Sunday, June 21, 2009


If you're looking to read about handcuffs, turn back now. This is not the post for you. I mean restraint in the sense of holding back, pausing before acting or speaking - not rushing in with an immediate reaction.

Restraint is not one of my better qualities. Those of you who read here regularly will have been subject to my lack of restraint at times, when I have commented on your posts with opinions or advice or 'helpful suggestions' which were, let's face it, unsolicited and possibly quite patronising. Not that I mean to be this way. It's just that lack of restraint kicking in. Where others might think to themselves, "Gee, I hope he/she does x, y or z. I'm sure they'll sort it out for the best", Jelly Overinvolved & Overopinionated will wade right in there and start rabbitting on about how what might help is to do x, y, and z, preferably simultaneously. I know, I know, it's not very attractive.

Because I am a godless heathen, and don't attend church or any other organised religion, I try to read books that remind me to keep working at my flaws. One such book I read about a year ago was Stephanie Dowrick's "Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love". It's a beautiful book, full of wisdom and compassion. There are chapters on courage, fidelity, forgiveness, generosity, tolerance..... and restraint. It's a shy, retiring type of virtue, and one I hadn't thought about much before. I mean, we all know about courage, about being faithful, about being generous .... but restraint? Isn't that kind of insipid? And is it really so important?

Lately I've become aware of my tendency to leap in and open my big mouth. I recently made a comment to a friend, querying a rule she had for her children which didn't make sense to me. And of course I had no right to. She is the parent of that child. I need to learn to shut up and butt out. I need to show restraint.

I've realised that when you care about someone, one of the most loving things you can do is to say nothing. You don't question their decisions unless they affect your own life in a significant way. You can listen, you can acknowledge a problem, you can offer empathy, but you don't need to offer advice. If you truly are a kind person, you show restraint. You hold your tongue. Where possible, you let others' mistakes go without comment, just as they let yours slip past. You don't say anything to cause unnecessary pain. It could be that restraint is, in its own understated way, the brightest jewel in the crown of virtues.

Which is something for me to consider while I'm restraining from eating a second scone.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

reality check

There's nothing like a kid to keep one's feet planted firmly on the ground.

My daughter, aged 8 1/2, turns to me as I prepare to read a chapter of 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' this evening:

"You're so beautiful Mummy" she sighs adoringly, and I smile because this means that at least one person in the world truly believes I am gorgeous, but then she adds, " ..... in your personality".