Sunday, June 21, 2009

restraint

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.

18 comments:

Motherkitty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle said...

Go on eat another scone!!
I am sure your job means that you can't show restraint. Your advice is essential.

Mind you I am married to Mr Restrainless....and I still love him to bits!!!

Motherkitty said...

Dearest Jellyhead, you are soooo correct in your comments about restraint. My co-workers and I encounter numerous out-of-control brats every single day in our workplace and it would be very easy to say something truly nasty to the mothers. But, we are ruled by restraint in every sense of the word and must endure ear-piercing screams from these little monsters because they can't get their way. Husband and I were calmly enjoying a lunch meal the other day at our local Mexican restaurant. Sitting at a nearby table was a "calm" mother and two young daughters. The youngest took every opportunity to issue eardrum-piercing screams while mother calmly sat and ate her meal. While most other diners made cute tsk-tsk comments to the mother, my nerves were jarred to the point of wanting to go over there and smacking the kid's bottom which is something I would never do with my own kids. Restraint came into play, however, and they soon left. Hurray.

Isn't it amazing how easy it would be to jump in and act on our emotions when we normally wouldn't in awkward situations?

Another amazing observation from you. (It was great hearing from you. I must admit that I have really be slack in posting to my blog this year. Even my facebook account is used for observation in most cases.)

thisisme said...

Oh Jelly, I love this post. I struggle with lack of restraint daily. After all, isn't my opinion something everyone needs? Apparently not. K then, I'll try to learn to shut up unless it is solicited. Really hard work.

Puss-in-Boots said...

I think we're kindred spirits, Jelly. I open my big mouth far too often also. I truly try not to, then out it comes. My daughter can attest to that over something I said a week or so again and now she is not happy with me. I do justify myself though in saying that it was because I was worried about a family member's wellbeing. However, that's probably not an excuse or a reason. I live to rue the day...

John Cowart said...

Here, I'll tell you exactly what to do about that lack of restraint problem:

First you need to...

Oh.

Ok. I get the message. You go ahead. Be that way. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Stomper Girl said...

Dear Jelly, I am still learning and trying to practise restraint, and I am getting better. I'm trying to think it but not sayit! I spent my 20s and early 30s being highly opinionated and stepping on lots of toes and feelings. I still have my strong opinions but like you, I have seen the value of restraint. It's a kindness , I reckon.

For the record, you have never been patronising or opinionated in my commentbox; just supportive, funny and interesting.

Oh! And! I have a theory that the restraint we perfect in our 30 - 50s comes unstuck in old age. I have this feeling that that we all suddenly reach an age where we think bugger it, I'll just say what I want again.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Oops...I'm missing that "restraint" jewel in my crown. I'm just plain guilty of not using restraint when I comment on blogs.

I have learned to use restraint when dealing with my children and only give them advice when they ask for it. Otherwise I let them make their own mistakes and handle their children in their own way.

Remiman said...

Jellyhead,
it's in the nature of healthcare providers, don't ya think?
I've become more restrained with age, not perfect but gaining.
When we recognize our shortcomings,only then we can strive to improve.
rel

Alipurr said...

wished I had some of your restraint when I accidentally asked a woman her due date today, der
(yeah, she was not pregnant, and no amount of me apologizing and her saying it's okay is really going to make it okay)

meggie said...

What a lovely post! It is true, the nicest friends seem to be the ones who never criticise or off unsolicited advice!

TUFFENUF said...

I just plunge right in with comments most of the time. I try to restrain when I think someones feelings will be hurt, but if that happens, I always follow up with. "that's just my opinion". I am glad to know that I am not the only "godless heathen" around here! I like you more everyday!

Alice said...

Guess what? I thought after reading your post, "I'll just start my comment by telling her to 'Go on and eat another scone.'" So was it any surprise to see the first comment was from Michelle and she said exactly that? Yes, like mother, like daughter, I'm afraid.

See, we're both unrestrained!

I'm sure there are times when lack of restraint or impetuosity is a good thing....if only we could be sure when those times are....lol.

fifi said...

Restraint does not apply to scones.


I always regret restraining myself from intervening in my friends problematic relationship....one of the times I truly wished I had, because I could have prevented a complete disaster.

Isabelle said...

I'm quite restrained apart from when it comes to commenting on my darling children's significant others. Particularly Daughter 2's. She and I have the same taste in everything except men...

Her father is an exception to this. We both like him.

The Hippocratic Oaf said...

All too often I find myself close to smashing my head into a wall at certain things people say. Restraint is certainly something that has started to slip away over the past few years, which I would put down to general apathy. Sometimes the only thing that holds me back is good old British reserve, whether thats a good thing or not I am still unsure.

R said...

Jelly, first I want to give you an unrestrained THANK YOU! I love your blog, reading its sporadic ramblings on the joys of ordinary life since I stumbled across it about a year ago.

Restraint, a curious and refreshing topic. I am a big Stephanie Dowrick fan, however I've not read that particular book yet.

I am the person in my relationships that is the one giving restraint, patiently listening and supporting friends and family through their trials and tribulations.

When the need arises and it is me that needs a shoulder to lean upon I do wish that my friends would more often be there for me with restraint. I know they care, however I would prefer it to be supportively rather than 'you-should-ly'.

Cindy said...

Restraint. Yes, not one of my better qualities. I need tape. I loved your post and I'm ordering Forgiveness and OTher Acts of Love.