Ulysses S. Grant was a brilliant military strategist who led the Union to victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War and went on to become the eighteenth President of the United States. A tribute to his genius is the fact that he never lost a battle. Historians tell us that one of his most notable attributes was his ability to remain calm under fire. Stories abound about how he would sit on a stump and write orders while shells exploded all around and cannonballs sailed just over his head.*
The longer I live (and the more frazzled our world becomes), the more I appreciate people who have the ability to remain calm in pressure-packed situations. Since one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), you’d think this would be a specialty of Christians.
I remember the time I walked into a good church couple’s home and observed a hole in the master bedroom door. I said, “What happened to your door?” The wife sheepishly admitted that she and her husband had a fight a few nights earlier and that a fist had caused the damage. Stunned, I looked at her husband and said, “Did you hurt your hand?” He quickly said, “I didn’t do it, she did!”
Welcome to the Short Fuse Generation.
If you sit at a green light for two seconds before stepping on the gas, you’ll get honked at, glared at, and probably saluted in a way that has nothing to do with the military. I know because it happened to me a couple of days ago. I wanted to scream, “Come on, people! Lighten up!” But then I realized that screaming wouldn’t be a very calm response.
The best way to promote calm is simply to be calm. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” Remember that the next time you find yourself standing in the middle of an emotional brush fire. Your words and actions will be either a water hose or a gas can.
For further reflection read Proverbs 16:12, 29:8 and Isaiah 26:3.
*John Mosier, Grant (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006), 95