"As we get older, we grow tetchy..." —James Wolcott
The troubles of old age can make us cranky and out of sorts, but we should never excuse these bouts of bad behavior, for they can wither the hearts of those we live with and love and spread misery all around us. We have not fulfilled our duty to those in our household until we have learned to be pleasant.
Poet Hannah More wrote this:
Since trifles make the sum of human things,
And half our misery from our foibles springs;
Since life's best joys consist in peace and ease,
And though but few can serve, yet all can please;
Oh, let the ungentle spirit learn from hence,
A small unkindness is a great offense.
Ancient Greek philosophers had a word for the virtue that corrects our unpleasantness—praus, a term that suggests a kind, patient demeanor. A soul at rest. It was considered the “queen of the virtues” for it governed and blessed all the rest. The author of the book of James, who understood the classical use of the word, describes the consummate good life as deeds done “in the gentleness [prautes] of wisdom.”
Praus has the power to be kind and considerate in the face of pain or disruption. It is willing to accept limitations and ailments without taking out our aggravation on others. It shows gratitude for the smallest service rendered and tolerance for those who do not serve us well. It puts up with bothersome people—especially noisy, boisterous little people, for kindness to children is a crowning mark of a good and gentle soul. It speaks softly in the face of provocation. It is silent, for calm, unruffled silence is often the most eloquent response to unkind words.
Jesus was (and is) “gentle [praus] and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). If we ask Him, He will, in time, create His likeness in us. “From tones that jar the heart of another, from words that make it ache… from such, He (Jesus) was born to deliver us” (George MacDonald).