When the author was very young he had what his Father once described as a “terrible temper”. This description was so painful that the Father was asked by his son in tears what that meant and could it be fixed. For the son loved his Father and wanted desperately to be the person his Father would respect.

My Father explained that a person’s temperament was about his ability to stay calm and to act appropriately under stressful circumstances. If you let people make you mad and cause you to shout and say insulting things, then folks will call you bad tempered. Screaming and shouting in anger was one of the worst forms of childish behavior. If I acted that way other people would not want to be near me or trust me. Having a good temper was a very important quality for a man to have. What is more, keeping my temper under stress would enable me to succeed in coping with danger and ugly opposition. Show me a prize fighter who loses his temper and I will show you one who loses a lot of fights to other fighters who may not be as skillful at fighting , but who can take punches without getting mad. So said my Father and I believed him.

In my school years after my Father’s consultation I was frequently saved from serious difficulties that would surely have followed any incident in which I had chosen to let the other guy have a strong dose of my anger or contempt. By the time I was in my middle twenties the example and philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired what Dr. King called nonviolent confrontation, rather than angry denunciation, And the parallel philosophy of Thich Naht Hanh reinforced that attitude. And, of course, I had read the many biblical proverbs that extolled the virtues of calm in the face of criticism and that warned of the dangers of harshly criticizing others.

But like my Father I eventually developed a hell of a drinking problem. And problem drinking was often accompanied by problem behavior, including loss of temper. More than a few of the places in which I drank also became scenes of my indignant displays of anger,

Eventually I was persuaded to seek help in a world famous fellowship in which I relearned the lesson of my Father. Sober living requires control of negative emotions. And so control of temper became again the elimination of temper tantrums. But that is another subject for another day.

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