I recall a wonderful story from my youth concerning a British military school for young men. As it goes, there was a bit of a coup in the ranks - and the cadets had actually taken control of the buildings. [Bear with me. I know that sounds implausible, but for the moment, let's roll with it]. Anyway, the cadets pretty well had secured the perimeter and were calling all the shots. Needless to say, the (former) administration and some more-than-interested parents were ready to storm the gates. One of the cadet's father was among a group that was selected to meet with the young men and negotiate a resolution.
The meeting was set to take place within the walls of the school. The emissaries were escorted into the room and were set to lay down the law in no uncertain terms. When the young men entered the room, the father recognized his son, rose and walked across the room. Upon striding up to his son, he looked into his eyes, rested a hand on his shoulder and issued a one word directive - 'Steady'. No condemnation, no judgment. Just a reminder to remember who you are, what you can do, what you cannot.
We live in a culture that has lost all sense of Restraint. Our movies are completely over the top (re: The Hobbit). Our music is synthetized and lip-synced. Why take the time to develop themes and create a musical experience. Pyrotechnics are usually involved. Sports? Super Bowl! World Champions! Domination! The Greatest Game in the United History of Games! Politics works on the news cycle and policies are established by flash polls. When was the last time you heard a politician consider what the country might look like in 50 years? Or even one hundred?
The best books and movies use restraint. A good director knows how to build interest - not the same as suspense. He wants the viewer to buy into the story and characters. The story is the story. At our house, we've watched the A&E version of Pride & Prejudice probably 40+ times in the past 15 years. And my wife many more times than that. The production shows remarkable restraint. It would be so easy to clumsily foreshadow the story. For those watching for the first time with no knowledge of the book, the director keeps you off-balance and constantly trying to deduce the outcome. They keep true to the great work of literature. They exhibit restraint. Patience is more than a virtue. It's a lost art.
Looking ahead to 2014, I think I need more restraint. I need to be slower to speak - more cautious in my opinions. I have, to my regret, plunged into conversations with no thought to the words impact, to devastating effect. I size up good people based on my worn out and unreliable stereotypes. So I ask the Holy Spirit for discernment. Discernment being in the same chain as restraint. I ask that I might be more patient. That I will wait on the Spirit to guide. And when He does, that I am steady in my resolve.