Recently, Bill Thomas, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, offered an apology for what he and others considered inappropriate behavior on his part.
In this public apology he noted that his intensity sometimes served a good purpose, but implied that a more moderate action would have been better in that particular situation. With a tearful voice he explained, "As my mother would have put it, 'When they were passing out moderation, you were hiding behind the door.' "
To me, one of the thrilling facts of life is that bad behavior, honestly examined, can be corrected. Though this may not always be easy, I'm convinced that errors in judgment and action are correctable. The congressman's action has reminded me of an earlier propensity on my part to react with inappropriate intensity.
This was learned behavior, as my father explained to me. When I was a baby, he would often jerk the bottle out of my mouth to watch me react quickly and intensely. Later, he was most contrite and ashamed because he felt he was responsible for having created in me a volatile disposition that had earned for me the nickname of Dynamite!
Sometimes an intense response is necessary and more beneficial than a moderate one. It is not productive, however, for a particular kind of behavior or personality trait always to dominate our responses. The individuality of God's creating, our true identity, isn't entrapped in an inherited or environmentally conditioned disposition. Turning to God and seeking our actual selfhood brings freedom from unwanted propensities.
"Divine Love corrects and governs man," observed Mary Baker Eddy in her spiritual, practical, and behavior-changing textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," on page 6.
Most of us don't have the opportunity or necessity to declare publicly our shortcomings. But when others confess their faults or we see flaws in another, we can share in the opportunity to annul those flaws. We can do this by separating the fault from our concept of the individual.
Today there's a particular necessity to be alert to what we think about elected officials. It's appropriate and important to voice disagreement with another's opinion and especially to acknowledge when it is a lie. The importance of seeing our elected officials as the offspring of wisdom and intelligence, because that's how God made all of us, is vital. It behooves us sometimes to turn from some media presentations that excite criticism of persons instead of policy. We are not neglecting our duty to be thoughtful and aware citizens in doing so. Rather, we are separating the mistaken views from individuals and allowing these views to disappear. Condemning the action and not the actor allows correction to come.
When thinking over my own experience, I feel sure that what my father liked initially about my explosions was that they indicated action, and I'm grateful that he taught me to be active and not submissive to evil onslaughts.
Our response to provocative situations may be intense or moderate, but it will be helpful and productive to the degree that we turn to divine Love, God, for the right response. Losing our temper is essentially losing our strength and dominion.
A few years ago a friend called and said she had met one of my nieces, who referred to me as Aunt Diney. Neither my friend nor my nieces knew this was shortened from Dynamite. When I explained the nickname to my friend, she laughed, because I wasn't known to have a quick temper. Later she said that while she didn't associate an explosive disposition with me, she did think of me as expressing strength and power.
Whether we are in public scrutiny or working in private to overcome our propensities, we can call upon divine Love to correct and govern us.
Despise not the chastening
of the Lord; neither be weary
of his correction:
For whom the Lord loveth
he correcteth; even as a father
the son in whom he delighteth.
Proverbs 3:11, 12