Do not be hasty in spirit to be angry. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
For what I believe are valid reasons, my home telephone is unlisted. However, this secret has been very poorly kept. While I have made peace with giving free psychiatric advice from my home, I have not been able to make peace with persons whom I do not know who make collect calls in search of free advice. Yet I do not refuse to accept charges. Perhaps the caller is in a desperate crisis and thinks that I can somehow help him.
One evening, a phone call interrupted my already long-delayed dinner. I thought I heard the operator say that it was collect. Although the caller was a stranger, I accepted the call, for the reason given above. The caller asked for some psychiatric advice, but since there was no emergency I expressed outrage for her calling me at home, and particularly for asking me to pay for the call. The woman responded that she had not called me collect, and the operator had perhaps erred, since she had asked that the call be “person to person.”
I realized that the mistake was mine; the operator had not asked me to accept the charges, but had asked for me personally. I had therefore reprimanded the caller unjustly, but since I did not know who she was, I had no way to apologize to her.
This incident demonstrates the wisdom of Solomon’s words. Had I not hastily jumped to conclusions, but instead had exercised a bit of patience, a gently worded question would have revealed the truth and would have prevented an unjustified reprimand.