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Happiness Three Secrets

Near by the Temple of Success based on the three pillars of Health, Industry, and Judgment, stands another temple. Behind the curtains of its doors is concealed the secret of happiness.

Near by the Temple of Success based on the three pillars of Health, Industry, and Judgment, stands another temple. Behind the curtains of its doors is concealed the secret of happiness.

There are, of course, many forms of that priceless gift. Different temperaments will interpret it differently. Various experiences will produce variations of the blessing. A man may make a failure in his affairs and yet remain happy. The spiritual and inner life is a thing apart from material success. Even a man who, like Robert Louis Stevenson, suffers from chronic ill-health can still be happy.

But we must leave out these exceptions and deal with the normal man, who lives by and for his practical work, and who desires and enjoys both success and health. Granted that he has these two possessions, must he of necessity be happy? Not so. He may have access to the first temple, but the other temple may still be forbidden him. A rampant ambition can be a torture to him. An exaggerated selfishness can make his life miserable, or an uneasy conscience may join with the sins of pride to take their revenge on his mentality. For the man who has attained success and health there are three great rules: "To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly." These are the three pillars of the Temple of Happiness.

Justice, which is another word for honesty in practice and in intention, is perhaps the easiest of the virtues for the successful man of affairs to acquire. His experience has schooled him to something more profound than the acceptance of the rather crude dictum that "Honesty is the best policy"—which is often interpreted to mean that it is a mistake to go to gaol. But real justice must go far beyond a mere fear of the law, or even a realisation that it does not pay to indulge in sharp practice in business. It must be a mental habit—a fixed intention to be fair in dealing with money or politics, a natural desire to be just and to interpret all bargains and agreements in the spirit as well as in the letter.

The idea that nearly all successful men are unscrupulous is very frequently accepted. To the man who knows, the doctrine is simply foolish. Success is not the only or the final test of character, but it is the best rough-and-ready reckoner.

The contrary view that success probably implies a moral defect springs from judging a man by the opinions of his rivals, enemies, or neighbours. The real judges of a man's character are his colleagues. If they speak well of him, there is nothing much wrong. The failure, on the other hand, can always be sure of being popular with the men who have beaten him. They give him a testimonial instead of a cheque. It would be too curious a speculation to pursue to ask whether Justice, like the other virtues, is not a form of self-interest. To answer it in the affirmative would condemn equally the doctrines of the Sermon on the Mount and the advice to do unto others what they should do unto you. But this is certain. No man can be happy if he suffers from a perpetual doubt of his own justice.

The second quality, Mercy, has been regarded as something in contrast or conflict with justice. It is not really so. Mercy resembles the prerogative of the judge to temper the law to suit individual cases. It must be of a kindred temper with justice, or it would degenerate into mere weakness or folly. A man wants to be certain of his own just inclination before he can dare to handle mercy. But the quality of mercy is, perhaps, not so common in the human heart as to require this caution. It is a quality that has to be acquired. But the man of success and affairs ought to be the last person to complain of the difficulty of acquiring it. He has in his early days felt the whip-hand too often not to sympathise with the feelings of the under-dog. And he always knows that at some time in his career he, too, may need a merciful interpretation of a financial situation. Shakespeare may not have had this in his mind when he said that mercy "blesseth him that gives and him that takes"; but he is none the less right. Those who exercise mercy lay up a store of it for themselves. Shylock had law on his side, but not justice or mercy. One is reminded of his case by the picture of certain Jews and Gentiles alike as seen playing roulette at Monte Carlo. Their losses, inevitable to any one who plays long enough, seem to sadden them. M. Blanc would be doing a real act of mercy if he would exact his toll not in cash, but in flesh. Some of the players are of a figure and temperament which would miss the pound of flesh far less than the pound sterling.

What, then, in its essence is the quality of mercy? It is something beyond the mere desire not to push an advantage too far. It is a feeling of tenderness springing out of harsh experience, as a flower springs out of a rock. It is an inner sense of gratitude for the scheme of things, finding expression in outward action, and, therefore, assuring its possessor of an abiding happiness.

The quality of Humility is by far the most difficult to attain. There is something deep down in the nature of a successful man of affairs which seems to conflict with it. His career is born in a sense of struggle and courage and conquest, and the very type of the effort seems to invite in the completed form a temperament of arrogance. I cannot pretend to be humble myself; all I can confess is the knowledge that in so far as I could acquire humility I should be happier. Indeed, many instances prove that success and humility are not incompatible. One of the most eminent of our politicians is by nature incurably modest. The difficulty in reconciling the two qualities lies in that "perpetual presence of self to self which, though common enough in men of great ambition and ability, never ceases to be a flaw." But there is certainly one form of humility which all successful men ought to be able to practise. They can avoid a fatal tendency to look down on and despise the younger men who are planting their feet in their own footsteps. The established arrogance which refuses credit or opportunity to rising talent is unpardonable. A man who gives way to what is really simply a form of jealousy cannot hope to be happy, for jealousy is above all others the passion which tears the heart.

The great stumbling block which prevents success embracing humility is the difficulty of distinguishing between the humble mind and the cowardly one.

When does humility merge into moral cowardice and courage into arrogance? Some men in history have had this problem solved for them. Stonewall Jackson is a type of the man of supreme courage and action and judgment who was yet supremely humble—but he owed his bodily and mental qualities to nature and his humility to the intensity of his Presbyterian faith. Few men are so fortunately compounded.

Still, if the moral judgment is worth anything, a man should be able to practise courage without arrogance and to walk humbly without fear. If he can accomplish the feat he will reap no material reward, but an immense harvest of inner well-being. He will have found the blue bird of happiness which escapes so easily from the snare. He will have joined Justice to Mercy and added Humility to Courage, and in the light of this self-knowledge he will have attained the zenith of a perpetual satisfaction.

Reference book: Success

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