God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control. II Timothy 1:7
There is a Greek word that I chose as the name of my little publishing enterprise, Sophronismos Press. The word “sophronismos” comes from St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy. It is often translated as “wisdom,” but it is a specific kind of wisdom that is very different from academic wisdom.
It means “knowing what to do in the face of panic,” or “knowing how to keep your cool” or “self-control under pressure.” Paul prays that Timothy will have this kind of wisdom, the wisdom to have control of himself rather than to cave in to his cowardice. He is close to giving up.
As a priest ordained in the tumultuous 1970s, I have always thought that this is the gift that I would most need as a priest. I was not far off in my prediction.
I remember one case in particular, which might have been the very day that I chose “sophronismos” for the banner under which I would publish my “Encouraging Word” books. I needed to “know how to keep my cool.” I needed to “know what to do in the face of panic.” I needed “self-control under pressure.” In my writings, I have wished it for others going through difficult times.
The case I mentioned was the day the exterior Cathedral of the Assumption cracked down the back and one side, almost falling into a pile of rubble, as we were digging around the foundation during the renovation process.
I was standing on the sidewalk along Muhammad Ali Boulevard watching it crack, hearing it crack and seeing small puffs of smoke come from the cracking bricks. I wanted to run somewhere when all of a sudden I remembered hearing myself say, “Ron you don’t have the luxury of coming unglued!
You will be the pastor of that parish this weekend with or without that building! Now get a grip!”
That was “sophronismos.”
“Sophronismos” is a wisdom that is much needed today. So many things seem to be coming unglued, and when things start becoming unglued, people tend to panic and lose control, doing some impulsive and even self-defeating things.
In a panic, some people vote against their own self-interest in elections. Others send nasty, cruel or salacious emails in the heat of passion and have it affect their prospects for jobs years later. Still others commit “adultery of spite” to get even with their withholding spouses.
A few people cause multiple deaths, maybe their own, in road rage episodes rather than just “letting it go.” Others create unwanted pregnancies in one-night stands. Still others, in fits of rage, engage in the physical abuse of their children or spouses.
All this comes from not having “sophronismos,” “the ability to keep one’s cool,” “the ability to know what to do in the face of panic” and the “ability to control oneself under pressure.”
I wish you “sophronismos!”
To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.