George Herbert: "The Church-porch"

Day 3: Evening


Drink not the third glasse, which thou canst not tame,

When once it is within thee; but before

Mayst rule it, as thou list; and poure the shame,

Which it would poure on thee, upon the floore.

     It is most just to throw that on the ground,

     Which would throw me there, if I keep the round.

     Two is enough. If you can not control them when they are inside you, govern them while you can - when they are outside. Do not give up control to the drink. Manage it before it subdues you. While you are still in command, pour the third glass on the floor, before it pours shame on you, [by putting you on the floor]. Consider which is the greater waste.

     Is it more important to keep the round, your drinking buddies and end up on the floor, or is it better to throw the drink on the floor and walk out with your self respect? Are your friends, your mindfulness and your honor worth your shame? You have a choice before you drink the third glass. If you make the decision to drink it, you also make the resolution to give up control, to keep your drinking buddies, to slide into humiliation and harm. You take the responsibility for that third glass.

     This is a lesson in temperance (not abstinence). Wine, beer, intoxicants, drugs, narcotics and medication have the same potential, to take over control. As long as we have authority and maintain mastery, the substance is no danger. But once it takes control or makes itself a habit, clear perception and sound judgment fade. It becomes intrusive, even overwhelming. All activity that dulls our sense and responsibility as children of God must be closely monitored. Mark Twain said, about drink, "I can't restrain myself. But I can eliminate it." When restraint fails, consider doing without. Maintain control over yourself. How can you give God your control if it is not yours to give.

© 1997 J. R. Arner Incidentally William Randolph Hurst, the millionaire newspaper publisher, permitted only 2 drinks to his guests at St. Simeon. Could he have followed Herbert's advise?

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