Rape, Anger, and Exercising Restraint..!

For many years as honorary secretary of a prison ministry, we were given permission by the government to visit prisons all over the state and counsel those jailed inside. Quite often, tough looking men and women would burst into tears and continue weeping as they regretted some crime they committed on impulse. “If only…” they would whisper.

“If only we had shown restraint!”

As I read today, about the rape and strangling of an eighteen- year old girl in a hostel in South Bombay, I thought about the word, ‘restraint’. The watchman who allegedly committed the crime, went to the railway line behind and committed suicide. What he had done was obviously an impulsive act, and two young lives were lost when restraint could have been the savior!

Everyday, we face situations, when we either give way to our impulses or we exercise restraint. The dictionary meaning of ‘restraint’ is, ‘keep under control or within limits’

Not easy, isn’t it? But highly rewarding!

But just keeping ourselves under control can also be the death of us, as in suppressing ourselves from talking back to our superiors when they are wrong or other such situations, can build simmering anger inside, that could finally manifest in a heart attack and death.

How do we then deploy ‘restraint’?

I believe two factors come into play, understanding ourselves, and understanding others!

Suppose we admit to ourselves we have a tendency of acting spontaneously. We can go back in our own history of relationships and find we have wrecked good friendships and partnerships, by letting loose either our tongue or fists. ‘We are made like that!’ we say later, defiantly, even as the world either starts leaving us alone or considers us immature. Even as boxers learn patience and wrestlers know to give in to a grip so that they can then exercise a better hold, we need to learn to curb that impulsive part of ourselves towards a greater gain, either in the form of a continued friendship, or of being able to bring wisdom into a situation. ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath’ say the wise scriptures.

Then we come to understand the other person. Indulge me as my mind turns to the one vivid picture I have of Christ on the cross, writhing in agony, and turning to God and murmuring, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

As the spear and whip came crashing down on Him, He who could have unleashed ten thousand angels, restrained Himself, through understanding that those who were crucifying Him, did not understand why they were doing it.

Use these two methods of ‘understanding’ and even as we read in horror about the rape and death of a young teen, realise that even we need to use restraint many times in a day, both at home and outside..!


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