both words as well.
These ideas, or goals, as I call them, are like salt: you shouldn’t – some would say can’t – cook without them. Wars have been fought over salt; Roman soldiers were paid in salt. Hence the word, salary, which comes from the Latin salarium, meaning salt money.
Wars have also been fought and lost due to someone’s temper and averted due to another’s sobriety.
And cooking without salt is bland and can even get you “chopped”. (Disqualified, to the uninitiated)
Awhile back I received threats and was called a “Nazi” and other choice names by some in a group of reactionaries - who shall remain nameless because all they really crave is attention – because I had the temerity to express a “public” opinion about the separation of church and state. Many of these “patriots” – who seemed not to understand the idea of “putting country first when serving it” - chose not to temper their comments or use moderation in expressing their disgust at an actor talking politics.
They were hilarious. The outrage!
And the ultimate irony of this was that they took time off from defending the 1st Amendment rights of a reality TV star who spoke out against homosexuality – using the Bible as context and justification – to tell me that, as an actor, I should “shut up and stick to words that others right [sic]“ for me when speaking out in favor of the separation of church and state.
They were only interested in fighting a war, using words, to prove how “right” they were and how “wrong” I was. No sobriety whatsoever, no moderation, no temperance. I was able to sober a few of them up, though - because I’m sober a long time and know how to talk to unreasonable drunks - and while they didn’t change their minds about putting something before their country if enlisted to serve it, in this case God, they did eventually admit that I wasn’t such a bad guy after all and that they still “thought I did a good job” on the TV series they saw me in.
A few shelved their tempers, used moderation, and allowed that we could amicably agree to disagree. A couple of them even apologized for misunderstanding me, believing, as was purposely misstated on the website of these “patriots," that I’d said, “Christians shouldn’t run for office.”
What I discovered during all this was, as Samuel Butler said,
We are not won by arguments that we can analyze but by tone and temper, by the manner which is the man himself.
What I take from that - and as much as encounters like that infuriate me and make me want to lash out in the same manner they lashed out at me (and by that I mean telling them to “shut the fuck up”) – is that the war of words is won or lost by how we conduct ourselves when firing them – our manner of “battle” – and how we temper and moderate ourselves when skirmishing.
Life is a struggle for all of us, it hurts each of us differently and it is a different kind of struggle and confronted differently by each of us. Some have stopped struggling and found peace and for some the struggle is outright war.
If we cared a little more about each other in that struggle - and in some cases care at all - if we recognized that we’re all struggling together, or trying to learn, without giving up, how to surrender, it would make our own struggle easier.
It would be easier to really listen.
It would be easier to surrender.
Easier to find peace.