Rats in the Cellar
We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.
—from Mere Christianity
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated (14:16-7)
The two players sat transfixed, their entire concentration on the chess board in front of them. The match had gone on for over an hour, and the heat was rising. Both players were looking for blood. They had played masterfully. Then, as quickly as it had started, it was over. A single wrong move resulted in defeat. The loser stood up abruptly and wiped out the table. He stormed to the side of the room, and slammed his hand into the wall, breaking bones and tearing the skin. He cried out in pain and rage, and yelled for the room to be cleared. When the storm had subsided, he sat alone in pain and shame, not only from his defeat, but from his childish display.
Self-control is an important part of the Christian's life. Christ had many occasions where He could have lost control and wreaked havoc on His enemies. That would have destroyed His mission on earth; to teach love and provide an example for how we should live our lives. Anger is a natural reaction, but it cannot be allowed to take control of us. When we live by our passions, we live on the danger line, and eventually we will fall prey to sin. The wise person learns to respect the power of his or her emotions, and they depart from situations where they might lose control.
prayer: O Almighty God, save me from myself. When anger rises within my heart, help me to control it and channel it in constructive ways. Do not let me be a captive to my passions. Amen.