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The Needlessness And Uselessness Of Worry

Of all the mental occupations fallen into, invented, or discovered by man, the most needless, futile, and useless of all is the occupation of worry.

Of all the mental occupations fallen into, invented, or discovered by man, the most needless, futile, and useless of all is the occupation of worry. We have heard it said often, when one was speaking of another's work, or something he had done: "He ought to be in a better business." So, in every case, can it be said of the worrier: He's in a bad business; a business that ought not to exist, one without a single redeeming feature. If for no other reason the fact implied by the title of this chapter ought to be sufficient to condemn it. Worry is needless, useless, futile, of none effect. Why push a heavy rock up a mountain side merely to have it roll down again? Yet one might find good in the physical development that came from this needless uphill work. And he might laugh, and sing, and be cheery while he was doing it. But in the case of the worrier he not only pushes the rock up the hill, but he is beset with the dread that, every moment, it is going to roll back and kill him, and he thinks of nothing but the fear, and the strain, and the distress.

When one calmly considers, it is almost too ridiculous to write seriously about the needlessness and uselessness of worry; its futility is so self-evident to an intelligent mind. Yet, because so many otherwise intelligent and good people are cursed by it, it seems necessary to show its utter uselessness. These say: "I would stop worrying if I could; but I can't help it; I worry in spite of myself!" Don't you believe it! You doubtless think your statement is true, but it is nothing of the kind. Worry could find no place in your mind if it was full to overflowing with something really useful and beneficial. It is a proof either that your mind bosses you,—in other words, that you cannot direct it to think upon something worth while, that it is absolutely untrained, undisciplined, uncontrolled,—or that it is so empty, it takes to worry as a refuge against its own vacuity. The fact of worry implies either that the worrier has no control over his mind, or has an empty mind.

Now no intelligent person will, for one moment, confess to such weakness of mind that he has no control over it. An unoccupied mind can always be occupied if one so wills. No human being is so constituted that nothing appeals to him or interests him, so every mind can be awakened and filled with contemplation of good things—things that will help, benefit and bless, if he so desires.

In the Foreword I have referred to my own experience. Many who knew some of the facts and saw the change that came over my life, have asked me how I succeeded in eliminating worry. I refused to allow my mind to dwell upon harassing topics or events in my life. If I awoke during the night, I turned on the light and picked up a book and forced my thought into another channel. If the objectionable thoughts obtruded during the day I did one of many things, as, for instance, turned to my work with a frenzy of absorption; picked up my hat and went for a walk; called upon friends; went to a concert; or a vaudeville show; took in a lecture; stood and watched the crowds; visited the railway stations— anything, everything, but dwell upon the subjects that were tabooed.

Here was a simple and practical remedy, and I found it worked well. But I can now see that there was a much better way. Where good is substituted for evil one has "the perfect way," and the Apostle Paul revealed himself a wise man of practical affairs, when he urged his readers to "think on the things" that are lovely, pure, just, and of good report. In my case I merely sought to prevent mental vacuity so that the seven devils of worry could not rush into, and take possession of, my empty mind; but I was indifferent, somewhat, to the kind of thought or mental occupation that was to keep out the thoughts of worry. A Nick Carter detective story was as good as a Browning poem, and sometimes better; a cheap and absurd show than an uplifting lecture or concert. How much better it would have been could I have had my mind so thoroughly under control—and this control can surely be gained by any and every man, woman, and child that lives,—that, when worrying thoughts obtruded, I could have said immediately and with authoritative power: I will to think on this thing, or that, or the other.

The result would have been an immediate and perfect cessation of the worry that disturbed, fretted, and destroyed, for the mind would have become engaged with something that was beneficial and helpful. And remember this: God is good, and it is His pleasure to help those who are seeking to help themselves. Or to put it in a way that even our agnostic friends can receive, Nature is on the side of the man or woman who is seeking to live naturally, that is, rightly. Hence, substitute good thoughts for the worrying thoughts and the latter will fade away as do the mist and fog before the morning sun.

Here, then, I had clearly demonstrated for myself the needlessness of worry: I could prevent it if I would. And my readers cannot too soon gain this positive assurance. They can, if they will. It is simply a question of wanting to be free earnestly enough to work for freedom. Is freedom from worry worth while; is it worth struggling for? To me, it is one of the great blessings of life that worry is largely, if not entirely, eliminated. I would not go back to the old worrying days for all the wealth of Morgan, Rockefeller, and Carnegie combined.

As for the uselessness of worry; who is there, that has studied the action of worry, that ever found any of the problems it was concerned over improved by all the hours of worry devoted to it. Worry never solved a problem yet; worry muddies the water still further instead of clearing it; worry adds to the tangle instead of releasing it; worry beclouds the mind, prevents sane judgment, confuses the reason, and leads one to decisions that never ought to be made, and so to an uncertainty, as vexatious and irritating as is the original problem to be solved. If the worry pointed a way out of the difficulty I would extol worry and regard it as a bitter draught of medicine, to be swallowed in a hurry, but producing a beneficial result. But it never does anything to help; it invariably hinders; it sets one chasing shadows, produces ignes fatui before the eyes, and ultimately leads one into the bog.

Elsewhere I have referred to the Indians' attitude of mind. If a matter can be changed, change it; if not grin and bear it without complaint. Here is practical wisdom. But to worry over a thing that can be changed, instead of changing it, is the height of folly, and if a matter cannot be changed why worry over it? How utterly useless is the worry. Then, too, worry is the parent of nagging. Nagging is worry put into words,—the verbal expression of worry about or towards individuals. The mother wishes her son would do differently. Can the boy's actions be changed? Then go to work to change them—not to worry over them.

If they cannot be changed, why nag him, why irritate him, why make a bad matter worse? Nagging, like worry, never once did one iota of good; it has caused infinite harm, as it sets up an irritation between those whose love might overcome the difficulty if it were let alone. Nagging is the constant irritation of a wound, the rubbing of a sore, the salting an abraded place, the giving a hungry man a tract, religious advice or a bible, when all he craves is food.

Ah, mother! many a boy has run away from home because your worry led you to nag him; many a girl to-day is on the streets because father or mother nagged her; many a husband has "gone on a tear" because he could not face his wife's "worry put into words," even though no one would attempt to deny that boy, girl and husband alike were wrong in every particular, and the "nagger" in the right, save in the one thing of worry and its consequent nagging.

In watching the lives of men and women I have been astonished, again and again, that the fruitlessness of their worry did not demonstrate its uselessness to them. No good ever comes from it. Everybody who has any perception sees this, agrees to it, confesses it. Then why still persist in it? Yet they do, and at the same time expect to be regarded as intelligent, sane, normal human beings, many of whom claim, as members of churches, peculiar and close kinship with God, forgetful of the fact that every moment spent in worry is dishonoring to God.

How much needless anxiety, care, and absolute torture some women suffer in an insane desire to keep their homes spotlessly clean. The house must be without a speck of dirt anywhere; the kitchen must be as spotless as the parlor; the sink must be so immaculate that you could eat from it, if necessary; the children must always be in their best bibs and tuckers and appear as Little Lord Fauntleroys; and no one, at any time, or any circumstance, must ever appear to be dirty, except the scavenger who comes to remove the accumulated debris of the kitchen, and the man who occasionally assists the gardener.

These people forget that all dirt and dust is not of greater value than spotless cleanliness. Let us look calmly at the problem for a few minutes. Here is a housewife who cannot afford help to keep her house as spotless as her instincts and her training desire. It is simply impossible for her, personally, to go over the house daily with rag, duster and dustpan. If she attempts it, as she does sometimes—she overworks, and a breakdown is the result. What, then, is the sensible, the reasonable, the only thing she should do? Sit down and "worry" over her "untidy house"; lament that "the stairs have not been swept since day before yesterday; that the parlor was not dusted this morning; the music-room looks simply awful," and cry that "if Mrs. Brown were to come in and see my wretchedly untidy house, I'm sure I should die of shame!" Would this help matters? Would one speck of dirt be removed as the result of the worry, the wailing, and the tears? Not a speck. Every particle would remain just as before.

Yet other things would not be as they were before. No woman could feel as I have suggested this "worriting creature" felt, without gendering irritation in husband, children and friends. Is any house that was ever built worth the alienation of dear ones? What is the dust, dirt, disorder, of a really untidy house —I am supposing an extraordinary case—compared with the irritation caused by a worrying housewife? Furthermore: such a woman is almost sure to break down her own health and become an irritable neurasthenic or hypochondriac, and thus add to the burdens of those she loves.

There are women who, instead of following this course, make themselves wretched—and everyone else around them—by the worry of contrasting their lot with that of some one more fortunately situated than they. She has a husband who earns more money than does hers; such an one has a larger allowance and can afford more help—the worry, however, is the same, little matter what form it takes, and worry is the destructive thing.

What, then, shall a woman do, who has to face the fact that she cannot gratify her desire to keep her house immaculate, either because she has not the strength to do it, or the money to hire it done. The old proverb will help her: "What can't be cured must be endured." There is wonderful help in the calm, full, direct recognition of unpleasant facts. Look them squarely in the face. Don't dodge them, don't deny them. Know them, understand them, then defy them to destroy your happiness. If you can't dust your house daily, dust it thrice a week, or twice, or once, and determine that you will be happy in spite of the dust. The real comfort of the house need not thereby be impaired, as there is a vast difference between your scrupulous cleanliness and careless untidiness. Things may be in order even though the floor has a little extra dust on, or the furniture has not been dusted for four days.

"But," you say, "I am far less disturbed by the over work than I am by the discomfort that comes from the dust." Then all I can say is that you are wrongly balanced, according to my notion of things. Your health should be of far more value to you than your ideas of house tidiness, but you have reversed the importance of the two. Teach yourself the relative value of things. A hundred dollar bill is of greater value than one for five dollars, and the life of your baby more important than the value of the hundred dollar bill. Put first things first, and secondly, and tertiary, and quarternary things in their relative positions. Your health and self-poise should come first, the comfort and happiness of husband and family next, the more or less spotlessness and tidiness of the house afterwards. Then, if you cannot have your house as tidy as you wish, resolutely resolve that you will not be disturbed. You will control your own life and not allow a dusty room—be it never so dusty—to destroy your comfort and peace of mind, and that of your loved ones.

When a woman of this worrying type has children she soon learns that she must choose between the health and happiness of her children and the gratification of her own passionate desire for spotless cleanliness. This gratification, if permanently indulged in, soon becomes a disease, for surely only a diseased mind can value the spotlessness of a house more than the health, comfort, and happiness of children. Yet many women do—more's the pity. Such poor creatures should learn that there is a dirtiness that is far worse than dirt in a house—a dirtiness, a muddiness of mind, a cluttering of thought, a making of the mind a harboring place for wrong thoughts. Not wrong in the sense of immoral or wicked, as these words are generally used, but wrong in this sense, viz., that reason shows the folly, the inutility, the impracticability of attempting to bring up sane, healthy, happy, normal children in a household controlled by the idea that spotless cleanliness is the matter of prime importance to be observed. The discomfort of children, husband, mother herself are nothing as compared with keeping the house in perfect order. Any woman so obsessed should be sent for a short time to an insane asylum, for she certainly has so reversed the proper order of values as to be so far insane. She has "cluttered up" her mind with a wrong idea, an idea which dirties, muddies, soils her mind far worse than dust soils her house.

Reader, keep your mind free from such dirt—for dirt is but "matter in the wrong place." Far better have dust, dirt, in your house, dirt on your child's hands, face, and clothes, than on your own mind to give you worry, discomfort and disease.

Reference book: Quit Your Worrying

Tags: worrying, problems, thinking, productivity, ,

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