Church Fathers, Day 279: St. Ambrose tells us calm your mind—or at least your tongue

Church Fathers, Day 279: St. Ambrose tells us calm your mind—or at least your tongue April 26, 2015

saint_ambroseCalm your mind—or at least your tongue

We should try to keep from getting angry, says St. Ambrose. But if anger sneaks up on us, we should try to calm ourselves. And if we can’t do that, we should at least keep ourselves from saying something we’ll regret.

Guard against anger. But if it cannot be averted, let it be kept within bounds. For indignation is a terrible incentive to sin. It disorders the mind to such an extent as to leave no room for reason.

The first thing, therefore, to aim at, if possible, is to make tranquility of char­acter our natural disposition by constant practice, by desire for better things, by fixed determination. But since passion is to a large extent implanted in our nature and character, so that it cannot be uprooted and avoided, it must be checked by reason—if, that is, it can be foreseen.

And if the mind has already been filled with indignation before it could be foreseen or provided against in any way, we must consider how to conquer the passion of the mind, how to restrain our anger, that it may no more be so filled.

If, then, anger has got the start, and has already taken possession of your mind, and risen into your heart, do not leave your ground. Your ground is pa­tience, it is wisdom, it is reason, it is the allaying of indignation.

And if the stubbornness of your opponent riles you up and his perverseness drives you to indignation, then if you cannot calm your mind at least hold your tongue. For so it is written: “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speak­ing deceit . . . seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:13-14).

First, then, calm your mind. If you cannot do this, restrain your tongue. Finally, don’t forget to look for reconciliation.

–St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, 1.21


How well am I able to restrain myself when anger creeps up on me?


Father, send me your Spirit of peace, so that I may live with a tranquil mind in temperance and obedience. 

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