An uneasy peace

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
Words come in all shapes, sizes, languages, caps or lower case letters, written, typed, inscribed, and said. Sometimes they are spoken in a whisper and sometimes screamed from the nearest rooftop. We say or write things often that we don’t really even know for sure what the word means, and yet, we sling it around as though we do. Words can help heal and words can cause unbearable damage that wrecks homes, relationships, professions, and our lives.

Verse 5 of 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that 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, do you?

Most of the time, we make excuses and tend to relegate a bad temper to the bottom of the pile as not being that harmful or damaging, but it is, and is something we should try to avoid in others and ourselves. Living with someone that has a really bad temper is so unpleasant and often creates memories not easily erased.

Words that are used to describe bad temper are: cantankerous, snarly, surly, crabby, bearish, dour, grouchy, grumpy, huffy, irritable, ornery, peevish, petulant, prickly, quarrelsome, snappish, sour, stuffy, testy, acrid, blunt, brusque, churlish, cranky, crusty, cynical, harsh, sulky, sullen, trying, crotchety, spiteful, and vicious to name only a few. My mother had at least a dozen more we could add to our list, but my editor would not publish the column.

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, and we know 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 pitch or 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 gives men the acceptance that they can have temper tantrums because 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 sadly.

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.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788, or


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