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QUIT YOUR WORRYING!
GEORGE WHARTON JAMES
“Living the Radiant Life,” “What the White Race may learn from the Indian,” “The story of Scraggles,” “California, Romantic and Beautiful,” “Our American Wonderlands,” etc. etc.
who are standing on the banks of worry before the ocean of God’s love I cry aloud
“COME ON IN–THE WATER’S FINE!”
I THE CURSE OF WORRY
II OURS IS THE AGE OF WORRY
III NERVOUS PROSTRATION AND WORRY
IV HOLY WRIT, THE SAGES AND WORRY V THE NEEDLESSNESS AND USELESSNESS OF WORRY VI THE SELFISHNESS OF WORRY
VII CAUSES OF WORRY
VIII PROTEAN FORMS OF WORRY
IX HEALTH WORRIES
X THE WORRIES OF PARENTS
XI MARITAL WORRIES
XII THE WORRY OF THE SQUIRREL CAGE XIII RELIGIOUS WORRIES AND WORRIERS
XIV AMBITION AND WORRY
XV ENVY AND WORRY
XVI DISCONTENT AND WORRY
XVII COWARDICE AND WORRY
XVIII WORRY ABOUT MANNERS AND SPEECH XIX THE WORRIES OF JEALOUSY
XX THE WORRIES OF SUSPICION
XXI THE WORRIES OF IMPATIENCE
XXII THE WORRIES OF ANTICIPATION
XXIII HOW OUR WORRY AFFECTS OTHERS
XXIV WORRY VERSUS INDIFFERENCE
XXV WORRIES AND HOBBIES
JUST BE GLAD
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
_O heart of mine, we shouldn’t worry so, What we have missed of calm we couldn’t have, you know!_
_What we’ve met of stormy pain,
And of sorrow’s driving rain,
We can better meet again,
If it blow._
_We have erred in that dark hour, we have known, When the tear fell with the shower, all alone._
_Were not shine and shower blent
As the gracious Master meant?
Let us temper our content
With His own._
_For we know not every morrow
Can be sad;
So forgetting all the sorrow
We have had,
Let us fold away our fears,
And put by our foolish tears,
And through all the coming years,
Just be glad._
Between twenty and thirty years ago, I became involved in a series of occurrences and conditions of so painful and distressing a character that for over six months I was unable to sleep more than one or two hours out of the twenty-four. In common parlance I was “worrying myself to death,” when, mercifully, a total collapse of mind and body came. My physicians used the polite euphemism of “cerebral congestion” to describe my state which, in reality, was one of temporary insanity, and it seemed almost hopeless that I should ever recover my health and poise. For several months I hovered between life and death, and my brain between reason and unreason.
In due time, however, both health and mental poise came back in reasonable measure, and I asked myself what would be the result if I returned to the condition of worry that culminated in the disaster. This question and my endeavors at its solution led to the gaining of a degree of philosophy which materially changed my attitude toward life. Though some of the chief causes of my past worry were removed there were still enough adverse and untoward circumstances surrounding me to give me cause for worry, if I allowed myself to yield to it, so I concluded that my mind must positively and absolutely be prohibited from dwelling upon those things that seemed justification for worry. And I determined to set before me the ideal of a life without worry.
How was it to be brought about?
At every fresh attack of the harassing demon I rebuked myself with the stern command, “Quit your Worrying.” Little by little I succeeded in obeying my own orders. A measurable degree of serenity has since blessed my life. It has been no freer than other men’s lives from the ordinary–and a few extraordinary–causes of worry, but I have learned the lesson. I have _Quit Worrying_. To help others to attain the same desirable and happy condition has been my aim in these pages.
It was with set purpose that I chose this title. I might have selected “Don’t Worry.” But I knew that would fail to convey my principal thought to the casual observer of the title. People _will_ worry, they _do_ worry. What they want to know and need to learn is how to quit worrying. This I have attempted herein to show, with the full knowledge, however, that no one person’s recipe can infallibly be used by any other person–so that, in reality, all I have tried to do is to set forth the means I have followed to teach myself the delightful lesson of serenity, of freedom from worry, and thereby to suggest to receptive minds a way by which they may possibly attain the same desirable end.
It was the learned and wise Dr. Johnson who wrote:
He may be justly numbered amongst the benefactors of mankind, who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences, that may easily be impressed on the memory, and taught by frequent recollection to recur habitually to the mind.
I have no desire to claim as original the title used for these observations, but I do covet the joy of knowing that I have so impressed it upon the memory of thousands that by its constant recurrence it will aid in banishing the monster, worry.
It is almost unavoidable that, in a practical treatise of this nature, there should be some repetition, both in description of worries and the remedies suggested. To the critical reader, however, let me say: Do not worry about this, for I am far more concerned to get my thought into the heads and hearts of my readers than I am to be esteemed a great writer. Let me help but one troubled soul to quit worrying and I will forego all the honors of the ages that might have come to me had I been an essayist of power. And I have repeated purposely, for I know that some thoughts have to knock again and again, ere they are admitted to the places where they are the most needed.
I have written strongly; perhaps some will think too strongly. These, however, must remember that I have written advisedly. I have been considering the subject for half or three parts of a life-time. I have studied men and women; carefully watched their lives; talked with them, and seen the lines worry has engraved on their faces. I have seen and felt the misery caused by their unnecessary worries. I have sat by the bedsides of people made chronic invalids by worry, and I have stood in the cells of maniacs driven insane by worry. Hence I hate it in all its forms, and have expressed myself only as the facts have justified.
Wherein I have sought to show how one might _Quit his Worrying_, these pages presuppose an earnest desire, a sincere purpose, on the part of the reader to attain that desirable end. There is no universal medicine which one can drink in six doses and thus be cured of his disease. I do not offer my book as a mental cure-all, or nostrum that, if swallowed whole, will cure in five days or ten. As I have tried to show, I conceive worry to be unnatural and totally unnecessary, because of its practical denial of what ought to be, and I believe may be, the fundamental basis of a man’s life, viz., his perfect, abiding assurance in the fatherly love of God. As little Pippa sang:
God’s in his heaven,
All’s right with the world.
The only way, therefore, to lose our sense of worry is to get back to naturalness, to God, and learn the peace, joy, happiness, serenity, that come with practical trust in Him. With some people this change may come instantly; with others, more slowly. Personally I have had to learn slowly, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.” And I would caution my readers not to expect too much all at once. But I am fully convinced that as faith, trust, and naturalness grow, worry will cease, will slough off, like the dead skin of the serpent, and leave those once bound by it free from its malign influence. Who cannot see and feel that such a consummation is devoutly to be wished, worth working and earnestly striving for?
If I help a few I shall be more than repaid, if many, my heart will rejoice.
[Signed: George Wharton James]
Pasadena, Calif. _February_, 1916.
QUIT YOUR WORRYING!
THE CURSE OF WORRY
Of how many persons can it truthfully be said they never worry, they are perfectly happy, contented, serene? It would be interesting if each of my readers were to recall his acquaintances and friends, think over their condition in this regard, and then report to me the result. What a budget of worried persons I should have to catalogue, and alas, I am afraid, how few of the serene would there be named. When John Burroughs wrote his immortal poem, _Waiting_, he struck a deeper note than he dreamed of, and the reason it made so tremendous an impression upon the English-speaking world was that it was a new note to them. It opened up a vision they had not before contemplated. Let me quote it here in full:
Serene I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, or tide or sea; I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.
I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.
Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me, No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.
What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it has sown, And garner up its fruit of tears.
The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height, So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.
The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high Can keep my own away from me.
I have been wonderfully struck by the fact that in studying the Upanishads, and other sacred books of the East, there is practically no reference to the kind of worry that is the bane and curse of our Occidental world. In conversation with the learned men of the Orient I find this same delightful fact. Indeed they have no word in their languages to express our idea of fretful worry. Worry is a purely Western product, the outgrowth of our materialism, our eager striving after place and position, power and wealth, our determination to be housed, clothed, and jeweled as well as our neighbors, and a little better if possible; in fact, it comes from our failure to know that life is spiritual not material; that all these outward things are the mere “passing show,” the tinsel, the gawds, the tissue-paper, the blue and red lights of the theater, the painted scenery, the mock heroes and heroines of the stage, rather than the real settings of the real life of real men and women. What does the inventor, who knows that his invention will help his fellows, care about the newest dance, or the latest style in ties, gloves or shoes; what does the woman whose heart and brain are completely engaged in relieving suffering care if she is not familiar with the latest novel, or the latest fashions in flounced pantalettes? Life is real, life is earnest, and this does not mean unduly solemn and somber, but that it deals with the real things rather than the paper-flower shows of the stage and the imaginary things of so-called society.
It is the fashion of our active, aggressive, material, Occidental civilization to sneer and scoff at the quiet, passive, and less material civilization of the Orient. We despise–that is, the unthinking majority do–the studious, contemplative Oriental. We believe in being “up and doing.” But in this one particular of worry we have much to learn from the Oriental. If happiness and a large content be a laudable aim of life how far are we–the occidental world–succeeding in attaining it? Few there be who are content, and, as I have already suggested few there be who are free from worry. On the other hand while active happiness may be somewhat scarce in India, a large content is not uncommon, and worry, as we Westerners understand it, is almost unknown. Hence we need to find the happy mean between the material activity of our own civilization, and the mental passivity of that of the Orientals. Therein will be found the calm serenity of an active mind, the reasonable acceptance of things as they are because we know they are good, the restfulness that comes from the assurance that “all things work together for _Good_ to them that love God.”
That worry is a curse no intelligent observer of life will deny. It has hindered millions from progressing, and never benefited a soul. It occupies the mind with that which is injurious and thus keeps out the things that might benefit and bless. It is an active and real manifestation of the fable of the man who placed the frozen asp in his bosom. As he warmed it back to life the reptile turned and fatally bit his benefactor. Worry is as a dangerous, injurious book, the reading of which not only takes up the time that might have been spent in reading a good, instructive, and helpful book, but, at the same time, poisons the mind of the reader, corrupts his soul with evil images, and sets his feet on the pathway to destruction.
Why is it that creatures endowed with reason distress themselves and everyone around them by worrying? It might seem reasonable for the wild creatures of the wood–animals without reason–to worry as to how they should secure their food, and live safely with wilder animals and men seeking their blood and hunting them; but that men and women, endued with the power of thought, capable of seeing the why and wherefore of things, should worry, is one of the strange and peculiar evidences that our so-called civilization is not all that it ought to be. The wild Indian of the desert, forest, or canyon seldom, if ever, worries. He is too great a natural philosopher to be engaged in so foolish and unnecessary a business. He has a better practical system of life than has his white and civilized (!) brother who worries, for he says: Change what can be changed; bear the unchangeable without a murmur. With this philosophy he braves the wind and the rain, the sand, and the storm, the extremes of heat and cold, the plethora of a good harvest or the famine of a drought. If he complains it is within himself; and if he whines and whimpers no one ever hears him. His face may become a little more stern under the higher pressure; he may tighten his waist belt a hole or two to stifle the complaints of his empty stomach, but his voice loses no note of its cheeriness and his smile none of its sweet serenity.
Why should the rude and brutal (!) savage be thus, while the cultured, educated, refined man and woman of civilization worry wrinkles into their faces, gray hairs upon their heads, querelousness into their voices and bitterness into their hearts?
When we use the word “worry” what do we mean? The word comes from the old Saxon, and was in imitation of the sound caused by the choking or strangling of an animal when seized by the throat by another animal. We still refer to the “worrying” of sheep by dogs–the seizing by the throat with the teeth; killing or badly injuring by repeated biting, shaking, tearing, etc. From this original meaning the word has enlarged until now it means to tease, to trouble, to harass with importunity or with care or anxiety. In other words it is _undue_ care, _needless_ anxiety, _unnecessary_ brooding, _fretting_ thought.
What a wonderful picture the original source of the word suggests of the latter-day meaning. Worry takes our manhood, womanhood, our high ambitions, our laudable endeavors, our daily lives, _by the throat_, and strangles, chokes, bites, tears, shakes them, hanging on like a wolf, a weasel, or a bull-dog, sucking out our life-blood, draining our energies, our hopes, our aims, our noble desires, and leaving us torn, empty, shaken, useless, bloodless, hopeless, and despairing. It is the nightmare of life that rides us to discomfort, wretchedness, despair, and to that death-in-life that is no life at all. It is the vampire that sucks out the good of us and leaves us like the rind of a squeezed-out orange; it is the cooking-process that extracts and wastes all the nutritious juices of the meat and leaves nothing but the useless and tasteless fibre.
Worry is a worse thief than the burglar or highwayman. It goes beyond the train-wrecker or the vile wretch who used to lure sailing vessels upon a treacherous shore, in its relentless heartlessness. Once it begins to control it never releases its hold unless its victim wakes up to the sure ruin that awaits him and frees himself from its bondage by making a great, continuous, and successful fight.
It steals the joy of married life, of fatherhood and motherhood; it destroys social life, club life, business life, and religious life. It robs a man of friendships and makes his days long, gloomy periods, instead of rapidly-passing epochs of joy and happiness. It throws around its victim a chilling atmosphere as does the iceberg, or the snow bank; it exhales the mists and fogs of wretchedness and misunderstanding; it chills family happiness, checks friendly intercourse, and renders the business occupations of life curses instead of blessings.
Worry manifests itself in a variety of ways. It is protean in its versatility. It can be physical or mental. The hypochondriac conceives that everything is going to the “demnition bow-wows.” Nothing can reassure him. He sees in every article of diet a hidden fiend of dyspepsia; in every drink a demon of torture. Every man he meets is a scoundrel, and every woman a leech. Children are growing worse daily, and society is “rotten.” The Church is organized for the mere fattening of a raft of preachers and parsons who preach what they don’t believe and never try to practice. Lawyers and judges are all dishonest swindlers caring nothing for honor and justice and seeking only their fees; physicians and surgeons are pitiless wretches who scare their patients in order to extort money from them; men in office are waiting, lurking, hunting for chances to graft, eager to steal from their constituents at every opportunity. He expects every thing, every animal, every man, every woman to get the best of him–and, as a rule, he is not disappointed. For we can nearly always be accommodated in life and get that for which we look.
We are told that all these imaginary ills come from physical causes. The hypochondrium is supposed to be affected, and as it is located under the “short ribs,” the hypochondriac continuously suffers from that awful “sinking at the pit of the stomach” that makes him feel as if the bottom had dropped out of life itself. He can neither eat, digest his food, walk, sit, rest, work, take pleasure, exercise, or sleep. His body is the victim of innumerable ills. His tongue, his lips, his mouth are dry and parched, his throat full of slime and phlegm, his stomach painful, his bowels full of gas, and he regards himself as cursed of God–a walking receptacle of woe. To physician, wife, husband, children, employer, employee, pastor, and friend alike the hypochondriac is a pest, a nuisance, a chill and almost a curse, and, poor creature, these facts do not take away or lessen our sympathy for him, for, though most of his ills are imaginary, he suffers more than do those who come in contact with him.
Then there is the neurasthenic–the mentally collapsed whose collapse invariably comes from too great tension or worry. I know several housewives who became neurasthenic by too great anxiety to keep their houses spotless. Not a speck of dust must be anywhere. The slightest appearance of inattention or carelessness in this matter was a great source of worry, and they worried lest the maid fail to do her duty.
I know another housewife who is so dainty and refined that, though her husband’s income is strained almost to the breaking point, she must have everything in the house so dainty and fragile that no ordinary servant can be trusted to care for the furniture, wash the dishes, polish the floors, etc., and the result is she is almost a confirmed neurasthenic because, in the first place, she worries over her dainty things, and, secondly, exhausts herself in caring for these unnecessarily fragile household equipments.
Every neurasthenic is a confirmed worrier. He ever sits on the “stool of repentance,” clothing himself in sackcloth and ashes for what he has done or not done. He cries aloud–by his acts–every five minutes or so: “We have done those things which we ought not to have done and have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and there is no health in us.” Everything past is regretted, everything present is in doubt, and nothing but anxieties and uncertainties meet the future. If he holds a position of responsibility he asks his subordinates or associates to perform certain services and then “worries himself to death,” watching to see that they “do it right,” or afraid lest they forget to do it at all. He wakes up from a sound sleep in dread lest he forgot to lock the door, turn out the electric light in the hall, or put out the gas. He becomes the victim of uncertainty and indecision. He fears lest he decide wrongly, he worries that he hasn’t yet decided, and yet having thoroughly argued a matter out and come to a reasonable conclusion, allows his worries to unsettle him and is forever questioning his decision and going back to revise and rerevise it. Whatever he does or doesn’t do he regrets and wishes he had done the converse.
Husbands are worried about their wives; wives about their husbands; parents about their children; children about their parents. Farmers are worried over their crops; speculators over their gamblings; investors over their investments. Teachers are worried over their pupils, and pupils over their lessons, their grades, and their promotions. Statesmen (!) are worried over their constituents, and the latter are generally worried by their representatives. People who have schemes to further–legitimate or otherwise–are worried when they are retarded, and competitors are worried if they are not. Pastors are worried over their congregations,–occasionally about their salaries, very often about their large families, and now and again about their fitness for their holy office,–and there are few congregations that, at one time or another, are not worried _by_, as well as _about_, their pastors. The miner is worried when he sees his ledge “petering out,” or finds the ore failing to assay its usual value. The editor is worried lest his reporters fail to bring in the news, and often worried when it is brought in to know whether it is accurate or not. The chemist worries over his experiments, and the inventor that certain things needful will persist in eluding him. The man who has to rent a house, worries when rent day approaches; and many who own houses worry at the same time. Some owners, indeed, worry because there is no rent day, they have no tenants, their houses are idle. Others worry because their tenants are not to their liking, are destructive, careless, or neglect the flowers and the lawn, or allow the children to batter the furniture, walk in hob nails over the hardwood floors, or scratch the paint off the walls. Men in high position worry lest their superiors are not as fully appreciative of their efforts as they should be, and they in turn worry their subordinates lest they forget that they are subordinate.
Mistresses worry about their maids, and maids about their mistresses. Some of the former worry because they have to go into their kitchens, others because they are not allowed to go. Some mistresses deliberately worry their servants, and others are worried because their servants insist upon doing the worrying. Many a wife is worried because of her husband’s typewriter, and many a typewriter is worried because her employer has a wife. Some typewriters are worried because they are not made into wives, and many a one who is a wife wishes she were free again to become a typewriter.
Thousands of girls–many of them who ought yet to be wearing short dresses and playing with dolls–worry because they have no sweethearts, and equal thousands worry because they _do_ have them. Many a lad worries because he has no “lassie,” and many a one worries because he has. Yesterday I rode on a street car and saw a bit of by-play that fully illustrated this. On these particular cars there is a seat for two alongside the front by the motorman. On this car, chatting merrily with the handler of the lever, sat a black-eyed, pretty-faced Latin type of brunette. That _he_ was happy was evidenced by his good-natured laugh and the huge smile that covered his face from ear to ear as he responded to her sallies. Just then a young Italian came on the car, directly to the front, and seemed nettled to see the young lady talking so freely with the motorman. He saluted her with a frown upon his face, but evidently with familiarity. The change in the girl’s demeanor was instantaneous. Evidently she did not wish to offend the newcomer, nor did she wish to break with the motorman. All were ill at ease, distraught, vexed, worried. She tried to bring the newcomer into the conversation, which he refused. The motorman eyed him with hostility now and again, as he dared to neglect his duty, but smiled uneasily in the face of the girl when she addressed him with an attempt at freedom.
Bye and bye the youth took the empty seat by the side of the girl, and endeavored to draw her into conversation to the exclusion of the motorman. She responded, twisting her body and face towards him, so that her sweet and ingratiating smiles could not be seen by the motorman. Then, she reversed the process and gave a few fleeting smiles to the grim-looking motorman. It was as clear a case of
How happy could I be with either,
Were t’other dear charmer away,
as one could well see.
Just then the car came to a transfer point. The girl had a transfer and left, smiling sweetly, but separately, in turn, to the motorman and her young Italian friend. The latter watched her go. Then a new look came over his face, which I wondered at. It was soon explained. The transfer point was also a division point for this car. The motorman and conductor were changed, and the moment the new crew came, our motorman jumped from his own car, ran to the one the brunette had taken, and swung himself on, as it crossed at right angles over the track we were to take. Rising to his feet the youth watched the passing car, with keenest interest until it was out of sight, clearly revealing the jealousy, worry, and unrest he felt.
In another chapter I have dealt more fully with the subject of the worries of jealousy. They are demons of unrest and distress, destroying the very vitals with their incessant gnawing.
Too great emphasis cannot be placed upon the physical ills that come from worry. The body unconsciously reflects our mental states. A fretful and worrying mother should never be allowed to suckle her child, for she directly injures it by the poison secreted in her milk by the disturbances caused in her body by the worry of her mind. Among the many wonderfully good things said in his lifetime Henry Ward Beecher never said a wiser and truer thing than that “it is not the revolution which destroys the machinery, but the friction.” Worry is the friction that shatters the machine. Work, to the healthy body and serene mind, is a joy, a blessing, a health-giving exercise, but to the worried is a burden, a curse and a destroyer.
Go where you will, when you will, how you will, and you will find most people worrying to a greater or lesser extent. Indeed so full has our Western world become of worry that a harsh and complaining note is far more prevalent than we are willing to believe, which is expressed in a rude motto to be found hung on many an office, bedroom, library, study, and laboratory wall which reads:
_Life is one Damn
Thing after Another_
[Note: this is outlined in a block.]
Those gifted with a sense of humor laugh at the motto; the very serious frown at it and reprobate its apparent profanity, those who see no humor in anything regard it with gloom, the careless with assumed indifference, but in the minds of all, more or less latent or subconscious, there is a recognition that there is “an awful lot of truth in it.”
Hence it will be seen that worry is by no means confined to the poor. The well-to-do, the prosperous, and the rich, indeed, have far more to worry about than the poor, and for one victim who suffers keenly from worry among the poor, ten can be found among the rich who are its abject victims.
It is worry that paints the lines of care on foreheads and cheeks that should be smooth and beautiful; worry bows the shoulders, brings out scowls and frowns where smiles and sweet greetings should exist. Worry is the twister, the dwarfer, the poisoner, the murderer of joy, of peace, of work, of happiness; the strangler, the burglar of life; the phantom, the vampire, the ghost that scares, terrifies, fills with dread. Yet he is a liar and a scoundrel, a villain and a coward, who will turn and flee if fearlessly and courageously met and defied. Instead of pampering and petting him, humoring and conciliating him, meet him on his own ground. Defy him to do his worst. Flaunt him, laugh at his threats, sneer and scoff at his pretensions, bid him do his worst. Better be dead than under the dominion of such a tyrant. And, my word for it, as soon as you take that attitude, he will flee from you, nay, he will disappear as the mists fade away in the heat of the noonday sum.
Worry, however, is not only an effect. It is also a cause. Worry causes worry. It breeds more rapidly than do flies. The more one worries the more he learns to worry. Begin to worry over one thing and soon you are worrying about twenty. And the infernal curse is not content with breeding worries of its own kind. It is as if it were a parent gifted with the power of breeding a score, a hundred different kinds of progeny at one birth, each more hideous, repulsive, and fearful than the other. There is no palliation, temporization, or parleying possible with such a monster. Death is the only way to be released from him, and it is your death or his. His death is a duty God requires at your hands. Why, then, waste time? Start now and kill the foul fiend as quickly as you can.
OURS IS THE AGE OF WORRY
How insulting! What a ridiculous statement! How ignorant of our achievements! I can well imagine some of my readers saying when they see this chapter heading. _This_, an age of worry! Why this is the age of progress, of advancement, of uplift, of the onward march of a great and wonderful civilization.
Certainly it is! See what we have done in electricity, look at the telephone, telegraph, wireless and now the wireless telephone. See our advancement in mechanics,–the automobile, the new locomotives, vessels, etc. See our conquest of the air–dirigibles, aeroplanes, hydroplanes and the like.
Yes! I see, and what of it? _We_ have done, _our_ advancement, _our_ conquest, etc., etc. Yes! I see _we_ have not lessened _our_ arrogance, _our_ empty-headed pride, _our_ boasting. _We_–Why “_we_”?
What have you and I had to do with the new inventions in electricity or mechanics or the conquest of the air?
Not one single, solitary thing! The progress of the world has been made through the efforts of a few solitary, exceptional, rare individuals, not by the combined efforts of us all. You and I are as common, unprogressive, uninventive, indifferent mediocrities as we–the common people–always were. We have not contributed one iota to all this progress, and I often question whether mud; of it comes to us more fraught with good than evil. We claim the results without engaging in the work. We use the ‘phone and worry because Central doesn’t get us our connections immediately, when we haven’t the faintest conception of how the connection is gained, or why we are delayed. We ride on the fast train, but chafe and worry ourselves and everybody about us to a frazzle because we are stopped on a siding by a semaphore of a block station which we never have observed, and would not understand if we did. We reap but have not sowed, gather but have not strewed, and that is ever injurious and never beneficial. Our conceit is flattered and enlarged, our importance magnified, our “dignity”–God save the mark!–made more impressive, and as a result, we are more the target for the inconsequential worries of life. We worry if we are not flattered, if our importance is not recognized even by strangers, and our dignity not honored–in other words we worry that we are not _kow-towed_ to, deferred to, respectfully greeted on every hand and made to feel that civilization, progress and advancement are materially furthered and enhanced by our mere existence.
Every individual with such an outlook on life is a prolific distributer of worry germs; he, she, is a pest and a nuisance, more disturbing to the real peace of the community than a victim of smallpox, and one who should be isolated in a pest-house. But, unfortunately, our myopic vision sees only the wealth, the luxury, the spending capacity of such an individual, and that ends it–we bow down and worship before the golden calf.
If I had the time in these pages to discuss the history of worry, I am assured I could show clearly to the student of history that worry is always the product of prosperity; that while a nation is hard at work at its making, and every citizen is engaged in arduous labor of one kind or another for the upbuilding of his own or the national power, worry is scarcely known. The builders of our American civilization were too busy conquering the wilderness of New England, the prairies of the Middle West, the savannahs and lush growths of the South, the arid deserts of the West to have much time for worry. Such men and women were gifted with energy, the power of initiative and executive ability, they were forceful, daring, courageous and active, and _in their very working_ had neither time nor thought for worry.
But just as soon as a reasonable amount of success attended their efforts, and they had amassed wealth their children began and continued to worry. Not occupied with work that demands our unceasing energy, we find ourselves occupied with trifles, worrying over our health, our investments, our luxuries, our lap-dogs and our frivolous occupations. Imagine the old-time pioneers of the forest, plain, prairie and desert worrying about sitting in a draught, or taking cold if they got wet, or wondering whether they could eat what would be set before them at the next meal. They were out in the open, compelled to take whatever weather came to them, rain or shine, hot or cold, sleet or snow, and ready when the sunset hour came, to eat with relish and appetite sauce, the rude and plain victuals placed upon the table.
Compare the lives of that class of men with the later generation of “capitalists.” I know one who used to live at Sherry’s in New York. His apartments were as luxurious as those of a monarch; he was not happy, however, for worry rode him from morning to night. He absolutely spent an hour or more each day consulting the menu, or discussing with the steward what he could have to place upon his menu, and died long before his time, cursed with his wealth, its resultant idleness and the trifling worries that always come to such men. Had he been reduced to poverty, compelled to go out and work on a farm, eat oatmeal mush or starve for breakfast, bacon and greens for dinner, and cold pork and potatoes or starve for supper, he would be alive and happy to-day.
Take the fussy, nervous, irritable, worrying men and women of life, who poke their noses into other people’s affairs, retail all the scandal, and hand on all the slander and gossip of empty and, therefore, evil minds. They are invariably well to do and without any work or responsibilities. They go gadding about restless and feverish because of the empty vacuity of their lives, a prey to worry because they have nothing else to do. If I were to put down and faithfully report the conversations I have with such people; the fool worries they are really distressed with; the labor, time and energy they spend on following chimeras, will o’ the wisps, mirages that beckon to them and promise a little mental occupation,–and over which they cannot help but worry, one could scarcely believe it.
As Dr. Walton forcefully says in his admirable booklet:
The present, then, is the age, and our contemporaries are the people, that bring into prominence the little worries, that cause the tempest in the teapot, that bring about the worship of the intangible, and the magnification of the unessential. If we had lived in another epoch we might have dreamt of the eternal happiness of saving our neck, but in this one we fret because our collar does not fit it, and because the button that holds the collar has rolled under the bureau.[A]
[Footnote A: _Calm Yourself_. By George Lincoln Walton, M.D., Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, Mass.]
I am not so foolish as to imagine for one moment that I can correct the worrying tendency of the age, but I do want to be free from worry myself, to show others that it is unnecessary and needless, and also, that it is possible to live a life free from its demoralizing and altogether injurious influences.
NERVOUS PROSTRATION AND WORRY.
Nervous prostration is generally understood to mean weakness of the nerves. It invariably comes to those who have extra strong nerves, but who do not know how to use them properly, as well as those whose nervous system is naturally weak and easily disorganized. Nervous prostration is a disease of overwork, mainly mental overwork, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, comes from worry. Worry is the most senseless and insane form of mental work. It is as if a bicycle-rider were so riding against time that, the moment after he got off his machine to sit down to a meal he sprang up again, and while eating were to work his arms and legs as if he were riding. It is the slave-driver that stands over the slave and compels him to continue his work, even though he is so exhausted that hands, arms and legs cease to obey, and he falls asleep at his task.
The folly, as well as the pain and distress of this cruel slave-driving is that we hold the whip over ourselves, have trained ourselves to do it, and have done it so long that now we seem unable to stop. In another chapter there is fully described (in Dorothy Canfield’s vivid words) the squirrel-cage whirligig of modern society life. Modern business life is not much better. Men compel themselves to the endless task of amassing money without knowing _why_ they amass it. They make money, that they may enlarge their factories, to make more ploughs, to get more money, to enlarge their factories, to make more ploughs, to get more money, to enlarge more factories, to make more ploughs, and so on, _ad infinitum_. Where is the sense of it. Such conduct has well been termed money-madness. It is an obsession, a disease, a form of hypnotism, a mental malady.
The tendency of the age is to drive. We drive our own children to school; there they are driven for hours by one study after another; even when they come home they bring lessons with them–the lovers of study and over-conscientious because they want to do them, and the laggards because they must, if they are to keep up with their classes. If the parents of such children are not careful, they (the children) soon learn to worry; they are behind-hand with their lessons; they didn’t get the highest mark yesterday; the class is going ahead of them, etc., etc., until mental collapse comes.
For worrying is the worst kind of mental overwork. As Dr. Edward Livingston Hunt, of Columbia University, New York, said in a paper read by him early in 1912, before the Public Health Education Committee of the Medical Society of the County of New York:
There is a form of overwork, exceedingly common and exceedingly disastrous–one which equally accompanies great intellectual labors and minor tasks. I allude to worry. When we medical men speak of the workings of the brain we make use of a term both expressive and characteristic. It is to cerebrate. To cerebrate means to think, to reason, and to reach conclusions; it means to concentrate and to work hard. To think, then, is to cerebrate. To worry is to cerebrate intensely.
Worry is overwork of the most disastrous kind; it means to drive the mental machinery at an unreasonable and dangerous rate. Worry gives the brain no rest, but rather keeps the delicate cells in constant and continuous action. Work is wear; worry is tear. Overwork, mental strain, and worry lead to a diminution of nerve force and to a prostration of the vital forces and causes a degeneracy of the blood vessels of the brain.
Exhaustion, another name for fatigue, may show itself either in the form of physical collapse, so that the patient lacks resistance, and, becoming anemic and run down, falls a prey to any and every little ailment, or in the form of mental collapse. An exhausted brain then gives way to depression, to fears, and to anxiety.
The vast majority of nervous breakdowns are avoidable; they are the result of our own excesses and of the disregard we show toward the ordinary laws of health and hygiene; they are the results of the tremendous demands which are made upon us by modern life; they are the result of the strenuous life.
From this analysis, made by an expert, it is evident that worry and nervous prostration are but two points on the same circle. Nervous prostration causes worry, and worry causes nervous prostration. Those who overwork their bodies and minds–who drive themselves either with the cares of business, the amassing of wealth, yielding to the demands of society, the cravings of ambition, or the pursuit of pleasure, are alike certain to suffer the results of mental overwork.
And here let me interject what to me has become a fundamental principle upon which invariably I rely. It will be recalled what I have said elsewhere of _selfish_ and _unselfish_ occupations. It is the selfish occupations that produce nerve-exhaustion. Those that are unselfish seldom result in the disturbance of the harmony or equilibrium of our nature–whether we regard it as physical, mental, or spiritual. This may seem to be a trancendental statement–perhaps it is. But I am confidently assured of its essential truth. That man or woman who is truly engaged in an unselfish work–a work that is for the good of others–has a right to look for, to expect and to receive from the great All Source of strength, power and serenity all that is needed to keep the body, mind and soul in harmony, consequently in perfect health and free from worry.
Hence the apparent paradox that, if you would care for yourself you must disregard yourself in your loving care for others.
One great reason why worry produces nervous prostration is that it induces insomnia.
Worry and sleeplessness are twin sisters. As one has well said: “Refreshing sleep and vexing thoughts are deadly foes.” Health and happiness often disappear from those who fail to sleep, for sleep, indeed, is “tired Nature’s sweet restorer,” as Young in his _Night Thoughts_ termed it. Shakspere never wrote anything truer when he said:
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great Nature’s second course, Chief nourisher of life’s feast.
Or, where he spoke of it as
Sleep that sometimes shuts up sorrow’s eye, Steals me awhile from mine own company.
Even the Bible makes sleep one of the special blessings of God, for we are told that “He giveth His beloved sleep.” The sacred book contains many references to sleeplessness and its causes.
Undoubtedly most potent among these causes is worry. The worrier retires to his bed at the usual hour, but his brain is busy–it is working overtime. What is it doing? Is it thinking over things that are to be done, and planning for the future? If so, there is a legitimate excuse, for as soon as the plan is laid, rest will come, and he will sleep. Is he thinking over the mistakes of the past and sensibly and wisely taking counsel from them? If so, he will speedily come to a decision, and then sleep will bring grateful oblivion. Is he thinking joyful thoughts? These will bring a natural feeling of harmony with all things, and that is conducive to speedy sleep? Is he thinking of how he may help others? That is equally soothing to nerves, brain and body, and brings the refreshment of forgetfulness.
But no! the worrier has another method. He thinks the same thoughts over and over again, without the slightest attempt to get anywhere. He has thrashed them out before, so often that he can tell exactly what each thought will lead to. His ideas go around in a circle like the horse tied to the wheel. He is on a treadmill ever ascending, tramping, up, up, up and up, and still up, but the wheel falls down each time as far as he steps up, and after hours and hours of unceasing, wracking, distressful mental labor, he has done absolutely nothing, has not progressed one inch, is still in the clutch of the same vicious treadmill. Brain weary, nerve weary, is there any wonder that he rolls and tosses, throws over his pillow, kicks off the clothes, groans, almost cries aloud in his agony of longing for rest. Poor victim of worry and sleeplessness, how I long to help you get rid of your evil habit and save others from falling into it. For both worry and sleeplessness are habits, easily gained, and once gained very hard to get rid of, yet both unnecessary, needless, and foolish. The worry that produces sleeplessness is merciless; so merciless and relentless that no fierce torture of a Black-hander can be described that is worse in its long continuing and evil results. Lives are wrecked, brains shattered, happiness destroyed by this monstrous evil, and many a man and woman fastens it upon himself, herself, through indulging in anxious thought, or by yielding to that equal devil-dragon of self-pity.
David the psalmist graphically tells of his own case:
I am weary with my groaning;
Every night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears,
Mine eye wasteth away because of grief. _Ps. VI_. 6:7.
At another time he cries
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?
Oh my God, I cry in the day time, but thou answereth not; And in the night season, I am not silent. _Ps. XXII_. 1:2.
Yet God heard him not until his groaning and self-pity were cast aside, until he rested in God, trusted in Him. Then came rest, as he graphically expresses it:
I laid me down and slept;
I awaked; for Jehovah sustaineth me. _Ps. III. 5_.
In peace will I both lay me down and sleep: For thou, Jehovah, alone maketh me dwell in safety. _Ps. IV. 8._
I will bless Jehovah, who hath given me counsel; Yea, my heart instructeth me in the night seasons. _Ps. XVI. 7._
See the result of this confidence in God.
I have set Jehovah always before me: Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: My flesh also shall dwell in safety. _Ps. XVI. 8:9._
And where the heart is glad, and one rejoiceth in the sense of peace and safety, sweet sleep lays its soothing hand upon the work-worn brain and body, tired with the labors of the day, and brings rest, repose, recuperation.
HOLY WRIT, THE SAGES, AND WORRY
Our civilization is called a _Christian_ civilization. We are the _Christian_ nations. Yet, as I have shown in Chapters I and II, ours is the worrying civilization. That worry is dishonoring to our civilization, and especially to our professions as Christians is self-evident. Let us then look briefly in the book we call our Holy Bible, our Guide of Life, our Director to Salvation, and see what the sacred writers have to say upon this subject. If they commend it, we may assume that it will be safe to worry. If they rebuke or reprobate it we may be equally assured that we have no right to indulge in it.
St. Paul seemed to have a very clear idea of worry when he said:
Be careful–[full of care]–for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known unto God. _Philippians_ 4:6.
How inclusive this is–full of care, anxiety, fretfulness, worry about _nothing_, but in _everything_ presenting your case to God. And then comes the promise:
And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. _Phil_. IV. 7.
How clear, definite, full and satisfactory. What room for worry is there in a heart full of the peace of God, which passeth all understanding? And oh, how much to be desired is such an experience.
Browning, in his _Abt Vogler_, sings practically the same sweet song where he says:
Sorrow is hard to bear, and doubt is slow to clear, Each sufferer says his says, his scheme of the weal and woe: But God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear; The rest may reason and welcome; ’tis we musicians know.
If God whispers in the ear of the sufferer, the doubter, the distressed, the worried, the peace must come; and if peace come, it matters not what others’ reasoning may bring to them, the knowledge that God has whispered is enough; it brings satisfaction, content, serenity, peace. The opposite of worry is rest, faith, trust, peace. How full the Bible is of promises of rest to those who know and love God and his ways of right-doing. Mendlessohn took the incitement of the psalmist (Psalm 37:7), “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him,” and made of it one of the tenderest, sweetest songs of all time. Full of yearning over the worried, the distressed, the music itself seems to brood in sympathetic and soothing power, as a mother croons to her fretful child: “Why fret, why worry,–No, no! rest, rest my little one, in the love of the all-Father,” and many a weary, fretful, worried heart has found rest and peace while listening to this sweet and beautiful song.
There is still another passage in holy writ that the perpetual worrier should read and ponder. It is the prophet Isaiah’s assurance that God says to His children: “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.”
Who has not seen a fretful, sick child taken up by a loving mother, yield to her soothing influence in a few minutes and drop off into restful, healthful, restoring sleep. What a wonderful and forceful figure of speech, illustrative of a never-ceasing fact that the Spirit of all good, the supreme Force of Love and Power in the universe is looking, watching, without slumber or sleep, untiring, unfailing, ever ready to give soothing comfort as does the mother, to those who fret and worry.
Then, when cause for worry seems to be ever present, why not call upon this Loving Maternal Soothing Power? Why not rest in His arms, and thus find peace, poise and serenity?
How much worry comes from fear as to the future. Men become hoarders, savers, misers, or work themselves beyond healthful endurance, or shut out the daily joys of existence in their business absorption, because they dread poverty in their old age. “Wise provision” becomes a driving monster, worrying them into a restless, fretful energy that must be accumulating all the time.
Two thousand years ago this trait of human nature was so strongly manifested that Christ felt called upon to restrain and rebuke it. What a wonderful sermon He preached. It is worth while repeating it here, and wise would that man, that woman be, who is worried about to-morrow, were he, she, to read it daily. I give it in the revised version:
I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto his stature? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. _Matthew_, 6:25-34.
Here is the wisest philosophy. Anxiety is suicide, peace is life; worry destroys, serenity upbuilds. As you want to live, to grow, possess your souls in peace and serenity. Work, aye, work mightily, powerfully, daily, but work for the joy of it, not because worry drives you to it. Work persistently, consistently and worthily, because no man can live–or ought to live–without it, but do not let work be your slave driver, your relentless master, urging you on to drudgery, bondage to your counter, ledger or factory, until you drop exhausted and lifeless. Work for the real joy of it, and then, filled with the blessed trust in God the all-Father expressed as above by Christ, throw your cares to the winds, bid your worries depart, and accept what comes with serenity, peace and thankfulness.
Many proverbs have been written about worry, which it may be well to recall. Certainly it can do no harm to those who worry to see how their mental habit has been regarded, and is still regarded, by the concentrated wisdom of the ages.
An old proverb says: “It is not work, but worry, that kills.” How true this is. Congenial work is a health-bringer, a necessity for a normal life, a joy; it keeps the body in order, promotes digestion, induces the sleep of perfect restoration and is one of man’s greatest blessings. But worry brings dis-ease (want of ease), discomfort, wretchedness, promotes evil secretions which upset the normal workings of the body, and is a constant banisher and disturber of sleep.
Still another proverb says: “Worry killed the cat.” Many people read this and fail to see its profound significance. It must be remembered that in “the good old days,” when this proverb was most rife, the superstitious held that a cat had _nine lives_. Now, surely, the deep meaning of the proverb is made apparent. Though the cat were possessed of nine lives, worry would surely kill them all–either one by one, by its horrid and determined persistence; or all at once, by the concentrated virulence of its power.
There are many proverbs to the effect that “When worry comes in, wit flies out,” and these are all true. Worry unsettles the mind, unbalances the judgment, induces fever of the intellect, which renders calm, cool weighing of matters impossible. No man of great achievements ever worried during his period of greatness. Had he done so his greatness could never have been achieved. Imagine a general trying to solve the vexing problems of a great combat which is going against him, with his mind beset by numberless worries. He must concentrate _all his energies_ upon the one thing. If worry occupies his attention, wit, sense, judgment, discretion, wisdom are crowded out, have no place.
All the pictures given to us of Grant show him the most imperturbable at the most trying times. When the fortunes of war seemed most against him he was the most cheerful, the least disturbed. He had learned the danger of worry, and compelled it to flee from him, that calm judgment and clear-headed decisions might be his.
If, therefore, these great ones of earth found it essential to their well-being to banish worry, how much more is it necessary that we of the ordinary mass of mankind, of the commoner herd, apply ourselves to the gaining of the same kind of wisdom.
An old countrywoman once said in my hearing: “Worry, and you hug a hornet’s nest.” How suggestive both of the stinging that was sure to come and the folly, the absurdity, the cruelty to oneself of the act.
The great Scotch philosopher, Blair, said: “Worry (or anxiety) is the poison of human life,” and how true it is. How biting, how corroding, how destructive to life some poisons are, working speedily, suddenly, awfully. Others there are that have a cumulative effect, until life itself cannot bear the strain, and it goes out. Recently I was at a home where a son was so worried over conditions that he felt ought not to exist between his parents, that he totally collapsed, mentally, and for a time was in danger of losing his reason. The folly of his attitude is apparent to everyone but himself, though he now seeks in the absorbing occupation of teaching, to free himself from the poison of worry that was speedily destroying his reason.
Henry Labouchere, the sage who for so many years has edited the London _Truth_, once wrote a couplet, that is as true as anything he ever wrote:
They who live in a worry,
Invite death in a hurry.
I want to be ready for death when it comes, but as yet I am not extending an invitation to the gentleman with the scythe. Are you, my worrying reader, anxious to be mowed down before your time? Quit your worrying, and don’t urge the Master Reaper to harvest you in until He is sure you are ready.
Another sage once said: “To worry about to-morrow is to be unhappy to-day,” and the same thought is put into: “Never howl till you are hit,” and the popular proverb attributed erroneously to Lincoln for it was long in use before Lincoln’s time: “Do not cross the stream until you get to it.” Christ put the same thought into his Sermon on the Mount, when He said: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” How utterly foolish and wrong it is to spoil to-day by fretting and worrying over the possible evils of to-morrow. Many a man in business has ruined himself by allowing worries about to-morrow to prevent him from doing the needful work of to-day. The rancher who sits down and worries because he fears it will not rain to-morrow, or it will rain, fails to do the work of to-day ready for whatever the morrow may bring forth. The wise Roman, Seneca, expressed the same thing in other words when he wrote: “He grieves more than is necessary who grieves before it is necessary,” and our own Lowell had a similar thought in mind which he expressed as follows: “The misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never come.” Even the Chinese saw the folly of worrying over events that have not yet transpired, for they have a saying: “To what purpose should a person throw himself into the water before the boat is cast away (wrecked).”
All these proverbs, therefore, show that the wisdom of the ages is against worrying over things that have not yet transpired. Let to-morrow take care of itself. Live to-day. As Cardinal Newman’s wonderful hymn expresses it:
I do not ask to see the distant scene, One step enough for me.
Furthermore, the evil we dread for to-morrow may never come. Every man’s experience demonstrates this. The bill for which he has not money in the bank is met by the unexpected payment of an account overdue, or not yet due. Hence if fears come of the morrow, if we are tempted to worry about a grief that seems to be approaching, let us resolutely cast the temptation aside, and by a full occupation of mind and body in the work of the “now,” engage ourselves beyond the possibility of hearing the voice of the tempter.
When one considers the words that are regarded as synonymous with “worry,” or that are related to it, he sees what cruelties lurk in the facts behind the words. To grieve, fret, pine, mourn, bleed, chafe, yearn, droop, sink, give way to despair, all belong to the category of worry.
Phrases like “to sit on thorns,” “to be on pins and needles,” “to drain the cup of misery to the dregs,” show with graphic power the folly and curse of worry. Why should one sit on thorns, or on pins and needles? If one does so accidentally he arises in a hurry, yet in worrying, one seems deliberately, with intent, to sit down upon prickles in order to compel himself to discomfort, distress, and pain. Is there any wisdom, when one has the cup of misery at his lips, in deliberately keeping it there, and persistently drinking it to the “very dregs”? One unconsciously feels like shouting to the drinker: “Put it down, you fool!” and if the harsh command be not instantly obeyed, rushing up and dashing it out of the drinker’s hand.
Take a few more words and look at them, and see how closely they are related to worry,–to be displeased, fretted, annoyed, incommoded, discomposed, troubled, disquieted, crossed, teased, fretted, irked, vexed, grieved, afflicted, distressed, plagued, bothered, pestered, bored, harassed, perplexed, haunted. These things worry does to those who yield themselves to its noxious power.
Worry deliberately pains, wounds, hurts, pinches, tweaks, grates upon, galls, chafes, gnaws, pricks, lancinates, lacerates, pierces, cuts, gravels, corrodes, mortifies, shocks, horrifies, twinges and gripes its victims.
It smites, beats, punishes, wrings, harrows, torments, tortures, racks, scarifies, crucifies, convulses, agonizes, irritates, provokes, stings, nettles, maltreats, bites, snaps at, assails, badgers, harries, persecutes, those who give it shelter.
Is it not apparent, then, that the only course open for a sensible man or woman is to
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. 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.
CHAPTER VI THE SELFISHNESS OF WORRY
If worry merely affected the one who worries it might be easier, in many cases, to view worry with equanimity and calmness. But, unfortunately, in the disagreeable features of life, far more than the agreeable, the aphorism of the apostolic writer, “No man liveth unto himself,” seems to be more than ordinarily true. It is one proof of the selfishness of the “worrier”–whether consciously or unconsciously I do not say–that he never keeps his worry to himself. He must always “out with it.” The nervous mother worrying about her baby shows it even to the unconscious child at her breast. When the child is older she still shows it, until the little one knows as well as it knows when the sun is shining that “mother is worrying again.” The worrying wife does not keep her worry to herself; she pours it out to, or upon, her husband. The worrying husband is just the same. If it is the wife that causes him to worry–or to think so–he pours out his worry in turbulent words, thus adding fuel to a fire already too hot for comfort.
It is one of the chief characteristics of worry that it is seldom confined to the breast of its victim. It loses its power, too often, when shut up. It must find expression in looks, in tone of voice, in sulkiness, in dumps, in nagging or in a voicing of its woes.
It is in this voicing of itself that worry demonstrates its inherent selfishness. If father, mother, wife, friends, neighbors, _anybody_ can give help, pleasure, joy, instruction, profit, their voices are always heard with delight. If they have reasonable cautions to give to those they love, who seem to them to be thoughtless, regardless of danger which they see or fear, or even foolhardy, let them speak out bravely, courageously, lovingly, and they will generally be listened to. But to have them voice their fretful, painful, distressing worries no one is benefitted, and both speaker and the one spoken to are positively harmed. For an unnecessary fear voiced is strengthened; it is made more real. If one did not feel it before, it is now planted in his mind to his serious detriment, and once there, it begins to breed as disease germs are said to breed, by millions, and one moment of worry weds another moment, and the next moment a family of worries is born that surround, hamper and bewilder. Is this kindly, is it helpful, is it loving, is it unselfish?
The questions answer themselves. The planting of worry in the mind of another is heartless, cruel, unkind and selfish.
Another question naturally arises: If this course of action is selfish, and the worrier really desires to be unselfish, how can he control his worry, at least so as not to communicate it to another? The answer also is clear.
Let him put a guard upon his lips, a watch upon his actions. Let him say to himself: Though I do not, for my own sake, care to control the needless worries of my life, I must not, I dare not curse other lives with them. Hence I must at least keep them to myself–I must not voice them, I must not display them in face, eyes or tone.
Then there is the mother who worries over her child’s clothing. She is never ceasing in her cautions. It is “don’t, don’t, don’t,” from morning to night, and whether this seems “nagging” to her or not, there would be a unanimous vote on the subject were the child consulted as to his feelings. Of course the boy, the girl, must be taught to take care of his, her, clothes, but this is never done by nagging. A far better plan would be to fit a punishment which really belongs to the evil or careless habit of the child. For instance, if a boy will persist in throwing his hat anywhere, instead of hanging it up, let the parent give him _one_ caution, not in a threatening or angry way, but in just as matter of fact a fashion as if she were telling him of some news: “John, the next time you fail to hang your hat in its proper place I shall lock it up for three days!”
Then, if John fails, take the hat and lock it up, and _let it stay locked-up_, though the heavens fall. The same with a child’s playthings, tennis racquets, base-balls, bats, etc. As a rule one application of the rule cures. This is immeasurably more sensible than nagging, for it produces the required result almost instantly, and there is little irritation to either person concerned, while nagging is never effective, and irritates both all the time.
Other parents worry considerably over their children getting in the dirt.
In an article which recently appeared in _Good Housekeeping_ Dr. Woods Hutchinson says some sensible things on “Children as Cabbages.” He starts out by saying: “It is well to remember that not all dirt is dirty. While some kinds of dirt are exceedingly dangerous, others are absolutely necessary to life.”
If your children get into the dirty and dangerous dirt, spend your energies in getting them into the other kind of dirt, rather than in nagging. Fall into the habit of doing the wise, the rational, the sane thing, because it produces results, rather than the foolish, irrational, insane thing which never produces a result save anger, irritation, and oftentimes, alienation.
In a little book written by J.J. Bell, entitled _Wee MacGregor_, there is a worrying mother. Fortunately she is sweet-spirited with it all, or it would have been unbearable.
She and her husband John, and the baby, wee Jeannie, with Macgregor were going out to dinner at “Aunt Purdie’s,” who was “rale genteel an’ awfu’ easy offendit.” The anxious mother was counselling her young son regarding his behavior at the table of that excellent lady:
‘An’ mind, Macgreegor, ye’re no’ to be askin’ fur jeely till ye’ve ett twa bits o’ breed-an’-butter. It’s no’ mainners; an’ yer Aunt Purdie’s rale partecclar. An’ yer no’ to dicht yer mooth wi’ yer cuff–mind that. Ye’re to tak’ yer hanky an’ let on ye’re jist gi’ein’ yer nib a bit wipe. An’ ye’re no’ to scale yer tea nor sup the sugar if ony’s left in yer cup when ye’re dune drinkin’. An’ if ye drap yer piece on the floor ye’re no’ to gang efter it; ye’re jist to let on ye’ve ett it. An’ ye’re no’–
‘Deed, Lizzie,’ interposed her husband, ‘ye’re the yin to think aboot things.’
‘Weel, John, if I dinna tell Macgreegor hoo to behave hissel’, he’ll affront me,’ etc., etc., etc.
Who has not thus seen the anxious mother? And who ever saw her worrying and anxiety do much if any good? Train your child by all means in your own home, but let up when you are going out, for your worry worries him, makes him self-conscious, brings about the very disasters you wish to avoid, and at the same time destroys his, your, and everyone’s else, pleasure who observes, feels, or hears the expressions of worry.
CAUSES OF WORRY
Worry is as multiform and as diverse as are the people who worry. Indeed worriers are the most ingenious persons in the world. When every possible source of worry seems to be removed, they proceed immediately to invent some new cause which an ordinary healthful mind could never have conceived.
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 self-control 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