The majority of people perform well in a crisis when the spotlight is on them; it’s on the Sunday afternoons of this life, when nobody is looking, that the spirit falter.
Those words of the novelist Arnold Bennett, who died about eighty years ago, were quoted recently in a national newspaper.
Sunday afternoons eighty years ago were dull and dismal things.
No television then, no sporting events, and in Christian households only the Bible and ‘Pilgrims Progress’ as permitted reading material.
For ‘Sunday afternoons’, therefore, in Arnold Bennett’s words, substitute what the old Greeks called ‘a cool hour’.
But even with that adjustment, is Bennett correct? Bennett draws a comparison between the crisis hour and the cool hour. Certainly the cool hour is an hour of danger. When pressure is withdrawn, temptation still lurks.
The Japanese have a proverb, ‘Victor, tighten thy helmet strap’, reminding those who have survived the hour of crisis that other pitfalls remain.
King David sent his troops off to fight, while he lingered in his Jerusalem palace. No danger there, you might think. Yet it was there, in an hour of idleness that he fell a victim to his own lust and Bathsheba’s beauty.( 2 Samuel 11;1).
But while Bennett drew a contrast between the crisis hour and the cool hour. But he failed to mention the connection between them. Those who manage well in the hour of crisis are the ones who have used the cool hours well. Crisis does not create character.
While it is possible, occasionally, to extemporise a passable speech, it is not possible to extemporise character. Character is formed but the accumulate decisions arrived at in the hours when no one is looking; those hours when the angels are the only spectators and conscience is the only applause.
No better example of the link between the crisis hour and the cool hour than the episode known as the temptations of Christ(Matthew 4; 1-11 and Luke 4; 1- 13). Jesus was victorious in that crisis because in the cool hour he had been stocking his mind with Scripture, by which he rebutted each thrust of Satan. How are your using the ‘Sunday afternoons of life’?