I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

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We must realize the yawning pitfall in that very characteristic of home life which is so often glibly paraded as its principal attraction. ‘It is there that we appear as we really are: it is there that we can fling aside the disguises and be ourselves.’ These words, in the Vicar’s mouth, were only too true and he showed at the lunch table what they meant. Outside his own house he behaves with ordinary courtesy. He would not have interrupted any other young man as he interrupted his son. He would not, in any other society, have talked confident nonsense about subjects of which he was totally ignorant: or, if he had, he would have accepted correction with good temper. In fact, he values home as the place where he can ‘be himself’ in the sense of trampling on all the restraints which civilized humanity has found indispensable for tolerable social intercourse. And this, I think, is very common. What chiefly distinguishes domestic from public conversation is surely very often simply its downright rudeness. What distinguishes domestic behavior is often its selfishness, slovenliness, incivility—even brutality. And it will often happen that those who praise home life most loudly are the worst offenders in this respect: they praise it—they are always glad to get home, hate the outer world, can’t stand visitors, can’t be bothered meeting people, etc.—because the freedoms in which they indulge themselves at home have ended by making them unfit for civilized society. If they practised elsewhere the only behaviour they now find ‘natural’ they would simply be knocked down.

How, then, are people to behave at home? If a man can’t be comfortable and unguarded, can’t take his ease and ‘be himself’ in his own house, where can he? That is, I confess, the trouble. The answer is an alarming one. There is nowhere this side of heaven where one can safely lay the reins on the horse’s neck. It will never be lawful simply to ‘be ourselves’ until ‘ourselves’ have become sons of God. It is all there in the hymn—‘Christian, seek not yet repose.’ This does not mean, of course, that there is no difference between home life and general society. It does mean that home life has its own route of courtesy—a code more intimate, more subtle, more sensitive, and, therefore, in some ways more difficult, than that of the outer world.

Finally, must we not teach that if the home is to be a means of grace it must be a place of rules? There cannot be a common life without a regula. The alternative to rule is not freedom but the unconstitutional (and often unconscious) tyranny of the most selfish member.

In a word, must we not either cease to preach domesticity or else begin to preach it seriously? Must we not abandon sentimental eulogies and begin to give practical advice on the high, hard, lovely, and adventurous art of really creating the Christian family? (C. S. Lewis, “The Sermon and the Lunch,” God in the Dock)

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

“You reckon he’s crazy?”

Miss Maudie shook her head. “If he’s not he should be by now. The things that happen to people we never really know. What happens in houses behind closed doors, what secrets—”

“Atticus don’t ever do anything to Jem and me in the house that he don’t do in the yard,” I said, feeling it my duty to defend my parent.

“Gracious child, I was raveling a thread, wasn’t even thinking about your father, but now that I am I’ll say this: Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets. How’d you like some fresh poundcake to take home?”

I liked it very much. (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, chapter 5)

See also: Self–control, Personhood.

Written by Scott Moonen

July 3, 2018 at 6:23 pm

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