On Impulsiveness and Thoughtfulness (Mon, March 27)

The word for today is impulsive.  Today in our reading of Proverbs 14:27-15:4, the sage of Proverbs observes, “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly (vs. 14:29).

We know this insight is true from our own experience. All of us lash out hastily at times especially when we are angry. But our reaction usually causes even more distress.  We might ask what is the reason for that impulsiveness?

What Is Impulsiveness?

The word for impulsive in Hebrew means simply “short.” In English we use the word in that sense when we say, Someone was short with us. It means hasty and curt to the point of rudeness. We act on impulse, that is, we act abruptly when we speak or act without considering the consequences for ourselves or others.  We are thoughtless and carried away by our emotions.

Impulsiveness Is a Sign of the Lack of Self-Understanding

Habitual impulsiveness, therefore, is a sign of a lack of self-reflection.  On the other hand, those who are “slow to wrath” patient, and forbearing know themselves and their passions.  They have a self-understanding of what will trigger their hasty emotions.  And they have developed ways of subduing these impulses before they take over their behavior.

For Reflection

How then can we develop control of our impulses?  We have said that impulsiveness is thoughtlessness. The remedy is to nurture thoughtfulness of a certain kind.  The Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica said that “Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture.  If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like.  If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.”  (Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives” the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica).

It is as if our habitual ways of thinking are a storehouse of responses to our circumstances and relationships.  Words, situations, and acts call for the stores of thoughts that we have collected.  It is up to us to cultivate this deposit of peaceful, calm, meek, and kind thoughts in preparation for whatever might happen during the day.  Moments of prayer, meditation, and devotional reading are essential to building up such a positive stockpile of thoughts.

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.

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