A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Self Control

Maria Kennedy

Maria Kennedy

"Restraint of oneself or one’s actions, feelings, etc. " Dictionary.com

When we read about behaviour that is way off the rails, it can make us complacent about ourselves. Ok, we don’t break the law but we are still just as culpable for the decisions we make and what behaviours we choose in the eyes of God. How does the Holy Spirit help us and how can I, as a writer, make this visible? See what Roger chooses and how the Holy Spirit helps him.

Barbara had not long gone into Burgers Delight to buy their regular Saturday night takeaways when a police car with flashing red and blue lights hurriedly turned into the car park and parked awkwardly outside the building.

ChipsTwo policemen got out and ran inside.

“What the dickens is going on in there?” Roger asked himself aloud as he peered through the windscreen from behind the steering wheel of his car.

He was just about to get out of the car and find out for himself when Barbara, with the rest of the Saturday night customers, left the building en masse. Barbara was talking to someone Roger didn’t even recognise. Even when she peeled off from the others there was something in the way she hurried back to the car with her arms wrapped around her that made Roger aware that something was definitely up. He leaned across the seat and opened the door for her.

“Are you all right? What’s going on in there?”

Barbara fell into the car. “In all my days...” She stopped. She needed all her concentration just to put on her seat belt. Once that was done Barbara sat there momentarily with one hand around the strap at her chest and her other hand firmly clutching her handbag. Her eyes were focused on the dashboard.

“A man in there just went nuts. Something about chips.” Barbara turned and looked at Roger. “I wasn’t taking that much notice as I was looking at the menu for the specials. I heard him say, rather curtly I thought at the time – hey lady what about my chips.” Barbara paused. “The girl was busy trying to fill the next order and she didn’t pay him enough notice, or so he thought.”

Roger nodded. He was listening.

“Anyway,” said Barbara, “the next thing I know he starts yelling at the girl that she was a thievin’ b** for not giving him his chips. Then just like that he starts throwing anything he could lay his hands on, onto the floor – you know the serviettes in that metal container and those plastic stirrers you use for your tea.”

“Go on,” said Roger.

“It doesn’t end there,” replied Barbara. “A family man with his daughter yells out at him to settle down and this nut case comes up to the dad and punches him in the face.”

“All because he didn’t get his chips,” said Roger sounding more like he was asking a question than stating a fact. “Was he drunk?”

“I dunno,” said Barbara waving her hand dismissively. “He was quite a well built sort of fella. He’d be in his twenties I suppose. Drunk, bad-tempered, mentally unhinged, who knows!”

“Boy did he lose it.” Roger felt sadness wash over him. It covered over his earlier feeling of annoyance when he realised the cause of Barbara’s distress.”

“He had his receipt,” added Barbara her voice rising in intensity. “He just had to show the girl his receipt and he would have gotten his chips.”

“He had a choice,” sighed Roger. “There were so many other things he could have done that would have made the outcome so much happier. Even if he did feel angry inside, he still had a choice not to act on it. It’s like he’s blind to the choices he had before him. Or lost to what he was trying to achieve, to pick up some food and eat his dinner. If he wants a fight he should take up boxing. If he wants some attention he could try smiling. If any little thing upsets him and makes him lose control he should get some help, even just counting to ten inside his head would be a start.”

“It all happened so quickly,” said Barbara. She didn’t appear to be listening to Roger. Instead she was back there in the takeaway bar reliving her ordeal. “One minute everything was fine and the next this poor dad has blood streaming down from his nose, his little girl is crying and two other blokes have this out-of-control guy down on the floor with his arm up his back. The language! You should have heard him.”

Roger nodded. “He’s broken the law and now he’ll have to take the consequences.”

“All over nothing. He’s messed up our dinner as well,” added Barbara. “They’ve had to close the premises.”

Hearing that, Roger started the car and put the gear in reverse. “We’ll go somewhere else.” Roger wasn’t prepared to let that person spoil their dinner on top of everything else that had happened.

“Haven’t you heard anything I have just told you?” replied Barbara sounding annoyed.  “I just want to go home.”

Roger felt disappointed. He liked his Saturday night chips dipped in tomato sauce. “We don’t have to give up our dinner just because of what that guy did. I know it’s not our usual but that place down by the supermarket will do.”

Barbara was quiet. The aftershock was making her head feel dizzy. “Well if you go in and leave me in the car,” she finally conceded. Her voice was quiet now as if being witness to the young man’s actions had forced some air out of her lungs and left her without enough oxygen to live on.

Roger smiled at his wife’s sensible choice. He drove to the exit and waited at the curb for the traffic to clear. He was going to get his chips. He could smell them in their oily bag and feel the heat of them in his hands. He glanced across at Barbara. Barbara was blowing her nose into a hanky. Roger’s smile faded. In the grace of that moment Roger still felt irritation towards the ill-wind arising from a stranger going berserk in the takeaway bar, as well as an inward tug of regret about his Saturday night chips. Yet something else was also stirring within him. He felt a growing desire to look after his wife. Roger decided there and then what to do. He would take Barbara home, let her sit in front of the TV and give her a glass of wine. He wouldn’t leave her on her own either but would quietly keep her company.Glass of wine-tif

“You’re right,” conceded Roger. “Let’s go home. I’ll do us some eggs.”   

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