Which is better: to act swiftly, which indicates resolution, decisiveness, and the ability to make a decision, or to take one’s time and deliberate calmly, with all that this conveys in the way of composure, stability and patience?

Which is better: to act swiftly, which indicates resolution, decisiveness, and the ability to make a decision, or to take one’s time and deliberate calmly, with all that this conveys in the way of composure, stability and patience?

There are cases when it is right and necessary to act swiftly, and others, calling for deliberation and patience, where to act quickly would be harmful…

Take punishment, for example: when this is carried out too quickly, no scope is provided for investigation, for justice, or for close examination, or for finding out the extent of the offence or the position of responsibility. Thus acting quickly in the case of punishment is a mistake, for the matter needs reflection.

On the other hand, being slow and delaying to carry out punishment affords the offender a respite, so that he continues to do wrong, which has worse consequences, in that it encourages others to imitate him, under the impression that there is no form of control or restraint. In such a case, it becomes necessary to carry out a punishment more quickly.

In either case, then, wisdom and an assessment of the circumstances is essential.

It also appears that a thorough investigation is necessary, and that even when swift action in punishment is required, it needs to be accompanied by sufficient justice, and the person to be punished has to be given a chance to explain his situation and answer to his charge.

There are other cases, however, which should be dealt with quickly, such as repentance.

When the prodigal son woke up to his predicament, he said: “‘I will arise and go to my father … ” (Luke 15:18) and he got up straightaway and returned to his father. When it comes to repentance, there should be no delay or procrastination. By the time the five foolish maidens returned, they were too late, and found the door closed against them, and their opportunity was lost.

There are situations involving others which, if one is too slow, on the pretext of being deliberate and making a careful examination, will be over and done with by the time one arrives.

Take a sick person, for example, if you catch him in time, and treat him promptly, he might be cured. If you delay though, on the excuse that you need to carry out more investigations, his condition might end up as hopeless. You have to do the necessary tests, but do them quickly. 

So many times there have been wrongdoers whom we have been too slow to check, with the result that their offence has become a common habit, and spread. And so many situations have reached such serious consequences as someone renouncing his faith, all because we have been too slow to deal with them.

Certain family problems and certain financial problems call for swift action.

There have been situations which have ended up in divorce, which could have been prevented, if steps had been taken to deal with them right at the beginning, before letting them develop into conflicts and become more complicated, and letting them then get to a state of impasse or hatred, and then the law courts and a hearing…

Carrying out obligations often calls for swift action.

Suppose you are a person who is slow in expressing his condolences or his congratulations, or in visiting the sick, or responding on any important occasions, this procrastination might lead to a change in the other person’s feelings towards you, so that he imagines that you do not care about him, and so it has an effect on both sides of your relationship.

If you are also slow in making up with him, you might afterwards find yourself no longer on his list of friends! 

This does not mean, however, that swift action is best in every situation, and for everybody…

It is a necessary condition, when it comes to carrying out something quickly, that it shouldn’t be done in an unprepared or improvisatory manner, or as a reaction. Nor should there be any likelihood of error, or need for re-examination afterwards. For if this were the case, there would be a reason to slow down and not act so quickly.

More important than the factor of speed, is that of skill and usefulness, for if speed is combined with skilful performance, then that is ideal.

What is meant by speed is not recklessness or impetuosity. It is not loss of balance, or behaving without thinking or without prior study, which would not only be wrong, but would also cause extensive damage.

From this, then, the importance of reflection and calmness in producing the right decision, becomes obvious.

Taking consideration over, or reflecting upon a matter, is not an inability to issue a decision, or an inability to make up one’s mind in settling affairs, but rather an effort to blend everything with a wise course of behaviour. Calm thinking is more wholesome, and calm behaviour a more successful approach to dealing with something. Calm measures are more lasting and less prone to be shaken… 

The surgeon’s scalpel, for all its swiftness, is not always the ideal solution.

Between swift action and slowness, there exists, however, a better medium.

Swift action will be criticised, unless it has been backed up by prior study and investigation. And taking one’s time about something, doesn’t mean just putting things off… it too must be the outcome of deliberation…

Patience is a virtue if it leads to a healthy result, but if I don’t use it in the proper place, someone else’s more appropriate qualities will gain the advantage!

Acting slowly is not always to be associated with a gentle or peaceable nature, it may sometimes be related to negligence, indifference or stupidity.

Be wise, then, in how you behave, and do not follow either extremes. Taking the middle course has saved many people, and the best way, as they say, is often an intermediate position between two opposite extremes, between overdoing it and underdoing it.

Give each activity its proper time, and deal with each issue in a way that will bring it to success, with swift action, or calm deliberation as is necessary.