Restraint


"Better a patient man

than a warrior,

a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city."

Ancient Proverb

Restraint refers to the ability to control impulses. Where our normal tendency might be to vent anger, we can restrain that tendency by channeling anger into a useful purpose. For example, we can choose to say constructive instead of destructive words. Our ability to restrain tendencies is one of the qualities that sets us apart from animals. It's a key component in creating closeness.

Perhaps the power of patience is needed most in our tendency to express every feeling that surfaces. Let's look at the following responses typical in some marriages. In these conflicts, which response reflects your usual reaction?

Hair left in the sink

(A) Honey, I love your hair-but not when it's in the sink.

(B) Hey Pig Pen! You did it again! Can't you learn to clean up after

yourself ?

Snoring in the night

(A) Shut up! You sound like a Harley! I can't sleep!

(B) George, you're snoring! Please blow your nose and roll over on your side.

Late for an appointment

(A) Aren't you ready yet? You can't change what nature's given you. No one's going to look at you anyway! Let's go!

(B) Hey, the meeting starts at eight. I'd really like to get there on time. Can you be ready to leave at 7:15 as we agreed?

A public school teacher took a course on closeness that my wife and I were teaching. After hearing about the advantages provided by restraint, she wrote:

I have a terrible time switching roles from school to home. At work

I take charge, I teach, I delegate, I discipline, I supervise. When I

come home, that role doesn't work. I often forget to change hats.

But I'm learning. Although I've been practicing restraint for some

years, I sometimes revert to being a "Little General" at home. I really

don't want to be that way with my husband even though it comes so

natural for me. So I work at restraining myself. The result is that I

find his leadership refreshing.

One area where we need to exercise restraint is in talking too much. Of course, some have to deal with a tendency to not talk much at all! So how do we find a proper balance? I find the "50-50 rule" helps: to listen at least as much as I talk. Take the initiative in making communication mutually satisfying by applying the 50-50 rule. Ask questions. Resist the urge to talk too much because you value long-term closeness more than the momentary rush of telling your own story.

Occasionally understanding means you don't say anything. You "hold your tongue." In my marriage, Janiece sometimes softly responds to a difference in our temperaments and ways of doing things with an "Oh, well." Then we laugh or smile that we still can be so different after years of togetherness.

To create closeness, our aim is to achieve unity in topics of importance. The important question we ask ourselves is, Will my talking help to strengthen this relationship? If not, we listen actively. We know our time to talk will come. Restraint is a conscious decision to refuse the impulse to just say something. It gives us that split second to adjust what we say or how we say something so that we communicate in a way that creates closeness.

Who would benefit from you showing more restraint today?

Be a blessing today!

Paul W. Swets

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