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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

A Storm in a Teacup

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18

Have you ever heard that phrase, “a storm in a teacup”? It is one of those idioms that we rattle off. I actually don’t hear this one too much anymore. I guess we have new phrases that we say nowadays. This one also has a variation, “a tempest in a teapot”.

Most sources say that “a tempest in a teapot” is the American version of the idiom and “a storm in a teacup” is the British version, but frankly, I’m an Indian. I grew up in Chennai and I have heard “a storm in a teacup” way more than “a tempest in a teapot”. I’ve probably only encountered “a tempest in a teapot” in a book somewhere.

I’m sure you can pretty much conjure up what those two sayings mean, even if you never heard them before. Your first instinct may be to think of anger. But the idea behind its origin means more than that. It means an unnecessary anger.

“a lot of unnecessary anger and worry about a matter that is not important” - Cambridge Dictionary says this about the meaning and origin.

“A tempest in a teapot is a small problem or event that has been blown out of proportion.” “…seems to have originated in 52 B.C.E. in the writings of Cicero, in a phrase that translates as stirring up billows in a ladle. The Duke of Ormand, in a letter written in 1678, refers to something that is but a storm in a cream bowl. Both of the idioms a tempest in a teapot and a storm in a teacup seem to have originated in Scotland in the early half of the 1800s.”

Did you catch that? “stirring up billows in a ladle” and “a storm in a cream bowl”. Those both denote things that just don’t fit. They just can’t be contained.

Storms in teacups or tempests in teapots are unnecessary fusses. These are things that get exaggerated or blown out of proportion, and one of the things that flares up when this happens is our anger. And we know as Christians anger is something we need to stay away from. It needs to stay out of our teacups and teapots. It needs to stay out of our lives. That is for sure.

I was thinking about all this and I realised that there are three things that happen when anger starts billowing around in our teacups. Frustration over little things that make us angry in a big way has consequences.

1. That teacup may get spilled.

Anger has a way of just splashing out of us. Doesn’t it? We start splashing around ugly and mean remarks at other people. We hurl hurtful words for no reason. We splish and splosh!

We are going to have to be very careful and exercise some patience in order to gain control over the flesh or it will come spilling out of us boiling other people in the process.

2. That teacup may get knocked over.

When we are prone to anger by those little annoying things that churn and turn our teacups (or our lives), we may just get knocked over a little bit. Every little thing will annoy us. We will feel like we are being persecuted. We will feel like people are talking about us behind our backs.

That churning and turning inside us will make us feel like the world is beating us down and knocking us over. We are going to have to turn to the Lord and give Him all those little worries and aggravations that tend to churn up our emotions.

3. That teacup may get broken.

Billows and swallows churning and mucking around in our little teacups can have some major damage. Explosions of anger. Cracked spirits. Broken pieces. We will be going in shattered mode. We will lose our confidence. We will rely on self-more than the Lord.

When this happens, we are going to need the Lord to hold us together. We are going to have to let the anger and frustrations go. Do you know that verse in Proverbs 17:22 about “broken spirits”? The opposite of that is “a merry heart”. People that have joy just don’t go around with storms in their teacups.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (KJV)

When we allow little things in our lives to aggravate us, annoy us, and weigh on us, it can lead us to the temptation of sin. Anger, bitterness, and hatred are just some of those things that we will be tempted to indulge in because of it.

We are going to have to learn to be calm when things come up that we may not agree with. We are going to have to learn to listen to the whole of a matter. We are going to have to learn some patience. We are going to have to work on our attitudes. We are going to have to stop blowing things out of proportion. We are going to have to learn not to complain so much. We are going to have to be aware of what triggers our anger, what triggers our complaining, and what triggers us to go down the path of the storm.

Having storms in our teacups can mess up our relationships, and even our work, or what we are doing at the moment that anger storm starts billowing inside of us.

When we let emotions rule our lives, things just get messy. Storms ensue, tempests rage, and we explode.

We all have trouble with this. As Christians we have to work daily to live above the flesh or we will end up allowing little tiny things to have big huge impacts on our lives.

Sometimes it just goes back to that fruit of the Spirit. Doesn’t it?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 (KJV)

So, what are you making a fuss over today?


The Proverbs Explained – Fr Mitch Pacwa

Proverbs with God's Wisdom – M. L. James

God's Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs - Kathy Keller and Timothy J Keller

The Book of Proverbs: The Message - Eugene H. Peterson

The Message of Proverbs: Wisdom for Life - D. Atkinson

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