Good temper is like a sunny day, it sheds its brightness on everything. No trait of character is
more valuable than the possession of good temper. Home can never be made happy without it.
It is like flowers springing up in our pathway, reviving and cheering us. Kind words and looks
are the outward demonstration; patience and forbearance are the sentinels within.
If a man has a quarrelsome temper, let him alone. The world will soon find him employment.
He will soon meet with some one stronger than himself, who will repay him better than you
can. A man may fight duels all his life if he is disposed to quarrel. How sweet the serenity of
habitual self-command! How many stinging self-reproaches it spares us! When does a man feel
more at ease with himself than when he has passed through a sudden and strong provocation
without speaking a word, or in undisturbed good humor! When, on the contrary, does he feel
a deeper humiliation than when he is conscious that anger has made him betray himself by
word, look, or action? Nervous irritability is the greatest weakness of character. It is the
sharp grit which aggravates friction and cuts out the bearings of the entire human machine.
Nine out of every ten men we meet are in a chronic state of annoyance. The least untoward
thing sets them in a ferment.
There are people, yes many people, always looking out for slights. They cannot carry on the
daily intercourse of the family without finding that some offense is designed. They are as
touchy as hair triggers. If they meet an acquaintance who happens to be preoccupied with
business, they attribute his abstraction in some mode personal to themselves and take
umbrage accordingly. They lay on others the fruit of their irritability. Indigestion makes them
see impertinence in every one they come in contact with. Innocent persons, who never
dreamed of giving offense, are astonished to find some unfortunate word, or momentary
taciturnity, mistaken for an insult. To say the least, the habit is unfortunate. It is far wiser to
take the more charitable view of our fellow beings, and not suppose that a slight is intended
unless the neglect is open and direct. After all, too, life takes its hues in a great degree from
the color of our own mind. If we are frank and generous, the world will treat us kindly; if, on
the contrary, we are suspicious, men learn to be cold and cautious to us. Let a person get the
reputation of being "touchy," and everybody is under restraint, and in this way the chances of
an imaginary offense are vastly increased.
Do you not find in households - refined, many of them - many women who are jealous,
exacting, and have a temper that will be swayed by nothing? And do we not see in another
family circle a man as coarse and bloody-mouthed as a despot? The purpose of the existence
of a score of people is to make him happy, fan him, feed him, amuse him, and he stands as a
great absorbent of the life and heat that belongs to the rest. Many sermons tell you to be meek
and humble, but you don't hear many which tell you you live in your families to growl, to bite,
and to worry one another. You ought to make in your households the outward and visible
life-work for this spiritual and transcendent life. There can be nothing too graceful and
truthful, generous, disinterested and gracious for the household. All that a man expects to be
in heaven, he ought to try to be from day to day with his wife and children, and with those
that are members of his family.
It is said of Socrates, that whether he was teaching the rules of an exact morality, whether he
was answering his corrupt judges, or was receiving sentence of death, or swallowing the
poison, he was still the same man; that is to say, calm, quiet, undisturbed, intrepid, in a word,
wise to the last.
A man once called at the house of Pericles and abused him violently. His anger so transcended
him that he did not observe how late it was growing, and when he had exhausted his passion it
was quite dark. When he turned to depart, Pericles calmly summoned a servant and said to
him, "Bring a lamp and attend this man home."
Like flakes of snow that fall unperceived upon the earth, the seemingly unimportant events of
life succeed one another. As the snow gathers together, so are our habits formed. No single
flake that is added to the pile produces a sensible change. No single action creates, however it
may exhibit a man's character; but as the tempest hurls the avalanche down the mountain,
and overwhelms the inhabitant and his habitation, so passion, acting upon the elements of
mischief which pernicious habits have brought together by imperceptible accumulation, may
overthrow the edifice of truth and virtue.
Truly, a man ought to be, above all things, kind and gentle, but however meek he is required
to be, he also ought to remember that he is a man. There are many persons to whom we do not
need to tell this truth, for as soon as they only think of having been offended or that somebody
has done them any harm, they fly up like gunpowder. Long before they know for a certainty
that there is a thief in the garden they have the window open and the old gun has been
popped. It is a very dangerous thing to have such neighbors, for we could sit more safely on
the horns of a bull than to live in quietness with such characters. We, therefore, should form
no friendship with persons of a wrathful temper, and go no farther than is needful with a man
of a fiery and unrestrained spirit. Solomon said, "He that is slow to wrath is of great
understanding, but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly."
Our advice is, to keep cool under all circumstances, if possible. Much may be effected by
cultivation. We should learn to command our feelings and act prudently in all the ordinary
concerns of life. This will better prepare us to meet sudden emergencies with calmness and
fortitude. If we permit our feelings to be ruffled and disconcerted in small matters, they will
be thrown into a whirlwind when big events overtake us. Our best antidote is, implicit
confidence in God.
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy