The causes of worry are innumerable. They represent the sum total of the errors, faults, missteps, unholy aims, ambitions, foibles, weaknesses and crimes of men.
Every error, mistake, weakness, crime, etc., is a source of worry—a cause of worry. Worry is connected only with the weak, the human, the evil side of human nature. It has no place whatever in association with goodness, purity, holiness, faith, courage and trust in God. When good men and women worry, in so far as they worry they are not good. Their worry is a sign of weakness, of lack of trust in God, of unbelief, of unfaithfulness. The man who knows God and his relationship to man; who knows his own spiritual nature and his relationship to God never worries. There is no possible place in such a man's life for worry.
Hence it will be seen that I believe worry to be evil, and nothing but evil, and, therefore, without one reclaiming or redeeming feature, for it can be productive of nothing but evil.
If you really desire to know the sources of your worry study each worry as it comes up. Analyse it, dissect it, weigh it, examine it from every standpoint, judge it by the one test that everything in life must, and ought to submit to, viz.: its usefulness. What use is it to you? How necessary to your existence? How helpful is it in solving the problems that confront you; how far does it aid you in their solution, wherein does it remove the obstacles before your pathway. Find out how much it strengthens, invigorates, inspires you. Ask yourself how much it encourages, enheartens, emboldens you. Put down on paper every slightest item of good, or help, or inspiration it is to you, and on the other hand, the harm, the discouragement, the evil, the fears it brings to you, and then strike a balance.
I can tell you beforehand that after ten years' study—if so long were necessary— you will fail to find one good thing in favor of worry, and that every item you will enumerate will be against it. Hence, why worry? Quit it! Worry, like all evils, feeds on itself, and grows greater by its own exercise. Did it decline when exercised, diminish when allowed a free course, one might let it alone, even encourage it, in order that it might the sooner be dead. But, unfortunately, it works the other way. The more one worries the more he continues to worry. The more he yields to it the greater becomes its power. It is a species of hypnotism: once allow it to control, each new exercise diminishes the victim's power of resistance.
Never was monster more cruel, more relentless, more certain to hang on to the bitter end than worry. He shows no mercy, has not the slightest spark of relenting or yielding. And his power is all the greater because it is so subtle. He wants you to be "careful"—taking good care, however, not to let you know that he means to make you full of care. He pleads "love" as the cause for his existence. He would have you love your child, hence "worry" about him. He thus trades on your affection to blind you to your child's best interests by "worrying" about him. For when worry besets you, is harassing you on every hand, how can you possibly devote your wisdom, your highest intelligence to safeguarding the welfare of the one you love.
Never was a slave in the South, though in the hands of a Legree, more to be pitied than the slave of worry. He dogs every footstep, is vigilant every moment.
He never sleeps, never tires, never relaxes, never releases his hold so long as it is possible for him to retain it. When you seek to awaken people to the terror, the danger, the hourly harm their slavery to worry is bringing to them, they are so completely in worry's power that they weakly respond: "But I can't help it." And they verily believe they can't; that their bondage is a natural thing; a state "ordained from the foundation of the world," altogether ignoring the frightful reflection such a belief is upon the goodness of God and his fatherly care for his children. Natural! It is the most unnatural thing in existence. Do the birds worry? The beasts of the field? The clouds? The winds? The sun, moon, stars, and comets? The trees? The flowers? The rain-drops? How Bryant rebukes the worrier in his wonderful poem "To a Water Fowl," and Celia Thaxter in her "Sandpiper." The former sings of the fowl winging its solitary way where "rocking billows rise and sink on the chafed ocean-side," yet though "lone wandering" it is not lost. And from its protection he deduces the lesson: He who, from zone to zone, Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, In the long way that I must tread alone Will lead my steps aright.
And so Celia Thaxter sang of the sandpiper: He has no thought of any wrong, He scans me with a fearless eye.
And her faith expressed itself in a later verse: I do not fear for thee, though wroth The tempest rushes through the sky: For are we not God's children both, Thou, little sandpiper, and I? There is no worry in Nature. It is man alone that worries. Nature goes on her appointed way each day unperturbed, unvexed, care-free, doing her allotted tasks and resting absolutely in the almighty sustaining power behind her. Should man do any less? Should man—the reasoning creature, with intelligence to see, weigh, judge, appreciate,—alone be uncertain of the fatherly goodness of God; alone be unable to discern the wisdom and love behind all things? Worry, therefore, is an evidence that we do not trust the all-fatherliness of God.
It is also the direct product of vanity, pride and self-conceit. If these three qualities of evil in the human heart could be removed a vast aggregate amount of worry would die instantly. No one can study his fellow creatures and not soon learn that an immense amount of worry is caused by these three evils.
We are worried lest our claims to attention are not fully recognized, less our worth be not observed, our proper station accorded to us. How we press our paltry little claims upon others, how we glorify our own insignificant deeds; how large loom up our small and puny acts. The whole universe centers in us; our ego is a most important thing; our work of the highest value and significance; our worth most inestimable.
The fact of the matter is most men and women are inestimable, their deeds of value, their lives of importance. Our particular circle needs us, as we need those who compose it, we are all important, but few, indeed, are there, whose power, influence and importance reach far. Most of the men and women of the world are ordinary. A man may be a king in Wall street, and yet influence but few outside of his own immediate sphere. Most probably he is unknown to the great mass of mankind. Adventitious circumstances bring some men and women more prominently before the world than others, but even such fame as this is transient, evanescent, and of little importance. The devoted love of our own small circle; the reliable friendship of the few; the blind adoration of the pet dog are worth more than all the "fame," the "eclat," the "renown" of the multitude. And where we have such love, friendship, and blind adoration, let us rest content therein, and smile at the floods of temporary and evanescent emotion which sweep over the mob, but do not have us for their object. I have just read a letter which perfectly illustrates how our vanity, our pride, and personal importance bring much worry to us. The writer—practically a stranger coming from a far-away state—evidently expected to be received with a cordial welcome and open arms, by one who scarcely knew him, given an important place in a lengthy program where men of national reputation were to speak, and generally be treated with deference and respect. Unfortunately his name was not placed in full on the program,—curtly initialed he called it—and owing to its length "the chairman caused me to spoil my remarks by asking me to shorten them," and a hotel clerk "outrageously insulted" him when he asked for information. Then, to make ill matters worse—piling Ossa. upon Pelion—he was asked to speak at a certain club, with others. One of the newspapers, in reporting the event, commented upon what the others said and did but ignore him. This he thought might have been merely an oversight, but when, the next day, he saw another report wherein he was not mentioned he was certain "it was a deliberate intention to ignore" him. He then asks that the person to whom he writes "try to find out who is responsible for this affront," and tell him—in order that he may worry some more, I suppose, over trying to "get back at him." Poor, poor fellow, how he is to be pitied for being so "sensitive," so sure that people regard him enough to want to affront him.
Here is a perfect illustration of the worries caused by vanity; five complaints in one letter, of indignities, or affronts, that an ordinary, robust red-blooded man would have passed by without notice. If I were to worry over the times I have been ignored and neglected I should worry every day. I am fairly well known to many hundreds of thousands of people who read my books, my magazine articles, and hear my lectures, yet I often go to cities and there are no brass bands, no committee, flowers, or banquet to welcome me. No! indeed, the indignity is thrust upon me of having to walk to the hotel, carry my own grip, and register, the same as any other ordinary, common, everyday man! Why should not my blood boil when I think of it? Then, too, when I recall how often my addresses are ignored in the local press, ought not I to be aroused to fierce ire? When a hotel clerk fails to recognize my national importance and gives me a flippant answer when I ask for information should I not deem it time that the Secretary of State interfere and write a State paper upon the matter? Oh vanity, conceit, pride, how many sleepless hours of worry and fret you bring to your victims, and the pitiable, the lamentable thing about it all is that they congratulate themselves upon being filled with "laudable pride," "recognizing their own importance," and knowing that "honorable ambition" is beneficial.
Nothing that causes unnecessary heart-aches and worry is worth while, and of all the prolific causes of these woes commend me to the vanity, the conceit, the pride of small minds and petty natures.
False pride leads its victim to want to make a false impression. He puts on a false appearance. He wishes to appear wiser, better, in easier circumstances, richer than he is. He wears a false front. He is unnatural. He dare not—having decided to make the appearance, and win the impression of falseness—be natural. Hence he is self-conscious all the time lest he make a slip, contradict himself, lose the result he is seeking to attain. He is to be compared to an actor whose part requires him to wear a wig, a false moustache, a false chin. In the hurry of preparation these shams are not adjusted properly and the actor rushes on the stage fearful every moment lest his wig is awry, his moustache fall off, or the chin slip aside and make him ridiculous. He dare not stop to make sure, to "fix" them if they are wrong, as that would reveal their falsity immediately. He can only play on, sweating blood the while.
In the case of the actor one can laugh at the temporary fear and worry, but what a truly pitiable object is the man, the woman, whose whole life is one dread worry lest his, her, false appearance be discovered. And while pride and vanity are not the only sources of these attempts to make false impressions upon others they are a most prolific source. In another chapter I have treated more fully of this phase of the subject.
Wastefulness, extravagance, is a prolific source of worry. Spend to-day, starve to-morrow. Throw your money to the birds to-day; to-morrow the crow, jay, and vulture will laugh and mock at you. Feast to-day; next week you may starve.
Riches take to themselves wings and fly away. No one is absolutely safe, and while many thousands go through life indifferent about their expenditures, wasteful and extravagant and do not seem to be brought to time therefor, it must not be forgotten that tens of thousands start out to do the same thing and fail.
What is the result? Worry over the folly of the attempt; worry as to where the necessary things for the future are coming from! While I would not have the well-to-do feel that they must be niggardly I would earnestly warn them against extravagance, against the acquiring of expensive habits of wastefulness that later on may be chains of a cruel bondage. Why forge fetters upon oneself? Far better be free now and thus cultivate freedom for whatever future may come. For as sure as sure can be wilful waste and reckless extravagance now will sometime or other produce worry.
One great, deep, awful source of worry is our failure to accept the inevitable.
Something happens,—we wilfully shut our eyes to the fact that this something has changed forever the current of our lives, and if the new current seems evil, if it brings discomfort, separation, change of circumstance, etc., we worry, and worry, and continue to worry. This is lamentably foolish, utterly absurd and altogether reprehensible. Let us resolutely face the facts, accept them, and then reshape our lives, bravely and valiantly, to suit the new conditions.
For instance a friend of mine spent twenty years in the employ of a great corporation. As a reward of faithful service he was finally put in a responsible position as the head of a department. A few months ago he was sent East on a special mission connected with his work. Just before his return the corporation elected a new president, who "shook up" the whole concern, changed around several officials, dismissed others, and in the case of my friend, supplanted him by a new man imported from the East, offering him a subordinate position, but, at the same salary he had before been receiving.
How should this man have treated this settled fixed fact in his life? He had two great broad pathways open to him. In one he would deliberately recognize and accept the changed condition, acquiese in it and live accordingly. It is not pleasant to be supplanted, but if another man is appointed to do the work you have been doing, and your superiors think he can do it better than you have been doing it, then manfully face the facts and accord him the most sincere and hearty support. It may be hard, but our training and discipline,—which means our improvement and advancement—come, not from doing the easy and pleasant things, but from striving, cheerfully and pleasantly to do the arduous and disagreeable ones. The other way open for my friend was to resent the change, accept it with anger, let his vanity be wounded, and begin to worry over it. What would have been the probable result? The moment he began to worry his efficiency would have decreased, and he would thus have prepared himself for another "blow" from his employers, another change less to his advantage, and with a possible reduction in salary. His employers, too, would have pointed to his decreased efficiency—the only thing they consider—as justification for their act.
I would not say that if a man, in such a case as I have described, deems that he has been treated unjustly, should not protest, but, when he has protested, and a decision has been rendered against him let him accept the judgment with serenity, refuse to worry over it, and go to work with loyalty and faithfulness, or else seek new employment.
Even, on the other hand, were he to have been discharged, there could have come no good from yielding to worry. Accept the inevitable, do not argue or fret about it, put worry aside, go to work to find a new position, and make what seemed to be an evil the stepping-stone to something better.
Mrs. Jessie Benton Fremont, the wife of the gallant pathfinder, General Fremont, was afflicted with deafness in the later years of her life. She,—the petted and flattered, the caressed and spoiled child of fortune, the honored and respected woman of power and superior ability—deaf, and unable to participate in the conversation going on around her. Many a woman under these conditions, would have become irritable, irascible, and a reviler of Fate. To any woman it would have been a great deprivation, but to one mentally endowed as Mrs. Fremont, it was especially severe. Yet did she "worry" about it? No! bravely, cheerfully, boldly, she accepted the inevitable, and in effect defied the deafness that had come to her to destroy her happiness, embitter her life, take away the serenity of her mind and the equipoise of her soul. If there had to be a battle to gain this high plane of acceptance, she fought it out in secret, for her friends and the world never heard a word of a murmur from her. I had the joy of a talk with her about it, for it was a joy to have her make light of her affliction, in the great number of good things wherein God had blessed her. Laughingly she said: "Even in deafness I find many compensations. One is never bored by conversation that is neither intelligent, instructive or interesting. I can go to sleep under the most persistent flood of boredom, and like the proverbial water on a duck's back it never bothers me. Again, I never hear the unpleasant things said about either my friends or my enemies, and what a blessing that is. I am also spared hearing about many of the evils, the disagreeable, the unpleasant and horrible things of life that I cannot change, help, or alleviate, and I am thankful for my ignorance.
Then, again, when people say things that I can and do hear—in my trumpet— that I don't think anyone should ever say, I can rebuke them by making them think that I heard them say the very opposite of what they did say, and I smile upon them 'and am a villain still.'" Charles F. Lummis, the well-known litterateur and organizer of the South-West Museum, of Los Angeles, after using his eyes and brain more liberally than most men do in a lifetime thrice, or four times as long as his, was unfortunately struck blind. Did he "worry" over it, and fret himself into a worse condition? No! not for a moment. Cheerfully he accepted the inevitable, got someone to read and write for him, to guide him through the streets, and went ahead with his work just as if nothing had happened, looking forward to the time when his eyesight would be restored to him and hopefully and intelligently worked to that end. In a year or so he and his friends were made happy by that coming to pass, but even had it not been so, I am assured Dr. Lummis would have faced the inevitable without a whimper, a cry, or a word of worry or complaint.
Those who yield to worry over small physical ills should read his inspiring My Friend Will,[A] a personal record of his sucessful struggle against two severe and prostrating attacks of paralysis. One perusal will show them the folly and futility of worry; a second will shame them because they have so little selfcontrol as to spend their time, strength, and energy in worry; and a third perusal will lead them to drive every fragment of worry out of the hidden recesses of their minds and set them upon a better way—a way of serenity, equipoise, and healthful, strenuous, yet joyous and radiant living.
[Footnote A:My Friend Will, by C.F. Lummis, A.C. McClurg Co., Chicago.] Recently I had a conversation with the former superintendent of a poor farm, which bears upon this subject in a practical way. In relating some of his experiences he told of a "rough-neck"—a term implying an ignorant man of rude, turbulent, quarrelsome disposition—who had threatened to kill the foreman of the farm. Owing to their irreconcilable differences the rough inmate decided to leave and so informed the superintendent, thus practically dismissing himself from the institution. A year later he returned and asked to be re-admitted. After a survey of the whole situation the superintendent decided that it was not wise to re-admit him, and that he would better secure a situation for him outside. He offered to do so and the man left apparently satisfied. Three days later he reappeared, entered the office with a loaded and cocked revolver held behind his back, and abruptly announced: "I've come to blow out your brains." Before he could shoot the superintendent was upon him and a fierce struggle ensued for the possession of the weapon. The superintendent at last took it away, secured help and handcuffed the would-be murderer. Realizing that his act was the result of at least partial insanity, the was-to-be victim did not press the charge of murderous assault but allowed—indeed urged that he be sent to the insane asylum where he now is.
Now this is the point I wish to make. It is perfectly within the bounds of possibility that this man will some day be regarded as safely sane. Yet it is well known by the awful experiences of many such cases that it is both possible and probable that during the months or years of his incarceration he will continue to harbor, even to feed and foster the bitter feeling, the hatred, perhaps, that led him to attempt the murder of the superintendent, and that on his release he will again attempt to carry out his nefarious and awful design.
What, then, should be the mental attitude of the superintendent and his family? Ought they not to be worried? I got the answer for my readers from this man, and it is so perfectly in accord with my own principles that I find great pleasure in recording it. Said he: Don't think for one moment that I minimize the possible danger. The asylum physician who was familiar with the whole circumstances warned me not to rest in fancied security. I have notified the proper officials that the man who attempted to murder me is not to be released either as cured or on parole without giving me sufficient notice. I do not wish that he should be kept in the asylum a single day longer than is fully necessary, but before I allow him to be released I must be thoroughly satisfied that he has no murderous designs on me, and that he is truly and satisfactorily repentant for the attack he made when, ostensibly, he was mentally irresponsible. I shall require that he be put on record as fully understanding and appreciating his own personal responsibility for my safety—so that should he still hold any wrongful designs, and afterwards succeed in carrying them out, he or his attorneys will be debarred from again pleading insanity or mental incompetency.
Hence while I fully realize the possibility of danger I do not have a moment's worry about it. I have done and shall do all I can, satisfactorily, to protect myself, without any feeling of harshness or desire to injure the poor fellow, and there I let the matter rest to take care of itself.
This is practical wisdom. This is sane philosophy. Not ignoring the danger, pooh-pooing it, scoffing at it and refusing to recognize it, but calmly, sanely, with a kindly heart looking at possible contingencies, preparing for them, and then serenely trusting to the spiritual forces of life to control events to a wise and satisfactory issue.
Can you suggest anything better? Is not such a course immeasurably better than to allow himself to worry, and fret and fear all the time? Practical precaution, taken without enmity—note these italicized words—trustful serenity, faithful performance of present duty unhampered by fears and worries—this is the rational, normal, philosophic, sane course to follow.
Another great source of worry is our failure to distinguish essentials from nonessentials.
What are the essentials for life? For a man, honesty, truth, earnestness, strength, health, ability to work, and work to do. He may or may not be handsome; he may or may not have wealth, position, fame, education; but to be a man among men, these other things he must have. For a woman,—health, love, work, and such virtues as both men and women need. She might enjoy friends, but they are not essential as health or work; she would be a strange woman if she did not prize beauty, but devoted love is worth far more than beauty or all the conquests it brings. What is the essential for a chair?—its capacity to be used to sit upon with comfort. A house?—that it is adapted to the making of a home. You don't buy a printing-press to curl your hair with but to print, and in accordance with its printing power is it judged. A boat's usefulness is determined by its worthiness in the water, to carry safely, rapidly, largely as is demanded of it.
This is the judgement sanity demands of everything. What is essential—What not? Is it essential to be a society leader, to belong to every club, to hold office, to give as many dinners as one's neighbors, to have a bigger house, furniture with brighter polish, bigger carvings and more ugly designs than anyone else in town, to have our names in the papers oftener than others, to have more servants, a newer style automobile, put on more show, pomp, ceremony and circumstance than our friends? By no means! Oh for men and women who have the discerning power—the sight for the essential things, the determination to have them and let non-essentials go.
They are the wise ones, the happy ones, the free-from-worry ones.
Later I shall refer extensively to Mrs. Canfield's book The Squirrel Cage. She has many wise utterances on this phase of the worry question. For instance, in referring to the mad race for wealth and position that keeps a man away from home so many hours of the day that his wife and child scarce know him she introduces the following dialogue: One of them whose house isn't far from mine, told me that he hadn't seen his children, except asleep, for three weeks.
'But something ought to be done about it!' The girl's deep-lying instinct for instant reparation rose up hotly.
'Are they so much worse off than most American business men?' queried Rankin. 'Do any of them feel they can take the time to see much more than the outside of their children; and isn't seeing them asleep about as—' Lydia cut him short quickly. 'You're always blaming them for that,' she cried. 'You ought to pity them. They can't help it.
It's better for the children to have bread and butter, isn't it—' Rankin shook his head. 'I can't be fooled with that sort of talk—I've lived with too many kinds of people. At least half the time it is not a question of bread and butter. It's a question of giving the children bread and butter and sugar rather than bread and butter and father. Of course, I'm a fanatic on the subject. I'd rather leave off even the butter than the father—let alone the sugar.' Later on Lydia herself lost her father and after his death her own wail was: 'I never lived with my father. He was always away in the morning before I was up. I was away, or busy, in the evening when he was there.
On Sundays he never went to church as mother and I did—I suppose now because he had some other religion of his own. But if he had I never knew what it was—or anything else that was in his mind or heart.
It never occurred to me that I could. He tried to love me—I remember so many times now—and that makes me cry!—how he tried to love me! He was so glad to see me when I got home from Europe—but he never knew anything that happened to me. I told you once before that when I had pneumonia and nearly died mother kept it from him because he was on a big case. It was all like that—always. He never knew.' Dr. Melton broke in, his voice uncertain, his face horrified: 'Lydia, I cannot let you go on! you are unfair—you shock me.
You are morbid! I knew your father intimately. He loved you beyond expression. He would have done anything for you. But his profession is an exacting one. Put yourself in his place a little. It is all or nothing in the law—as in business.' But Lydia replied: 'When you bring children Into the world, you expect to have them cost you some money, don't you? You know you mustn't let them die of starvation. Why oughtn't you to expect to have them cost you thought, and some sharing of your life with them, and some time— real time, not just scraps that you can't use for business?' She made the same appeal once to her husband in regard to their own lives. She wanted to see and know more of him, his business, his inner life, and this was her cry: 'Paul, I'm sure there's something the matter with the way we live—I don't like it! I don't see that it helps us a bit—or anyone else—you're just killing yourself to make money that goes to get things we don't need nearly as much as we need more of each other! We're not getting a bit nearer to each other—actually further away, for we're both getting different from what we were without the other's knowing how! And we're not getting nicer—and what's the use of living if we don't do that? We're just getting more and more set on scrambling ahead of other people. And we're not even having a good time out of it! And here is Ariadne—and another one coming—and we've nothing to give them but just this—this—this— Paul laughed a little impatiently, irritated and uneasy, as he always was at any attempt to examine too closely the foundations of existing ideas.
'Why, Lydia, what's the matter with you? You sound as though you'd been reading some fool socialist literature or something.' You know I don't read anything, Paul. I never hear about anything but novels. I never have time for anything else, and very likely I couldn't understand it if I read it, not having any education. That's one thing I want you to help me with. All I want is a chance for us to live together a little more, to have a few more thoughts in common, and oh! to be trying to be making something better out of ourselves for our children's sake. I can't see that we're learning to be anything but—you, to be an efficient machine for making money, I to think of how to entertain as though we had more money than we really have. I don't seem really to know you or live with you any more than if we were two guests stopping at the same hotel. If socialists are trying to fix things better, why shouldn't we have time—both of us—to read their books; and you could help me know what they mean?' Paul laughed again, a scornful, hateful laugh, which brought the color up to Lydia's pale face like a blow. 'I gather, then, Lydia, that what you're asking me to do is to neglect my business in order to read socialistic literature with you?' His wife's rare resentment rose. She spoke with dignity: 'I begged you to be serious, Paul, and to try to understand what I mean, although I'm so fumbling, and say it so badly. As for its being impossible to change things, I've heard you say a great many times that there are no conditions that can't be changed if people would really try—' 'Good heavens! I said that of business conditions!' shouted Paul, outraged at being so misquoted.
'Well, if it's true of them—No; I feel that things are the way they are because we don't really care enough to have them some other way. If you really cared as much about sharing a part of your life with me— really sharing—as you do about getting the Washburn contract—' Her indignant and angry tone, so entirely unusual, moved Paul, more than her words, to shocked protest. He looked deeply wounded, and his accent was that of a man righteously aggrieved. 'Lydia, I lay most of this absurd outbreak to your nervous condition, and so I can't blame you for it. But I can't help pointing out to you that it is entirely uncalled for.
There are few women who have a husband as absolutely devoted as yours. You grumble about my not sharing my life with you—why, I give it to you entire!' His astonished bitterness grew as he voiced it. 'What am I working so hard for if not to provide for you and our child—our children! Good Heavens! What more can I do for you than to keep my nose on the grindstone every minute. There are limits to even a husband's time and endurance and capacity for work.' Hence it will be seen that I would have one Quit Worrying about the nonessentials of life, and this is best done by giving full heed to the essentials and letting the others go. Naturally, if one wilfully and purposefully determines to follow non-essentials, he may as well recognize the fact soon as late that he has deliberately chosen a course that cannot fail to produce its own many and irritating worries.
Another serious cause of worry is bashfulness. One who is bashful finds in his intercourse with his fellows many worries. His hands and feet are too large, he blushes at a word, he doesn't know what to say or how, he is confused if attention is directed his way, his thoughts fly to the ends of the earth the moment he is addressed, and if he is expected to say anything, his worries increase so that his pain and distress are manifest to all. To such an one I would say: Assert your manhood, your womanhood. Brace up. Face the music. Remember these facts.
You are dealing with men and women, youths and maidens, of the same flesh and blood, mentality as yourself. You average up with the rest of them. Why should you be afraid? Call upon your reasoning power. Assert the dignity of your own existence. You are here by the will of God as much as they. There is a purpose in your creation as much as in theirs. You have a right to be seen and heard as well as have they. Your life may be charged with importance to mankind far more than theirs. Anyhow for what it is, large or small, you are going to use it to the full, and you do not propose to be laughed out of it, sneered out of it, either by the endeavors of others or by your own fears of others. Then, when you have once fully reasoned the thing out, do not hesitate to plunge into the fullest possible association with your fellows. Brave them, defy them (in your own heart), resolutely face them, and my word and assurance for it, they will lose their terror, and you will lose your bashfulness with a speed that will astonish you.
Closely allied to bashfulness as a cause of many worries is hyper- or supersensitiveness.
And yet it is an entirely different mental attitude. Hypersensitiveness may cause bashfulness, but there are many thousands of hypersensitives who have not a spark of bashfulness in their condition. They are full of vanity or self-conceit. Elsewhere I have referred to one of these. Or they are hyper-sensitive in regard to their health. They mustn't do this, or that, or the other, they must be careful not to sit near a window, allow a door to be open, or go into an unwarmed room. Their feet must never be wet, or their clothing, and as for sleeping in a cold room, or getting up before the fire is lighted, they could not live through such awful hardships.
I have no desire to excoriate or make fun of those who really suffer from chronic invalidism, yet I am fully assured that much of the hyper-sensitiveness of the neurasthenic and hypochondriac could be removed by a little rude, rough and tumble contact with life. It would do most of these people no harm to follow the advice given by Abernethy, the great English physician, to a pampered, overfed hyper-sensitive: Live on six pence a day and earn it. I have found few hypersensitives among the poor. Poverty is a fine cure for most cases, though there are those who cling to their pride of birth of education, or God knows what of insane belief in their superiority over ordinary mortals, and make that the occasion, or cause, of the innumerable and fretting worries of hyper-sensitiveness.
Another serious cause of worry, in this busy, bustling, rapid age, is the need we feel for hurry. We are caught in the mad rush and its influence leads us to feel that we, too, must rush. There is no earthly reason for our hurry, and yet we cannot seem to help it.
Hurry means worry. Rush spells fret. Haste makes waste. You live in the country and are a commuter. You must be in the city on the stroke of nine. To do this, you must catch the 8:07. You have your breakfast to get and it takes six minutes to walk to the station. No one can do it comfortably in less. Yet every morning, ever since you took this country cottage, you have had to rush through your breakfast, and rush to the depot in order to catch the train. Thus starting the day on the rush, you have continued "on the stretch" all day, and get back home at night tired out, fretted and worried "almost to death." Even when you sit down to breakfast, you begin to worry if wifie doesn't have everything ready. You know you'll be late. You feel it, and if the toast and coffee are not on the table the moment you sit down, your querelous complaints strike the morning air.
Now what's the use? Why don't you get up ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes earlier, and thus give yourself time to eat comfortably, and thus get over the worry of your rush? Set the alarm clock for 7:00, or 6:45, or even 6:30. Far better get up half an hour too early, than worry yourself, your wife, and the whole household by your insane hurry. Your worry is wholly unnecessary and shows a fearful lack of simple intelligence.
Annie Laurie, who writes many sage counsels in the San Francisco Examiner, had an excellent article on this subject in the issue of December 31, 1915. She wrote: Here is something that I saw out my window—it has given me the big thought for my biggest New Year's resolution. The man at the corner house ran down the steps in a terrible hurry. He saw the car coming up the hill and whistled to it from the porch, but the man who was running the car did not hear the whistle.
Anyway, he didn't stop the car, and the man on the steps looked as if he'd like to catch the conductor of that car and do something distinctly unfriendly to him, and do it right then and there. He jammed his hat down over his forehead and started walking very fast.
"What's your hurry?" said the man he was passing on the corner.
"What's your hurry, Joe?" and the man on the corner held out his hand.
"Well, I'll be—," said Joe, and he held out his hand, too, "if it isn't—" And it was, and they both laughed and shook hands and clapped each other on the back and shook hands again.
"What's your hurry?" said the man on the corner again.
"I dun-no," said the man who was so cross because he'd lost his car. "Nothing much, I guess," and he laughed and the other man laughed and they shook hands again. And the last I saw of them they had started down the street right In the opposite direction from which the man in the hurry had started to go, and they weren't in a hurry at all.
Do you know what I wished right then and there? I wished that every time I get into the senseless habit of rushing everywhere and tearing through everything as if it was my last day on earth and there wasn't a minute left to lose, somebody would stop me on the corner of whatever street of circumstance I may be starting to cross and say to me in friendly fashion: "What's the hurry?" What is the hurry, after all? Where are we all going? What for? What difference does it make whether I read my paper at 8 o'clock in the morning or at half-past 9? Will the world stop swinging in its orbit if I don't meet just so many people a day, write so many letters, hear so many lectures, skim through so many books? Of course if I'm earning my living I must work for it and work not only honestly but hard. But it seems to me that most of the terrific hurrying we do hasn't much to do with really essential work after all. It's a kind of habit we get into, a sort of madness, like the thing that overtakes the crowd at a ferry landing or the entrance to a train. I've seen men, and women, too, fairly fight to get onto a particular car when the next car would have done just exactly as well.
Where are they going in such a hurry? To save a life? To mend a broken heart? To help to heal a wounded spirit? Or are they just rushing because the rest do it? What do they get out of life—these people who are always in a rush? Look! The laurel tree in my California garden is full of bursting buds! The rains are beginning and the trees will soon be flecked with a silver veil of blossoms. I hadn't noticed it before. I've been too busy.
What's your hurry? Come, friend of my heart, I'll say that to you to-day and say it in deep and friendly earnest.
What's your hurry? Come, let's go for a walk together and see if we can find out. Let us keep finding out through all the new year.
There are many other causes of worry, some of them so insidious, so powerful, as to call for treatment in special chapters.
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