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  • 1916
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to feed and foster the bitter feeling, the hatred, perhaps, that led him to attempt the murder of the superintendent, and that on his release he will again attempt to carry out his nefarious and awful design.

What, then, should be the mental attitude of the superintendent and his family? Ought they not to be worried? I got the answer for my readers from this man, and it is so perfectly in accord with my own principles that I find great pleasure in recording it. Said he:

Don’t think for one moment that I minimize the possible danger. The asylum physician who was familiar with the whole circumstances warned me not to rest in fancied security. I have notified the proper officials that the man who attempted to murder me is not to be released either as cured or on parole without giving me sufficient notice. I do not wish that he should be kept in the asylum a single day longer than is fully necessary, but before I allow him to be released I must be thoroughly satisfied that he has no murderous designs on me, and that he is truly and satisfactorily repentant for the attack he made when, ostensibly, he was mentally irresponsible. I shall require that he be put on record as fully understanding and appreciating his own personal responsibility for my safety–so that should he still hold any wrongful designs, and afterwards succeed in carrying them out, he or his attorneys will be debarred from again pleading insanity or mental incompetency.

Hence while I fully realize the possibility of danger I do not have a moment’s worry about it. I have done and shall do all I can, satisfactorily, to protect myself, without any feeling of harshness or desire to injure the poor fellow, and there I let the matter rest to take care of itself.

This is practical wisdom. This is sane philosophy. Not ignoring the danger, pooh-pooing it, scoffing at it and refusing to recognize it, but calmly, sanely, with a kindly heart looking at possible contingencies, preparing for them, and then serenely trusting to the spiritual forces of life to control events to a wise and satisfactory issue.

Can you suggest anything better? Is not such a course immeasurably better than to allow himself to worry, and fret and fear all the time? Practical precaution, _taken without enmity_–note these italicized words–trustful serenity, faithful performance of present duty unhampered by fears and worries–this is the rational, normal, philosophic, sane course to follow.

Another great source of worry is _our failure to distinguish essentials from non-essentials_. What are the essentials for life? For a man, honesty, truth, earnestness, strength, health, ability to work, and work to do. He may or may not be handsome; he may or may not have wealth, position, fame, education; but to be a man among men, these other things he must have. For a woman,–health, love, work, and such virtues as both men and women need. She might enjoy friends, but they are not essential as health or work; she would be a strange woman if she did not prize beauty, but devoted love is worth far more than beauty or all the conquests it brings. What is the essential for a chair?–its capacity to be used to sit upon with comfort. A house?–that it is adapted to the making of a home. You don’t buy a printing-press to curl your hair with but to print, and in accordance with its printing power is it judged. A boat’s usefulness is determined by its worthiness in the water, to carry safely, rapidly, largely as is demanded of it.

This is the judgement sanity demands of everything. What is essential–What not? Is it essential to be a society leader, to belong to every club, to hold office, to give as many dinners as one’s neighbors, to have a bigger house, furniture with brighter polish, bigger carvings and more ugly designs than anyone else in town, to have our names in the papers oftener than others, to have more servants, a newer style automobile, put on more show, pomp, ceremony and circumstance than our friends?

By no means! Oh for men and women who have the discerning power–the sight for the essential things, the determination to have them and let non-essentials go. They are the wise ones, the happy ones, the free-from-worry ones.

Later I shall refer extensively to Mrs. Canfield’s book _The Squirrel Cage_. She has many wise utterances on this phase of the worry question. For instance, in referring to the mad race for wealth and position that keeps a man away from home so many hours of the day that his wife and child scarce know him she introduces the following dialogue:

One of them whose house isn’t far from mine, told me that he hadn’t seen his children, except asleep, for three weeks.

‘But something ought to be done about it!’ The girl’s deep-lying instinct for instant reparation rose up hotly.

‘Are they so much worse off than most American business men?’ queried Rankin. ‘Do any of them feel they can take the time to see much more than the outside of their children; and isn’t seeing them asleep about as–‘

Lydia cut him short quickly. ‘You’re always blaming them for that,’ she cried. ‘You ought to pity them. They can’t help it. It’s better for the children to have bread and butter, isn’t it–‘

Rankin shook his head. ‘I can’t be fooled with that sort of talk–I’ve lived with too many kinds of people. At least half the time it is not a question of bread and butter. It’s a question of giving the children bread and butter and sugar rather than bread and butter and father. Of course, I’m a fanatic on the subject. I’d rather leave off even the butter than the father–let alone the sugar.’

Later on Lydia herself lost her father and after his death her own wail was: ‘I never lived with my father. He was always away in the morning before I was up. I was away, or busy, in the evening when he was there. On Sundays he never went to church as mother and I did–I suppose now because he had some other religion of his own. But if he had I never knew what it was–or anything else that was in his mind or heart. It never occurred to me that I could. He tried to love me–I remember so many times now–and _that_ makes me cry!–how he tried to love me! He was so glad to see me when I got home from Europe–but he never knew anything that happened to me. I told you once before that when I had pneumonia and nearly died mother kept it from him because he was on a big case. It was all like that–always. He never knew.’

Dr. Melton broke in, his voice uncertain, his face horrified: ‘Lydia, I cannot let you go on! you are unfair–you shock me. You are morbid! I knew your father intimately. He loved you beyond expression. He would have done anything for you. But his profession is an exacting one. Put yourself in his place a little. It is all or nothing in the law–as in business.’

But Lydia replied: ‘When you bring children Into the world, you expect to have them cost you some money, don’t you? You know you mustn’t let them die of starvation. Why oughtn’t you to expect to have them cost you thought, and some sharing of your life with them, and some time–real time, not just scraps that you can’t use for business?’

She made the same appeal once to her husband in regard to their own lives. She wanted to see and know more of him, his business, his inner life, and this was her cry: ‘Paul, I’m sure there’s something the matter with the way we live–I don’t like it! I don’t see that it helps us a bit–or anyone else–you’re just killing yourself to make money that goes to get things we don’t need nearly as much as we need more of each other! We’re not getting a bit nearer to each other–actually further away, for we’re both getting different from what we were without the other’s knowing how! And we’re not getting nicer–and what’s the use of living if we don’t do that? We’re just getting more and more set on scrambling ahead of other people. And we’re not even having a good time out of it! And here is Ariadne–and another one coming–and we’ve nothing to give them but just this–this–this–

Paul laughed a little impatiently, irritated and uneasy, as he always was at any attempt to examine too closely the foundations of existing ideas. ‘Why, Lydia, what’s the matter with you? You sound as though you’d been reading some fool socialist literature or something.’

You know I don’t read anything, Paul. I never hear about anything but novels. I never have time for anything else, and very likely I couldn’t understand it if I read it, not having any education. That’s one thing I want you to help me with. All I want is a chance for us to live together a little more, to have a few more thoughts in common, and oh! to be trying to be making something better out of ourselves for our children’s sake. I can’t see that we’re learning to be anything but–you, to be an efficient machine for making money, I to think of how to entertain as though we had more money than we really have. I don’t seem really to know you or live with you any more than if we were two guests stopping at the same hotel. If socialists are trying to fix things better, why shouldn’t we have time–both of us–to read their books; and you could help me know what they mean?’

Paul laughed again, a scornful, hateful laugh, which brought the color up to Lydia’s pale face like a blow. ‘I gather, then, Lydia, that what you’re asking me to do is to neglect my business in order to read socialistic literature with you?’

His wife’s rare resentment rose. She spoke with dignity: ‘I begged you to be serious, Paul, and to try to understand what I mean, although I’m so fumbling, and say it so badly. As for its being impossible to change things, I’ve heard you say a great many times that there are no conditions that can’t be changed if people would really try–‘

‘Good heavens! I said that of _business_ conditions!’ shouted Paul, outraged at being so misquoted.

‘Well, if it’s true of them–No; I feel that things are the way they are because we don’t really care enough to have them some other way. If you really cared as much about sharing a part of your life with me–really sharing–as you do about getting the Washburn contract–‘

Her indignant and angry tone, so entirely unusual, moved Paul, more than her words, to shocked protest. He looked deeply wounded, and his accent was that of a man righteously aggrieved. ‘Lydia, I lay most of this absurd outbreak to your nervous condition, and so I can’t blame you for it. But I can’t help pointing out to you that it is entirely uncalled for. There are few women who have a husband as absolutely devoted as yours. You grumble about my not sharing my life with you–why, I _give_ it to you entire!’ His astonished bitterness grew as he voiced it. ‘What am I working so hard for if not to provide for you and our child–our children! Good Heavens! What more _can_ I do for you than to keep my nose on the grindstone every minute. There are limits to even a husband’s time and endurance and capacity for work.’

Hence it will be seen that I would have one Quit Worrying about the non-essentials of life, and this is best done by giving full heed to the essentials and letting the others go. Naturally, if one wilfully and purposefully determines to follow non-essentials, he may as well recognize the fact soon as late that he has deliberately chosen a course that cannot fail to produce its own many and irritating worries.

Another serious cause of worry is bashfulness. One who is bashful finds in his intercourse with his fellows many worries. His hands and feet are too large, he blushes at a word, he doesn’t know what to say or how, he is confused if attention is directed his way, his thoughts fly to the ends of the earth the moment he is addressed, and if he is expected to say anything, his worries increase so that his pain and distress are manifest to all. To such an one I would say: Assert your manhood, your womanhood. Brace up. Face the music. Remember these facts. You are dealing with men and women, youths and maidens, of the same flesh and blood, mentality as yourself. You average up with the rest of them. Why should you be afraid? Call upon your reasoning power. Assert the dignity of your own existence. You are here by the will of God as much as they. There is a purpose in your creation as much as in theirs. You have a right to be seen and heard as well as have they. Your life may be charged with importance to mankind far more than theirs. Anyhow for what it is, large or small, you are going to use it to the full, and you do not propose to be laughed out of it, sneered out of it, either by the endeavors of others or by your own fears of others. Then, when you have once fully reasoned the thing out, do not hesitate to plunge into the fullest possible association with your fellows. Brave them, defy them (in your own heart), resolutely face them, and my word and assurance for it, they will lose their terror, and you will lose your bashfulness with a speed that will astonish you.

Closely allied to bashfulness as a cause of many worries is hyper- or super-sensitiveness. And yet it is an entirely different mental attitude. Hyper-sensitiveness may cause bashfulness, but there are many thousands of hyper-sensitives who have not a spark of bashfulness in their condition. They are full of vanity or self-conceit. Elsewhere I have referred to one of these. Or they are hyper-sensitive in regard to their health. They mustn’t do this, or that, or the other, they must be careful not to sit near a window, allow a door to be open, or go into an unwarmed room. Their feet must never be wet, or their clothing, and as for sleeping in a cold room, or getting up before the fire is lighted, they could not live through such awful hardships.

I have no desire to excoriate or make fun of those who really suffer from chronic invalidism, yet I am fully assured that much of the hyper-sensitiveness of the neurasthenic and hypochondriac could be removed by a little rude, rough and tumble contact with life. It would do most of these people no harm to follow the advice given by Abernethy, the great English physician, to a pampered, overfed hyper-sensitive: Live on six pence a day _and earn it_. I have found few hyper-sensitives among the poor. Poverty is a fine cure for most cases, though there are those who cling to their pride of birth of education, or God knows what of insane belief in their superiority over ordinary mortals, and make that the occasion, or cause, of the innumerable and fretting worries of hyper-sensitiveness.

Another serious cause of worry, in this busy, bustling, rapid age, is the need we feel for hurry. We are caught in the mad rush and its influence leads us to feel that we, too, must rush. There is no earthly reason for our hurry, and yet we cannot seem to help it.

Hurry means worry. Rush spells fret. Haste makes waste. You live in the country and are a commuter. You must be in the city on the stroke of nine. To do this, you must catch the 8:07. You have your breakfast to get and it takes six minutes to walk to the station. No one can do it comfortably in less. Yet every morning, ever since you took this country cottage, you have had to rush through your breakfast, and rush to the depot in order to catch the train. Thus starting the day on the rush, you have continued “on the stretch” all day, and get back home at night tired out, fretted and worried “almost to death.” Even when you sit down to breakfast, you begin to worry if wifie doesn’t have everything ready. You know you’ll be late. You feel it, and if the toast and coffee are not on the table the moment you sit down, your querelous complaints strike the morning air.

Now what’s the use?

Why don’t you get up ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes earlier, and thus give yourself time to eat comfortably, and thus get over the worry of your rush? Set the alarm clock for 7:00, or 6:45, or even 6:30. Far better get up half an hour too early, than worry yourself, your wife, and the whole household by your insane hurry. Your worry is wholly unnecessary and shows a fearful lack of simple intelligence.

Annie Laurie, who writes many sage counsels in the _San Francisco Examiner_, had an excellent article on this subject in the issue of December 31, 1915. She wrote:

Here is something that I saw out my window–it has given me the big thought for my biggest New Year’s resolution. The man at the corner house ran down the steps in a terrible hurry. He saw the car coming up the hill and whistled to it from the porch, but the man who was running the car did not hear the whistle. Anyway, he didn’t stop the car, and the man on the steps looked as if he’d like to catch the conductor of that car and do something distinctly unfriendly to him, and do it right then and there. He jammed his hat down over his forehead and started walking very fast.

“What’s your hurry?” said the man he was passing on the corner. “What’s your hurry, Joe?” and the man on the corner held out his hand.

“Well, I’ll be–,” said Joe, and he held out his hand, too, “if it isn’t–“

And it was, and they both laughed and shook hands and clapped each other on the back and shook hands again.

“What’s your hurry?” said the man on the corner again.

“I dun-no,” said the man who was so cross because he’d lost his car. “Nothing much, I guess,” and he laughed and the other man laughed and they shook hands again. And the last I saw of them they had started down the street right In the opposite direction from which the man in the hurry had started to go, and they weren’t in a hurry at all.

Do you know what I wished right then and there? I wished that every time I get into the senseless habit of rushing everywhere and tearing through everything as if it was my last day on earth and there wasn’t a minute left to lose, somebody would stop me on the corner of whatever street of circumstance I may be starting to cross and say to me in friendly fashion:

“What’s the hurry?”

What is the hurry, after all? Where are we all going? What for?

What difference does it make whether I read my paper at 8 o’clock in the morning or at half-past 9?

Will the world stop swinging in its orbit if I don’t meet just so many people a day, write so many letters, hear so many lectures, skim through so many books? Of course if I’m earning my living I must work for it and work not only honestly but hard. But it seems to me that most of the terrific hurrying we do hasn’t much to do with really essential work after all. It’s a kind of habit we get into, a sort of madness, like the thing that overtakes the crowd at a ferry landing or the entrance to a train. I’ve seen men, and women, too, fairly fight to get onto a particular car when the next car would have done just exactly as well.

Where are they going in such a hurry? To save a life? To mend a broken heart? To help to heal a wounded spirit? Or are they just rushing because the rest do it?

What do they get out of life–these people who are always in a rush?

Look! The laurel tree in my California garden is full of bursting buds! The rains are beginning and the trees will soon be flecked with a silver veil of blossoms. I hadn’t noticed it before. I’ve been too busy.

What’s your hurry? Come, friend of my heart, I’ll say that to you to-day and say it in deep and friendly earnest.

What’s your hurry? Come, let’s go for a walk together and see if we can find out. Let us keep finding out through all the new year.

There are many other causes of worry, some of them so insidious, so powerful, as to call for treatment in special chapters.



In a preceding chapter, I have shown that worry is a product of our modern civilization, and that it belongs only to the Occidental world. It is a modern disease, prevalent only among the so-called civilized peoples. There is no doubt that in many respects we _are_ what we call ourselves–the most highly civilized people in the world. But do we not pay too high a price for much of our civilization? If it is such that it fails to enable us to conserve our health, our powers of enjoyment, our spontaneity, our mental vigor, our spirituality, and the exuberant radiance of our life–bodily, mental, spiritual–I feel that we need to examine it carefully and find out wherein lies its inadequacy or its insufficiency.

While our civilization has reached some very elevated points, and some men have made wonderful advancement in varied fields, it cannot be denied that the mass of men and women are still groping along in the darkness of mental mediocrity, and on the mud-flats of the commonplace. Ten thousand men and women can now read where ten alone read a few centuries ago. But what are the ten thousand reading? That which will elevate, improve, benefit? See the piles of sensational yellow novels, magazines, and newspapers that deluge us day by day, week by week, month by month, for the answer. True, there are many who desire the better forms of literature, and for these we give thanks; they are of the salt that saves our civilization.

I do not wish to seem, even, to be cynical or pessimistic, but when I look at some of the mental pabulum that our newspapers supply, I cannot but feel that we are making vast efforts to maintain the commonplace and dignify the trivial.

For instance: Look at the large place the Beauty Department of a newspaper occupies in the thoughts of thousands of women and girls. Instead of seeking to know what they should do to keep their bodies and minds healthful and vigorous, they are deeply concerned over their physical appearance. They write and ask questions that show how worried they are about their skin–freckles, pimples, discolorations, patches, etc.–their complexion, their hair, its color, glossiness, quantity, how it should be dressed, and a thousand and one things that clearly reveal the _improper emphasis_ placed upon them. I do not wish to ignore the basic facts behind these anxious questionings. It is right and proper that women (and men also) should give due attention to their physical appearance. But when it becomes a mere matter of the _outward_ show of cosmetics, powders, rouges, washes, pencils, and things that affect the outside only, then the emphasis is in the wrong place, and we are worrying about the wrong thing. Our appearance is mainly the result of our physical and mental condition. If the body is healthy, the skin and hair will need no especial attention, and, indeed, every wise person knows that the application of many of the cosmetics, etc., commonly used, is injurious, if not positively dangerous.

Then, too, observation shows that too many women and girls go beyond reasonable attention to these matters and begin to worry over them. Once become slaves to worry, and every hour of the day some new irritant will arise. Some new “dope” is advertised; some new fashion devised; some new frivolity developed. Vanity and worry now begin to vie with each other as to which shall annoy and vex, sting and irritate their victim the more. Each is a nightmare of a different breed, but no sooner does one bound from the saddle, before the other puts in an appearance and compels its victim to a performance. Only a thorough awakening can shake such nightmares off, and comparatively few have any desire to be awakened. I have watched such victims and they arouse in me both laughter and sadness. One is sure her hair is not the proper color to match her complexion and eyes. It must be dyed. Then follows the worries as to what dye she shall use, and methods of application. Invariably the results produce worry, for they are never satisfactory, and now she is worried while dressing, while eating, and when she goes out into the street, lest people notice that her hair is improperly dyed. Every stranger that looks at her adds to the worry, for it confirms her previous fears that she does not look all right. If she tries another hair of the dog that has already bitten her and allows the hair specialist to guide her again, she goes through more worries of similar fashion. She must treat her hair in a certain way to conform to prevailing styles–and so she worries hourly over a matter that, at the outside, should occupy her attention for a few minutes of each day.

There are men who are equally worried over their appearance. Their hair is not growing properly, or their ears are not the proper shape, or their ears are too large, or their hands are too rough, or their complexion doesn’t match the ties they like to wear, or some equally foolish and nonsensical thing. Some wish to be taller, others not so tall; quite an army seeks to be thinner and another of equal numbers desires to be stouter; some wish they were blondes, and others that they were brunettes. The result is that drug-stores, beauty-parlors, and complexion specialists for men and women are kept busy all their time, robbing poor, hard-working creatures of their earnings because of insane worries that they are not appearing as well as they ought to do.

Clothing is a perpetual source of worry to thousands. They must keep up with the styles, the latest fashions, for to be “out of fashion,” “a back number,” gives them “a conniption fit.” An out-of-date hat, or shirt-waist, jacket, coat, skirt, or shoe humiliates and distresses them more than would a violation of the moral law–provided it were undetected.

To these, my worrying friends, I continually put the question: Is it worth while? Is the game worth the shot? What do you gain for all your worry? Rest and peace of mind? Alas, no! If the worry and effort accomplished anything, I would be the last to deprecate it, but observation and experience have taught me that _the more you yield to these demons of vanity and worry, the more relentlessly they harry you_. They veritably are demons that seize you by the throat and hang on like grim death until they suffocate and strangle you.

Do you propose, therefore, any longer to submit? Are you wilfully and knowingly going to allow yourself to remain within their grasp? You have a remedy in your own hands. Kill your foolish vanity by determining to accept yourself as you are. All the efforts in the world will not make any changes worth while. Fix upon the habits of dress, etc., that good sense tells you are reasonable and in accord with your age, your position and your purse, and then follow them regardless of the fashion or the prevailing style. You know as well as I that, unless you are a near-millionaire, you cannot possibly keep up with the many and various changes demanded by current fashion. Then why worry yourself by trying? Why spend your small income upon the unattainable, or upon that which, even if you could attain it, you would find unsatisfying and incomplete?

In your case, worry is certainly the result of mental inoccupancy. This is sometimes called “empty headedness,” and while the term seems somewhat harsh and rough, it is pretty near the truth. If you spent one-tenth the amount of energy seeking to put something _into_ your head that you spend worrying as to what you shall put _on_ your head, and how to fix it up, your life would soon be far more different than you can now conceive.

Carelessness and laziness are both great causes of worry. The careless man, the lazy man are each indifferent as to how their work is done; such men seldom do well that which they undertake. Everything carelessly or lazily done is incomplete, inadequate, incompetent, and, therefore, a source of distress, discontent, and worry. A careless or lazy plumber causes much worry, for, even though his victims may have learned the lesson I am endeavoring to inculcate throughout these pages, it is a self-evident proposition that they will not allow his indifferent work to stand without correction. Therefore, the telephone bell calls continually, he or his men must go out and do the work again, and when pay-day comes, he fails to receive the check good work would surely have made forthcoming to him.

The schoolboy, schoolgirl, has to learn this lesson, and the sooner the better. The teacher never nags the careful and earnest student; only the lazy and careless are worried by extra lessons, extra recitals, impositions, and the like.

All through life carelessness and laziness bring worry, and he is a wise person who, as early as he discovers these vices in himself, seeks to correct or, better still, eliminate them.

Another form of worry is that wherein the worrier is sure that no one is to be relied upon to do his duty. Dickens, in his immortal _Pickwick Papers_, gives a forceful example of this type. Mr. Magnus has just introduced himself to Pickwick, and they find they are both going to Norwich on the same stage.

‘Now, gen’lm’n,’ said the hostler, ‘Coach is ready, if you please.’

‘Is all my luggage in?’ inquired Magnus.

‘All right, Sir.’

‘Is the red bag in?’

‘All right, Sir.’

‘And the striped bag?’

‘Fore boot, Sir.’

‘And the brown-paper parcel?’

‘Under the seat, Sir.’

‘And the leathern hat-box?’

‘They’re all in, Sir.’

‘Now will you get up?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Excuse me,’ replied Magnus, standing on the wheel. ‘Excuse me, Mr. Pickwick, I cannot consent to get up in this state of uncertainty. I am quite satisfied from that man’s manner, that that leather hat-box is not in.’

The solemn protestations of the hostler being unavailing, the leather hat-box was obliged to be raked up from the lowest depth of the boot, to satisfy him that it had been safely packed; and after he had been assured on this head, he felt a solemn presentiment, first, that the red bag was mislaid, and next, that the striped bag had been stolen, and then that the brown-paper parcel had become untied. At length when he had received ocular demonstration of the groundless nature of each and every one of these suspicions, he consented to climb up to the roof of the coach, observing that now he had taken everything off his mind he felt quite comfortable and happy.

But this was only a temporary feeling, for as they journeyed along, every break in the conversation was filled up by Mr. Magnus’s “loudly expressed anxiety respecting the safety and well-being of the two bags, the leather hat-box, and the brown-paper parcel.”

Of course, this is an exaggerated picture, yet it properly suggests and illustrates this particular, senseless form of worry, with which we are all more or less familiar. In business, such a worrier is a constant source of irritation to all with whom he comes in contact, either as inferior or superior. To his inferiors, his worrying is a bedeviling influence that irritates and helps produce the very incapacity for attention to detail that is required; and to superiors, it is a sure sign of incompetency. Experience demonstrates that such an one is incapable of properly directing any great enterprise. Men must be trusted if you would bring out their capacities. Their work should be specifically laid out before them; that is, that which is required of them; not, necessarily, in minute detail, but the general results that are to be achieved. Then give them their freedom to work the problems out in their own way. Give them responsibility, trust them, and then leave them alone. _Quit your worrying_ about them. Give them a fair chance, expect, demand results, and if they fail, fire them and get those who are more competent. Mistrust and worry in the employer lead to uncertainty and worry in the employee and these soon spell out failure.

In subsequent chapters, various worries are discussed, with their causes and cures. One thing I cannot too strongly and too often emphasize, and that is, that the more one studies the worries referred to, he is compelled to see the great truth of the proverb, “More of our worries come from within than from without.” In other words, we make more of our worries, by worrying, than are made for us by the cares of life. This fact in itself should lead us to be suspicious of every worry that besets us.



There is an army, whose numbers are legion, who worry about their health and that of the members of their family. What with the doctors scaring the life out of them with the germ theory, seeking to obtain legislation to vaccinate them, examine their children nude in school, take out their tonsils, appendices, and other internal organs, inject serums into them for this, that, and the other, and requiring them to observe a score and one maxims which they do not understand, there is no wonder they are worried. Then when one considers the army of physicians who feel it to be their duty to write of sickness for the benefit of the people, who give detailed symptoms of every disease known; and of the larger army of quacks who deliberately live and fatten themselves upon the worries they can create in the minds of the ignorant, the vicious and the diseased; of the patent-medicine manufacturers, who spend millions of dollars annually in scaring people into the use of their nostrums–none of which are worth the cost of the paper with which they are wrapped up–is there any wonder that people, who are not trained to think, should be worried. Worries meet them on every hand, at every corner. Do they feel an ache or a pain? According to such a doctor, or such a patent-medicine advertisement, that is a dangerous symptom which must be checked at once or the most fearful results will ensue.

Then there are the naturopaths, physicultopaths, gymnastopaths, hygienists, raw food advocates, and a thousand and one other notionists, who give advice as to what, when, and how you shall eat. Horace Fletcher insists that food be chewed until it is liquid; another authority says, “Bosh!” to this and asks you to look at the dog who bolts his meat and is still healthy, vigorous and strong. The raw food advocate assures you that the only good food is uncooked, and that you take out this, that, and the other by cooking, all of which are essential to the welfare of the body. Between these _natural authorities_ and the _medical authorities_, there is a great deal of warfare going on all the time, and the layman knows not wherein true safety lies. Is it any wonder that he is worried.

Many members of the medical profession and the drug-stores have themselves to thank for this state of perpetual worriment and mental unrest. They inculcated, nurtured, and fostered a colossal ignorance in regard to the needs of the body, and a tremendous dread and blind fear of everything that seems the slightest degree removed from the everyday normal. They have persistently taught those who rely upon them that the only safe and wise procedure is to rush immediately to a physician upon the first sign of anything even slightly out of the ordinary. Then, with wise looks, mysterious words, strange symbols, and loathsome decoctions, they have sent their victims home to imagine that some marvelous wonder work will follow the swallowing of their abominable mixtures instead of frankly and honestly telling their consultants that their fever was caused by overeating, by too late hours, by dancing in an ill-ventilated room, by too great application to business, by too many cocktails, or too much tobacco smoking.

The results are many and disastrous. People become confirmed “worriers” about their health. On the slightest suspicion of an ache or a pain, they rush to the doctor or the drug-store for a prescription, a dose, a powder, a potion, or a pill. The telephone is kept in constant operation about trivialities, and every month a bill of greater or lesser extent has to be paid.

While I do not wish to deprecate the calling in of a physician in any serious case, by those who deem it advisable, I do condemn as absurd, unnecessary, and foolish in the highest degree, this perpetual worry about trivial symptoms of health. Every truthful physician will frankly tell you–if you ask him–that worrying is often the worst part of the trouble; in other words, that if you never did a thing in these cases that distress you, but would quit your worrying, the discomfort would generally disappear of its own accord.

One result of this kind of worry is that it genders a nervousness that unnecessarily calls up to the mind pictures of a large variety of possible dangers. Who has not met with this nervous species of worrier?

The train enters a tunnel: “What an awful place for a wreck!” Or it is climbing a mountain grade with a deep precipice on one side: “My, if we were to swing off this grade!” I have heard scores of people, who, on riding up the Great Cable Incline of the Mount Lowe Railway, have exclaimed: “What would become of us if this cable were to break?” and they were apparently people of reason and intelligence. The fact is, the cable is so strong and heavy that with two cars crowded to the utmost, their united weight is insufficient to stretch the cable tight, let alone putting any strain upon it sufficient to break it. And most nervous worries are as baseless as this.

“Yet,” says some apologist for worries, “accidents do happen. Look at the _Eastland_ in Chicago, and the loss of the _Titanic_. Railways have wrecks, collisions, and accidents. Horses do run away. Dogs do bite. People do become sick!”

Granted without debate or discussion. But if everybody on board the wrecked vessels had worried for six months beforehand, would their worries have prevented the wrecks? Mind you, I say worry, not proper precaution. The shipping authorities, all railway officials and employees, etc., should be as alert as possible to guard against all accidents. But this can be done without one moment’s worry on the part of a solitary human being, and care is as different from worry as gold is from dross, coal from ashes. By all means, take due precautions; study to avoid the possibility of accidents, but do not give worry a place in your mind for a moment.

A twin brother to this health-worrier is the nervous type, who is sure that every dog loose on the streets is going to bite; every horse driven behind is surely going to run away; every chauffeur is either reckless, drunk, or sure to run into a telegraph pole, have a collision with another car, overturn his car at the corner, or run down the crossing pedestrian; every loitering person is a tramp, who is a burglar in disguise; every stranger is an enemy, or at least must be regarded with suspicion. Such worriers always seem to prefer to look on the dark side of the unknown rather than on the bright side. “Think no evil!” is good philosophy to apply to everything, as well as genuine religion–when put into practice. The world is in the control of the Powers of Good, and these seek our good, not our disaster. Have faith in the goodness of the powers that be, and work and live to help make your faith true. The man who sees evil where none exists, will do more to call it into existence than he imagines, and equally true, or even more so, is the converse, that he who sees good where none seems to exist, will call it forth, bring it to the surface.

The teacher, who imagines that all children are mean and are merely waiting for a chance to exercise that meanness, will soon justify his suspicions and the children will become what he imagines them to be. Yet such a teacher often little realizes that it has been his own wicked fears and worries that helped–to put it mildly–the evil assert itself.



A worrying parent is at once an exasperating and a pathetic figure. She–for it is generally the mother–is so undeniably influenced by her love that one can sympathize with her anxiety, yet the confidant of her child, or the unconcerned observer is exasperated as he clearly sees the evil she is creating by her foolish, unnecessary worries.

The worries of parents are protean, as are all other worries, and those herein named must be taken merely as suggestions as to scores of others that might be catalogued and described in detail.

Many mothers worry foolishly because their children do not obey, are not always thoughtful and considerate, and act with wisdom, forgetful that life is the school for learning. If any worrying is to be done, let the parent worry over her own folly in not learning how to teach, or train, her child. Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, is the natural procedure with children. It is unreasonable to expect “old heads upon young shoulders.” Worry, therefore, that children have not learned before they are taught is as senseless as it is demoralizing. Get down to something practical. I know a mother of a large family of boys and girls. They are as diverse in character and disposition as one might ever find. She is one of the wise, sensible, practical mothers, who acts instead of worrying. For instance, she believes thoroughly in allowing the children to choose their own clothing. It develops judgment, taste, practicability. One of the girls was vain, and always wanted to purchase shoes too small for her, in order that she might have “pretty feet.” Each time she brought home small shoes, her mother sent her back with admonitions to secure a larger pair. After this had continued for several times, she decided upon another plan. When the “too small” shoes were brought home, she compelled the girl to wear them, though they pinched and hurt, until they were worn out, and, as she said in telling me the story, “that ended that.”

One of her sons was required to get up every morning and light the fire. Very often he was lazy and late so that the fire was not lighted when mother was ready to prepare breakfast. One night he brought home a companion to spend a day or two. The lads frolicked together so that they overslept. When mother got up in the morning, there was no fire. She immediately walked to the foot of the stairs and yelled, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” at the top of her voice. In a few moments, both lads, tousled, half-dressed, and well-scared, rushed downstairs, exclaiming: “Where’s the fire? Where’s the fire?” “I want it in the stove,” was the mother’s answer–and “that was the end of that.”

The oldest girl became insistent that she be allowed to sit up nights after the others had gone to bed. She would study for awhile and then put her head on her arms and go to sleep. One night her mother waited until she was asleep, went off to bed, and left her. At three o’clock in the morning she came downstairs, lighted lamp in hand, and alarm clock set to go off. As soon as the alarm-bell began to ring, the girl awoke, startled to see her mother standing there with the lighted lamp, herself cold and stiff with the discomfort of her position. “And that was the end of that,” said the mother.

Here was common-sense, practical, hard-headed training instead of worry. Bend your sense, your intellect, your time, your energy, to seeking how to train your children, instead of doing the senseless, foolish, inane, and utterly useless thing of worrying about them.

Imagine being the child of an anxious parent, who sees sickness in every unusual move or mood of her boy or girl. A little clearing of the throat–“I’m sure he’s going to have croup or diphtheria.” The girl unconsciously puts her hand to her brow–“What’s the matter with your head, dearie; got a headache?” A lad feels a trifle uncomfortable in his clean shirt and wiggles about–“I’m sure Tom’s coming down with fever, he’s so restless and he looks so flushed!”

God forbid that I should ever appear to caricature the wise care of a devoted mother. That is not what I aim to do. I seek, with intenseness of purpose, to show the folly, the absurdity of the anxieties, the worries, the unnecessary and unreasonable cares of many mothers. For the moment Fear takes possession of them, some kind of nagging is sure to begin for the child. “Oh, Tom, you mustn’t do this,” or, “Maggie, my darling, you must be careful of that,” and the child is not only nagged, but is thus _placed under bondage to the mother’s unnecessary alarm_. No young life can suffer this bondage without injury. It destroys freedom and spontaneity, takes away that dash and vigor, that vim and daring that essentially belong to youth, and should be the unhampered heritage of every child. I’d far rather have a boy and girl of mine get sick once in a while–though that is by no means necessary–than have them subjected to the constant fear that they might be sick. And when boys and girls wake up to the full consciousness that their parents’ worries are foolish, unnecessary, and self-created, the mental and moral influence upon them is far more pernicious than many even of our wisest observers have perceived.

There never was a boy or girl who was worried over, who was not annoyed, fretted, injured, and cursed by it, instead of being benefited. The benefit received from the love of the parent was in spite of the worry, and not because of it. Worry is a hindrance, a deterrent, a restraint; it is always putting a curbing hand upon the natural exuberance and enthusiasm of youth. It says, “Don’t, don’t,” with such fierce persistence, that it kills initiative, destroys endeavor, murders naturalness, and drives its victims to deception, fraud, and secrecy to gain what they feel to be natural, reasonable and desirable ends.

I verily believe that the parent who forever is saying “Don’t” to her children, is as dangerous as a submarine and as cruel as an asphyxiating bomb. Life is for _expression_, not _repression_. Repression is always a proof that a proper avenue for expression has not yet been found. Quit your “don’t-ing,” and teach your child to “do” right. Children absolutely are taught to dread, then dislike, and finally to hate their parents when they are refused the opportunity of “doing”–of expressing themselves.

Rather seek to find ways in which they may be active. Give them opportunities for pleasure, for employment, for occupation. And remember this, there is as much distance and difference between “tolerating,” “allowing,” “permitting” your children to do things, and “encouraging,” “fostering” in them the desire to do them, as there is distance between the poles. Don’t be a dampener to your children, a discourager, a “don’ter,” a sign the moment you appear that they must “quit” something, that they must repress their enthusiasm, their fun, their exuberant frolicsomeness, but let them feel your sympathy with them, your comradeship, your good cheer, that “Father, Mother, is a jolly good fellow,” and my life for it, you will doubtless save yourself and them much worry in after years.

Hans Christian Andersen’s story of _The Ugly Duckling_ is one of the best illustrations of the uselessness and needlessness of much of the worry of parents with which I am familiar. How the poor mother duck worried because one of her brood was so large and ugly. At first she was willing to accept it, but when everybody else jeered at it, pushed it aside, bit at it, pecked it on the head, and generally abused it, and the turkey-cock bore down upon it like a ship in full sail, and gobbled at it, and its brothers and sisters hunted it, grew more and more angry with it, and wished the cat would get it and swallow it up, she herself wished it far and far away. And as the worries grew around the poor duckling, it ran away. It didn’t know enough to have faith in itself and its own future. The result was the worries of others affected it to the extent of urging it to flee. For the time being this enlarged its worries, until at length, falling in with a band of swans, it felt a strange thrill of fellowship with them in spite of their grand and beautiful appearance, and, soaring into the air after them, it alighted into the water, and seeing its own reflection, was filled with amazement and wonder to find itself no longer an ugly duckling but–a swan.

Many a mother, father, family generally, have worried over their ugly duckling until they have driven him, her, out into the world, only to find out later that their duckling was a swan. And while it was good for the swan to find out its own nature, the points I wish to make are that there was no need for all the worry–it was the sign of ignorance, of a want of perception–and further, the swan would have developed in its home nest just as surely as it did out in the world, and would have been saved all the pain and distress its cruel family visited upon it.

There is still another story, which may as well be introduced here, as it applies to the unnecessary worry of parents about their young. In this case, it was a hen that sat on a nest of eggs. When the chickens were hatched, they all pleased the mother hen but one, and he rushed to the nearest pond, and, in spite of her fret, fuss, fume, and worry, insisted upon plunging in. In vain the hen screamed out that he would drown, her unnatural child was resolved to venture, and to the amazement of all, he floated perfectly, for he was a duck instead of a chicken, and his egg was placed under the old hen by mistake.

Mother, father, don’t worry about your child. It may be he is a swan; he may be a duck, instead of the creature you anticipated. Control your fretfulness and your worry for it cannot possibly change things. Wait and watch developments and a few days may reveal enough to you to show you how totally unnecessary all your worries would have been. Teach yourself to know that worry is evil thought directed either upon our own bodies or minds, or those of others. Note, I say _evil_ thought. It is not good thought. Good thought so directed would be helpful, useful, beneficial. This is injurious, harmful, baneful. Evil thought, worry, directs to the person, or to that part of the body considered, an injurious and baneful influence that produces pain, inharmony, unhappiness. It is as if one were to divert a stream of corroding acid upon a sensitive wound, and do it because we wished to heal the wound. Worry never once healed a wound, or cured an ill. It always aggravates, irritates, and, furthermore, helps superinduce the evil the worrier is afraid of. The fact that you worry about these things to which I have referred, that you yield your thoughts to them, and, in your worry, give undue contemplation to them, induces the conditions you wish to avoid or avert. Hence, if you wish your child to be well and strong, brave and courageous, it is the height of cruelty for you to worry over his health, his play, or his exercise. Better by far leave him alone than bring upon him the evils you dread. Who has not observed, again and again, the evil that has come from worrying mothers who were constantly cautioning or forbidding their children to do that which every natural and normal child longs to do? Quit your worrying. Leave your child alone. Better by far let him break a rib, or bruise his nose, than all the time to live in the bondage of your fears.

Elsewhere I have referred to the fact that we often bring upon our loved ones the perils we fear. There is a close connection between our mental states and the objects with which we are surrounded. Or, mayhap, it would be more correct to say that it is our mental condition that shapes the actions of those around us in relation to the things by which they are surrounded. Let me illustrate with an incident which happened in my own observation. A small boy and girl had a nervous, ever worrying mother. She was assured that her boy was bound to come to physical ill, for he was so courageous, so adventuresome, so daring. To her he was the duck instead of the chicken she thought she was hatching out. One day he climbed to the roof of the barn. His sister followed him. The two were slowly, and in perfect security, “inching” along on the comb of the roof, when the mother happened to catch sight of them. With a scream of half terror and half anger, she shouted to them to come down _at once!_ Up to that moment, I had watched both children with comfort, pleasure, and assurance of their perfect safety. Their manifest delight in their elevated position, the pride of the girl in her pet brother’s courage, and his scarcely concealed surprise and pleasure that she should dare to follow him, were interesting in the extreme. But the moment that foolish mother’s scream rent the air, everything changed instanter. Both children became nervous, the boy started down the roof, where he could drop upon a lower roof to safety. His little sister, however, started down too soon. Her mother’s fears unnerved her and she slid, and falling some twenty-five feet or so, broke her arm.

Then–and here was the cruel fatuity of the whole proceeding–the mother began to wail and exclaim to the effect that it was just what she expected. May I be pardoned for calling her a worrying fool. She could not see that it was her very expectation, and giving voice to it, in her hourly worryings and in that command that they come down, that caused the accident. She, herself, alone was to blame; her unnecessary worry was the cause of her daughter’s broken arm.

Christ’s constant incitement to his disciples was “Be not afraid!” He was fully aware of the fact that Job declared: “The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me.”

Hence, worrying mother, curb your worry, kill it, drive it out, for _your child’s sake_. You claim it is for your child’s good that you worry. You are wrong. It is because you are too thoughtless, faithless, and trustless that you worry, and, if you will pardon me, _too selfish_. If, instead of giving vent to that fear, worry, dread, you exercised your reason and faith a little more, and then self-denial, and refused to give vocal expression to your worry, you could then claim unselfishness in the interest of your child. But to put your fears and worries, your dreads and anxieties, around a young child, destroying his exuberance and joy, surrounding him with the mental and spiritual fogs that beset your own life is neither wise, kind, nor unselfish.

Another serious worry that besets many parents is that pertaining to the courtship or engagement of their children. Here again let me caution my readers not to construe my admonitions into indifference to this important epoch in their child’s life. I would have them lovingly, wisely, sagely advise. But there is a vast difference between this, and the uneasy, fretful, nagging worries that beset so many parents and which often lead to serious friction. Remember that it is your child, not you, who has to be suited with a life partner. The girl who may call forth his warmest affection may be the last person in the world you would have chosen, yet you are not the one to be concerned.

In the January, 1916, _Ladies’ Home Journal_ there is an excellent editorial bearing upon this subject, as follows:

A mother got to worrying about the girl to whom her son had become engaged. She was a nice girl, but the mother felt that perhaps she was not of a type to stimulate the son sufficiently in his career. The mother wisely said nothing, however, until two important facts dawned upon her:

First, that possibly her boy was of the order which did not need stimulation. As she reflected upon his nature, his temperament, she arrived at the conclusion that what he required in a life partner might be someone who would prove a poultice rather than a mustard plaster or a fly blister.

This was her first discovery.

The second was not precisely like unto it, but was even more important–that the son, and not the mother, was marrying the girl. The question as to whether or not the girl would suit the mother as a permanent companion was a minor consideration about which she need not vex her soul. The point he had settled for himself was that here, by God’s grace, was the one maid for him; and since that had been determined the wise course was for the mother not to waste time and energy bemusing (worrying) herself over the situation, especially as the girl offered no fundamental objections.

Thus the mother, of herself, learned a lesson that many another mother might profitably learn.

How wonderfully in his _Saul_ does Robert Browning set forth the opposite course to that of the worrier. Here, the active principle of love and trust are called upon so that it uplifts and blesses its object. David is represented as filled with a great love for Saul, which would bring happiness to him. He strives in every way to make Saul happy, yet the king remains sad, depressed, and unhappy. At last David’s heart and his reason grasp the one great fact of God’s transcending love, and the poem ends with a burst of rapture. His discovery is that, if his heart is so full of love to Saul, that in his yearning for his good, he would give him everything, what must God’s love for him be? Of his own love he cries:

Could I help thee, my father, inventing a bliss, I would add, to that life of the past, both the future and this;

I would give thee new life altogether, as good, ages hence, At this moment,–had love but the warrant love’s heart to dispense.

Then, when God’s magnificent love bursts upon him he sings in joy:

–What, my soul? see thus far and no farther? When doors great and small

Nine-and-ninety flew ope at our touch, should the hundredth appall?

How utterly absurd, on the face of it, is such a supposition. God having given so much will surely continue to give. His love so far proven so great, it _will never cease_.

O! doubting heart of man, of woman, of father, of mother, grieving over the mental and spiritual lapses of a loved one, grasp this glorious fact–God’s love far transcends thine own. What thou wouldst do for thy loved one is a minute fraction of what He can do, will do, _is doing_. Rest in His love. He will not fail thee nor forsake thee; and in His hands all whom thou lovest are safe.



I now approach a difficult part of my subject, yet I do it without trepidation, fear, or worry as to results. There are, to my mind, a few fundamental principles to be considered and observed, and each married couple must learn to fight the battle out for themselves.

Undoubtedly, to most married people, the ideal relationship is where each is so perfectly in accord with the other–they think alike, agree, are as one mentally–that there are no irritations, no differences of opinion, no serious questions to discuss.

Others have a different ideal. They do not object to differences, serious, even, and wide. They are so thorough believers in the sanctity of the individuality of each person–that every individual must live his own life, and thus learn his own lessons, that what they ask is a love large enough, big enough, sympathetic enough, to embrace all differences, and in confidence that the “working out” process will be as sure for one as the other, to rest, content and serene in each other’s love in spite of the things that otherwise would divide them.

This mental attitude, however, requires a large faith in God, a wonderful belief in the good that is in each person, and a forbearing wisdom that few possess. Nevertheless, it is well worth striving for, and its possession is more desirable than many riches. And how different the outlook upon life from that of the marital worrier. When a couple begin to live together, they have within themselves the possibilities of heaven or of hell. The balance between the two, however, is very slight. There is only a foot, or less, in difference, between the West and the East on the Transcontinental Divide. I have stood with one foot in a rivulet the waters of which reached the Pacific, and the other in one which reached the Atlantic. The marital divide is even finer than that. It is all in the habit of mind. If one determines that he, she, will guide, boss, direct, control the other, one of two or three things is sure to occur.

I. The one mind _will_ control the other, and an individual will live some one else’s life instead of its own. This is the popular American notion of the life of the English wife. She has been trained during the centuries to recognize her husband as lord and master, and she unquestionably and unhesitatingly obeys his every dictate. Without at all regarding this popular conception as an accurate one, nationally, it will serve the purpose of illustration.

II. The second alternative is one of sullen submission. If one hates to “row,” to be “nagged,” he, she, submits, but with a bad grace, consumed constantly with an inward rebellion, which destroys love, leads to cowardly subterfuges, deceptions, and separations.

III. The third outcome is open rebellion, and the results of this are too well known to need elucidation–for whatever they may be, they are disastrous to the peace, happiness, and content of the family relationship.

Yet to show how hard it is to classify actual cases in any formal way, let me here introduce what I wrote long ago about a couple whom I have visited many times. It is a husband and wife who are both geniuses–far above the ordinary in several lines. They have money–made by their own work–the wife’s as well as the husband’s, for she is an architect and builder of fine homes. While they have great affection one for another, there is a constant undertone of worry in their lives. Each is too critical of the other. They worry about trifles. Each is losing daily the sweetness of sympathetic and joyous comradeship because they do not see eye to eye in all things. Where a mutual criticism of one’s work is agreed upon, and is mutually acceptable and unirritating, there is no objection to it. Rather should it be a source of congratulation that each is so desirous of improving that criticism is welcomed. But, in many cases, it is a positive and injurious irritant. One meets with criticism, neither kind nor gentle, out in the world. In the home, both man and woman need tenderness, sympathy, comradeship–and if there be weaknesses or failures that are openly or frankly confessed, there should be the added grace and virtue of compassion without any air of pitying condescension or superiority. By all means help each other to mend, to improve, to reach after higher, noble things, but don’t do it by the way of personal criticism, advice, remonstrance, fault-finding, worrying. If you do, you’ll do far more harm than good in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred. Every human being instinctively, in such position, consciously or unconsciously, places himself in the attitude of saying: “I am what I am! Now recognize that, and leave me alone! My life is mine to learn its lessons in my own way, just the same as yours is to learn your lessons in your way.” This worrying about, and of each other has proven destructive of much domestic happiness, and has wrecked many a marital barque, that started out with sails set, fair wind, and excellent prospects.

Don’t worry about each other–_help_ each other by the loving sympathy that soothes and comforts. Example is worth a million times more than precept and criticism, no matter how lovingly and wisely applied, and few men and women are wise enough to criticise and advise _perpetually_, without giving the recipient the feeling that he is being “nagged.”

Granted that, from the critic’s standpoint, every word said may be true, wise, and just. This does not, by any means, make it wise to say it. The mental and spiritual condition of the recipient _must_ be considered as of far more importance than the condition of the giver of the wise exhortations. The latter is all right, he doesn’t need such admonitions; the other does. The important question, therefore, should be: “Is he ready to receive them?” If not, if the time is unpropitious, the mental condition inauspicious, better do, say, nothing, than make matters worse. But, unfortunately, it generally happens that at such times the critic is far more concerned at unbosoming himself of his just and wise admonitions than he is as to whether the time is ripe, the conditions the best possible, for the word to be spoken. The sacred writer has something very wise and illuminating to say upon this subject. Solomon says: “A word spoken in due season, how good is it!” Note, however, that it must be spoken “in due season,” to be good. The same word spoken out of season may be, and often is, exceedingly bad. Again he says: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” But it must be _fitly_ spoken to be worthy to rank with apples of gold.



Reference has already been made to _The Squirrel Cage_, by Dorothy Canfield. Better than any book I have read for a long time, it reveals the causes of much of the worry that curses our modern so-called civilized life. These causes are complex and various. They include _vanity, undue attention to what our neighbors think of us, a false appreciation of the values of things_, and they may all be summed up into what I propose to call–with due acknowledgement to Mrs. Canfield–_the Worry of the Squirrel Cage_.

I will let the author express her own meaning of this latter term. If the story leading up seems to be long please seek to read it in the light of this expression:[A]

[Footnote A: Reprinted from “The Squirrel-Cage” by Dorothy Canfield ($1.35 net); published by Henry Holt and Company, New York City.]

When Mr. and Mrs. Emery, directly after their wedding in a small Central New York village, had gone West to Ohio, they had spent their tiny capital in building a small story-and-a-half cottage, ornamented with the jig-saw work and fancy turning popular in 1872, and this had been the nucleus of their present rambling, picturesque, many-roomed home. Every step in the long series of changes which had led from its first state to its last had a profound and gratifying significance for the Emerys and its final condition, prosperous, modern, sophisticated, with the right kind of wood work in every room that showed, with the latest, most unobtrusively artistic effects in decoration, represented their culminating well-earned position in the inner circle of the best society of Endbury.

Moreover, they felt that just as the house had been attained with effort, self-denial, and careful calculations, yet still without incurring debt, so their social position had been secured by unremitting diligence and care, but with no loss of self-respect or even of dignity. They were honestly proud of both their house and of their list of acquaintances and saw no reason to regard them as less worthy achievements of an industrious life than their four creditable grown-up children or Judge Emery’s honorable reputation at the bar.

The two older children, George and Marietta, could remember those early struggling days with as fresh an emotion as that of their parents. Indeed, Marietta, now a competent, sharp-eyed matron of thirty-two, could not see the most innocuous colored lithograph without an uncontrollable wave of bitterness, so present to her mind was the period when they painfully groped their way out of chromos.

The particular Mrs. Hollister who, at the time the Emerys began to pierce the upper crust, was the leader of Endbury society, had discarded chromos as much as five years before. Mrs. Emery and Marietta, newly admitted to the honor of her acquaintance, wondered to themselves at the cold monotony of her black and white engravings. The artlessness of this wonder struck shame to their hearts when they chanced to learn that the lady had repaid it with a worldly-wise amusement at their own highly-colored waterfalls and snow-capped mountain-peaks. Marietta could recall as piercingly as if it were yesterday, in how crestfallen a chagrin she and her mother had gazed at their parlor after this incident, their disillusioned eyes open for the first time to the futility of its claim to sophistication. As for the incident that had led to the permanent retiring from their table of the monumental salt-and-pepper ‘caster’ which had been one of their most prized wedding presents, the Emerys refused to allow themselves to remember it, so intolerably did it spell humiliation.

In these quotations the reader has the key to the situation–worry to become as good as one’s neighbors, if not better. _This is the worry of the squirrel cage_.

Lydia is Mrs. Emery’s baby girl, her pet, her passionate delight. She has been away to a fine school. She knows nothing of the ancient struggles to attain position and a high place in society. Those struggles were practically over before she appeared on the scene.

On the occasion of her final home-coming her mother makes great preparations to please her, yet the worry and the anxiety, are revealed in her conversation with her older daughter:

‘Oh, Marietta, how _do_ you suppose the house will seem to Lydia after she has seen so much? I hope she won’t be disappointed. I’ve done so much to it this last year, perhaps she won’t like it. And oh, I _was_ so tired because we weren’t able to get the new sideboard put up in the dining-room yesterday!’

‘Really, Mother, you must draw the line about Lydia. She’s only human. I guess if the house is good enough for you and father it is good enough for her.’

‘That’s just it, Marietta–that’s just what came over me! _Is_ what’s good enough for us good enough for Lydia? Won’t anything, even the best, in Endbury be a come-down for her?’

The attainments of Mrs. Emery both as to wealth and social position, however, were not reached by her daughter Marietta and her husband, but in the determination to make it appear as if they were, Marietta thus exposes her own life of worry in a talk with her father:

‘Keeping up a two-maid and a man establishment on a one-maid income, and mostly not being able to hire the one maid. There aren’t _any_ girls to be had lately. It means that I have to be the other maid and the man all of the time, and all three, part of the time.’ She was starting down the step, but paused as though she could not resist the relief that came from expression. ‘And the cost of living–the necessities are bad enough, but the other things–the things you have to have not to be out of everything! I lie awake nights. I think of it in church. I can’t think of anything else but the way the expenses mount up. Everybody getting so reckless and extravagant and I _won’t_ go in debt! I’ll come to it, though. Everybody else does. We’re the only people that haven’t oriental rugs now. Why, the Gilberts–and everybody knows how much they still owe Dr. Melton for Ellen’s appendicitis, and their grocer told Ralph they owe him several hundred dollars–well, they have just got an oriental rug that they paid a hundred and sixty dollars for. Mrs. Gilbert said they ‘just _had_ to have it, and you can always have what you have to have.’ It makes me sick! Our parlor looks so common! And the last dinner party we gave cost–‘

Another phase of the _squirrel cage worry_ is expressed in this terse paragraph:

‘Father keeps talking about getting one of those player-pianos, but Mother says they are so new you can’t tell what they are going to be. She says they may get to be too common.’

Bye and bye it comes Lydia’s turn to decide what place she and her new husband are to take in Endbury society, and here is what one frank, sensible man says about it:

‘It may be all right for Marietta Mortimer to kill herself body and soul by inches to keep what bores her to death to have–a social position in Endbury’s two-for-a-cent society, but, for the Lord’s sake, why do they make such a howling and yelling just at the tree when Lydia’s got the tragically important question to decide as to whether that’s what _she_ wants? It’s like expecting her to do a problem in calculus in the midst of an earthquake.’

And the following chapter is a graphic presentation as to how Lydia made her choice “in perfect freedom”–oh, the frightful sarcasm of the phrase–during the excitement of the wedding preparations and under the pressure of expensive gifts and the ideas of over enthusiastic “society” friends.

Lydia now began her own “squirrel-cage” existence, even her husband urges her into extravagance in spite of her protest by saying, “Nothing’s too good for you. And besides, it’s an asset. The mortgage won’t be so very large. And if we’re in it, we’ll just have to live up to it. It’ll be a stimulus.”

One of the sane characters of the book is dear, lovable, gruff Mr. Melton, who is Lydia’s godfather, and her final awakening is largely due to him. One day he finds Lydia’s mother upstairs sick-a-bed, and thus breaks forth to his godchild:

‘About your mother–I know without going upstairs that she is floored with one or another manifestation of the great disease of _social-ambitionitis_. But calm yourself. It’s not so bad as it seems when you’ve got the right doctor, I’ve practiced for thirty years among Endbury ladies. They can’t spring anything new on me. I’ve taken your mother through doily fever induced by the change from tablecloths to bare tops, through portiere inflammation, through afternoon tea distemper, through _art-nouveau_ prostration and mission furniture palsy, not to speak of a horrible attack of acute insanity over the necessity of having her maids wear caps. I think you can trust me, whatever dodge the old malady is working on her.’

And later in speaking of Lydia’s sister he affirms:

‘Your sister Marietta is not a very happy woman. She has too many of your father’s brains for the life she’s been shunted into. She might be damming up a big river with a finely constructed concrete dam, and what she is giving all her strength to is trying to hold back a muddy little trickle with her bare hands. The achievement of her life is to give on a two-thousand-a-year income the appearance of having five thousand like your father. She does it; she’s a remarkably forceful woman, but it frets her. She ought to be in better business, and she knows it, though she won’t admit it.’

Oh, the pity of it, the woe of it, the horror of it, for it is one of the curses of our present day society and is one of the causes of many a man’s and woman’s physical and mental ruin. In the words of our author elsewhere:

They are killing themselves to get what they really don’t want and don’t need, and are starving for things they could easily have by just putting out their hands.

Where life’s struggle is reduced to this kind of thing, there is little compensation, hence we are not surprised to read that:

Judge Emery was in the state in which of late the end of the day’s work found him–overwhelmingly fatigued. He had not an ounce of superfluous energy to answer his wife’s tocsin, while she was almost crying with nervous exhaustion. That Lydia’s course ran smooth through a thousand complications was not accomplished without an incalculable expenditure of nervous force on her mother’s part. Dr. Melton had several times of late predicted that he would have his old patient back under his care again. Judge Emery, remembering this prophecy, was now moved by his wife’s pale agitation to a heart-sickening mixture or apprehension for her and of recollection of his own extreme discomfort whenever she was sick.

Yet in spite of this intense tension, she was unable to stop–felt she must go on, until finally, a breakdown intervened and she was compelled to lay by.

On another page a friend tells of his great-aunt’s experience:

‘She told me that all through her childhood her family was saving and pulling together to build a fine big house. They worked along for years until, when she was a young lady, they finally accomplished it; built a big three-story house that was the admiration of the countryside. Then they moved in. And it took the womenfolks every minute of their time, and more to keep it clean and in order; it cost as much to keep it up, heated, furnished, repaired, painted and everything the way a fine house should be, as their entire living used to cost. The fine big grounds they had laid out to go with the mansion took so much time to–‘

Finally Lydia herself becomes awakened, startled as she sees what everybody is trying to make her life become and she bursts out to her sister:

‘I’m just frightened of–everything–what everybody expects me to do, and to go on doing all my life, and never have any time but to just hurry faster and faster, so there’ll be more things to hurry about, and never talk about anything but _things!_’ She began to tremble and look white, and stopped with a desperate effort to control herself, though she burst out at the sight of Mrs. Mortimer’s face of despairing bewilderment. ‘Oh, don’t tell me you don’t see at all what I mean. I can’t say it! But you _must_ understand. Can’t we somehow all stop–_now!_ And start over again! You get muslin curtains and not mend your lace ones, and Mother stop fussing about whom to invite to that party–that’s going to cost more than he can afford, Father says–it makes me _sick_ to be costing him so much. And not fuss about having clothes just so–and Paul have our house built little and plain, so it won’t be so much work to take care of it and keep it clean. I would so much rather look after it myself than to have him kill himself making money so I can hire maids that you _can’t_–you say yourself you can’t–and never having any time to see him. Perhaps if we did, other people might, and we’d all have more time to like things that make us nicer to like.

And when her sister tried to comfort her she continued:

‘You do see what I mean! You see how dreadful it is to look forward to just that–being so desperately troubled over things that don’t really matter–and–and perhaps having children, and bringing them to the same thing–when there must be so many things that do matter!’

Then, to show how perfectly her sister understood, the author makes that wise and perceptive woman exclaim:

‘Mercy! Dr. Melton’s right! She’s perfectly wild with nerves! We must get her married as soon as ever we can!’

Lydia gives a reception. Here is part of the description:

Standing as they were, tightly pressed in between a number of different groups, their ears were assaulted by a disjointed mass of stentorian conversation that gave a singular illusion as if it all came from one inconceivably voluble source, the individuality of the voices being lost in the screaming enunciation which, as Mrs. Sandworth had pointed out, was a prerequisite of self-expression under the circumstances.

They heard: ‘_For over a month and the sleeves were too see you again at Mrs. Elliott’s I’m pouring there from four I’ve got to dismiss one with plum-colored bows all along five dollars a week and the washing out and still impossible! I was there myself all the time and they neither of thirty-five cents a pound for the most ordinary ferns and red carnations was all they had, and we thought it rather skimpy under the brought up in one big braid and caught down with at Peterson’s they were pink and white with–‘ … ‘Oh, no, Madeleine! that was at the Burlingame’s_.’ Mrs. Sandworth took a running jump into the din and sank from her brother’s sight, vociferating: ‘_The Petersons had them of old gold, don’t you remember, with little_–‘

The doctor, worming his way desperately through the masses of femininity, and resisting all attempts to engage him in the local fray, emerged at length into the darkened hall where the air was, as he told himself in a frenzied flight of imagination, less like a combination of a menagerie and a perfume shop. Here, in a quiet corner, sat Lydia’s father alone. He held in one hand a large platter piled high with wafer-like sandwiches, which he was consuming at a Gargantuan rate, and as he ate, he smiled to himself.

‘Well, Mr. Ogre,’ said the doctor, sitting down beside him with a gasp of relief; ‘let a wave-worn mariner into your den, will you?’

Provided with an auditor, Judge Emery’s smile broke into an open laugh. He waved the platter toward the uproar in the next rooms: ‘A boiler factory ain’t in it with woman, lovely woman, is it?’ he put it to his friend.

‘Gracious powers! There’s nothing to laugh at in that exhibition!’ the doctor reproved him, with an acrimonious savagery. ‘I don’t know which makes me sicker; to stay in there and listen to them, or come out here and find you thinking they’re _funny_!’

They are funny!’ insisted the Judge tranquilly. ‘I stood by the door and listened to the scraps of talk I could catch, till I thought I should have a fit. I never heard anything funnier on the stage.’

‘Looky here, Nat,’ the doctor stared up at him angrily, ‘they’re not monkeys in a zoo, to be looked at only on holidays and then laughed at! They’re the other half of a whole that we’re half of, and don’t you forget it! Why in the world should you think it funny for them to do this tomfool trick all winter and have nervous prostration all summer to pay for it? You’d lock up a _man_ as a dangerous lunatic if he spent his life so. What they’re like, and what they do with their time and strength concerns us enough sight more than what the tariff is, let me tell you.’

‘I admit that what your wife is like concerns you a whole lot!’ The Judge laughed good-naturedly in the face of the little old bachelor. ‘Don’t commence jumping on the American woman so! I won’t stand it! She’s the noblest of her sex!’

‘Do you know why I am bald?’ said Dr. Melton, running his hand over his shining dome.

‘If I did, I wouldn’t admit it,’ the Judge put up a cautious guard, ‘because I foresee that whatever I say will be used as evidence against me.’

‘I’ve torn out all my hair in desperation at hearing such men as you claim to admire and respect and wish to advance the American woman. You don’t give enough thought to her–real thought–from one year’s end to another to know whether you think she has an immortal soul or not!’

Later Lydia’s husband insists that they give a dinner.

It was to be a large dinner–large, that is, for Endbury–of twenty covers, and Lydia had never prepared a table for so many guests. The number of objects necessary for the conventional setting of a dinner table appalled her. She was so tired, and her attention was so fixed on the complicated processes going on uncertainly in the kitchen, that her brain reeled over the vast quantity of knives and forks and plates and glasses needed to convey food to twenty mouths on a festal occasion. They persistently eluded her attempts to marshal them into order. She discovered that she had put forks for the soup–that in some inexplicable way at the plate destined for an important guest there was a large kitchen spoon of iron, a wild sort of whimsical humor rose in her from the ferment of utter fatigue and anxiety. When Paul came in, looking very grave, she told him with a wavering laugh, ‘If I tried as hard for ten minutes to go to Heaven as I’ve tried all day to have this dinner right, I’d certainly have a front seat in the angel choir. If anybody here to-night is not satisfied, it’ll be because he’s harder to please than St. Peter himself.’

During the evening:

Lydia seemed to herself to be in an endless bad dream. The exhausting efforts of the day had reduced her to a sort of coma of fatigue through which she felt but dully the successive stabs of the ill-served unsuccessful dinner. At times, the table, the guests, the room itself, wavered before her, and she clutched at her chair to keep her balance. She did not know that she was laughing and talking gaily and eating nothing. She was only conscious of an intense longing for the end of things, and darkness and quiet.

When it was all over and her husband was compelled to recognize that it had been a failure, his mental attitude is thus expressed:

He had determined to preserve at all costs the appearance of the indulgent, non-critical, over-patient husband that he intensely felt himself to be. No force, he thought grimly, shutting his jaws hard, should drag from him a word of his real sentiments. Fanned by the wind of this virtuous resolution, his sentiments grew hotter and hotter as he walked about, locking doors and windows, and reviewing bitterly the events of the evening. If he was to restrain himself from saying, he would at least allow himself the privilege of feeling all that was possible to a man deeply injured.

And that night Lydia felt for the “first time the quickening to life of her child. And during all that day, until then, she had forgotten that she was to know motherhood.” Can words more forcefully depict the _worry of the squirrel-cage_ than this–that an unnecessary dinner, given in unnecessary style, at unnecessary expense, to visitors to whom it was unnecessary should have driven from her thought, and doubtless seriously injured, the new life that she was so soon to give to the world?

Oh, men and women of divine descent and divine heritage, quit your squirrel-cage stage of existence. Is life to be one mere whirling around of the cage of useless toil or pleasure, of mere imagining that you are doing something? Work with an object. Know your object, that it is worthy the highest endeavor of a human being, and then pursue it with a divine enthusiasm that no obstacle can daunt, an ardor that no weariness can quench. Then it is you will begin to live. There is no life in _worry_. Worry is a waste of life. If you are a worrier, that is a proof you (in so far as you worry) do not appreciate the value of your own life, for a worthy object, a divine enthusiasm, a noble ardor are in themselves the best possible preventives against worry. They dignify life above worry. Worry is undignified, petty, paltry. Where you know you have something to do worth doing, you are conscious of the Divine Benediction, and who can worry when the smile of God rests upon him? This is a truism almost to triteness, and yet how few fully realize it. It is the unworthy potterers with life, the dabblers in life-stuff, those who blind themselves to their high estate, those who are unsure of their footing who worry. The true aristocrat is never worried about his position; the orator convinced of the truth of his message worries not as to how it will be received; the machinist sure of his plans hesitates not in the construction of his machinery; the architect assured of his accuracy pushes on his builders without hesitancy or question, fear, or alarm; the engineer knowing his engine and his destination has no heart quiver as he handles the lever. It is the doubter, the unsure, the aimless, the dabbler, the frivolous, the dilettante, the uncertain that worry. How nobly Browning set this forth in his Epilogue:

What had I on earth to do
With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly? Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless, did I drivel –Being–Who?
One who never turned his back but marched breast forward, Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph, Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better, Sleep to wake.
No, at noonday in the bustle of man’s worktime Greet the unseen with a cheer!
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be, ‘Strive and thrive!’ cry ‘Speed,–fight on, fare ever There as here!’

And this is not “mere poetry.” Or rather it is because it is “mere poetry” that it is _real life_. Browning had nearly seventy years of it. He knew. Where there are those to whom “God has whispered in the ear,” there is no uncertainty, no worry. The musician who knows his instrument, knows his music, knows his key, and knows his time to play never hesitates, never falters, never worries. With tone clear, pure, strong, and certain, he sends forth his melodies or harmonies into the air. Cannot you, in your daily life, be a true and sure musician? Cannot you be _certain_–absolutely, definitely certain–of your right to play the tune of life in the way you have it marked out before you, and then go ahead and play! Play, in God’s name, as God’s and man’s music-maker.



Misunderstandings, misconceptions, and ignorance in regard to what really is religion have caused countless millions to mourn–and worry; indeed, far more to worry than to mourn. Religion should be a joyous thing, the bringing of the son and daughter into close relationship with the Father. Instead, for centuries, it has been a battle for creeds, for mental assent to certain doctrines, rather than a growth in brotherhood and loving relationship, and those who could not see eye to eye with one another deemed it to be their duty to fight and worry each other–even to their death.

This is not the place for any theological discussion; nor is it my intent to present the claims of any church or creed. Each reader must do that for himself, and the less he worries over it, the better I think it will be for him. I have read and reread Cardinal Newman’s wonderful _Pro Apologia_–his statement as to why and how he entered the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church, and it has thrilled me with its pathos and evidence of deep spiritual endeavor. Charles Warren Stoddard’s _Troubled Heart and How It Found Rest_ is another similar story, though written by an entirely different type of man. Each of these books revealed the inner thought and life of men who were worried about religion, and by worry I mean anxious to the point of abnormality, disturbed, distressed unnecessarily. Yet I would not be misunderstood. Far be it from me, in this age of gross materialism and worship of physical power and wealth, to decry in the least a proper degree of solicitude for one’s personal salvation. The religious life of the individual–the real, deep, personal, hidden, unseen, inner life of a human soul–is a wonderfully delicate thing, to be touched by another only with the profoundest love and deepest wisdom. Hence I have little to say about one’s own inner struggles, except to affirm and reaffirm that wisdom, sanity, and religion itself are _all_ against worrying about it. Study religion, consider it, accept it, follow it, earnestly, seriously, and constantly, but do it in a rational manner, seeking the essentials, accepting them and then _resting_ in them to the full and utter exclusion of all worry.

But there is another class of religious worriers, viz., those who worry themselves about _your_ salvation. Again I would not be misunderstood, nor thought to decry a certain degree of solicitude about the spiritual welfare of those we love, but here again the caution and warning against worry more than ever holds good. Most of these worriers have found comfort, joy, and peace in a certain line of thought, which has commended itself to them as _Truth_–the one, full, complete, indivisible Truth, and it seems most natural for human nature to be eager that others should possess it. This is the secret of the zeal of the street Salvationist, whose flaming ardor is bent on reaching those who seldom, if ever, go to church. The burden of his cry is that you must flee from the wrath to come–hell–by accepting the vicarious atonement made by the “blood of Jesus.” In season and out of season, he urges that you “come under the blood.” His face is tense, his brow wrinkled, his eyes strained, his voice raucous, his whole demeanor full of worry over the salvation of others.

Another friend is a Seventh Day Adventist, who is full of zeal for the declaration of the “Third Angel’s Message,” for he believes that only by heeding it, keeping sacred the hours from sunset on Friday to Saturday sunset, in accordance with his reading of the fourth commandment, and also believing in the speedy second coming of Christ, can one’s soul’s salvation be attained.

The Baptist is assured that his mode of baptism–complete immersion–is the only one that satisfies the demands of heaven, and the more rigorous members of the sect refuse communion with those who have not obeyed, as they see the command. The members of the “Christian” Church–as the disciples of Alexander Campbell term themselves–while they assent that they are tied to no creed except the New Testament, demand immersion as a prerequisite to membership in their body. The Methodist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, and many others, are “evangelical” in their belief, as is a large portion of the Church of England, and its American offshoot, both of which are known as the Episcopal Church. Another portion, however, of this church is known as “ritualistic,” and the two branches in England recently became so involved in a heated discussion as to the propriety of certain of their bishops partaking in official deliberations with ministers of the other, but outside, evangelistic churches, that for a time it seemed as if the whole Episcopal Church would be disrupted by the fierceness and anger gendered in the differences of opinion.

To my own mind, all this worry was much ado about nothing. Each man’s brain and conscience must guide him in matters of this kind, and the worry, fret, stew, evolved out of the matter, seem to me a proof that real religion had little to do with it.

Recently one good brother came to me with tears in his voice, if not in his eyes, worried seriously as to my own religious belief because I had asserted in a public address that I believed the earnest prayer of a good Indian woman reached the ear of God as surely as did my own prayers, or those of any man, woman, minister, or priest living. To him the only effective prayers were “evangelical” prayers–whatever that may mean–and he was deeply distressed and fearfully worried because I could not see eye to eye with him in this matter. And a dear, good woman, who heard a subsequent discussion of the subject, was so worried over my attitude that she felt impelled to assure me when I left that “she would pray for me.”

I have friends who are zealous Roman Catholics, and a number of them are praying that I may soon enter the folds of “Mother Church,” and yet my Unitarian and Universalist friends wonder why I retain my membership in any “orthodox” church. On the other hand, my New Thought friends declare that I belong to them by the spirit of the messages I have given to the world. Then, too, my Theosophist friends–and I have many–present to me, with a force I do not attempt to controvert, the doctrine of the Universal Brotherhood of Mankind, and urge upon me acceptance of the comforting and helpful doctrine, to them, of Reincarnation.

Not long prior to this writing a good earnest man buttonholed me and held me tight for over an hour, while he outlined his own slight divergencies from the teachings of the Methodist Church, to which he belongs, and his interpretation of the symbolism of Scripture, none of which had the slightest interest to me. In our conversation, he expressed himself as quite willing–please note the condescension–to allow me the privilege of supposing the Catholic was honest and sincere in his faith and belief, _but he really could not for one moment_ allow the same to the Christian Scientist, who, from his standpoint, denied the atonement and the Divinity of Christ. I suppose if he ever picks up this booklet and reads what I am now going to write, he will regard me as a reprobate and lost beyond the possibility of salvation. Nevertheless, I wish to put on record that I regard his attitude as one of intolerance, bigotry, fanaticism, and impudence–sheer, unadulterated impertinence. Who made him the judge of the thoughts and acts of other men’s inner lives? Who gave to him the wisdom and power of discernment to know that _he_ was right and these others wrong? Poor, arrogant fool. His worries were not the result of genuine affection and deep human sympathy, the irrepressible and uncontrollable desires and longings of his heart to bring others into the full light of God’s love, but of his overweening self-confidence in his own wisdom and judgment. And I say this in no personal condemnation of him, for I have now even forgotten who it was, but in condemnation of the spirit in which he and all his ilk ever act.

Hence, my dear reader, if you are of his class, I say to you earnestly: Don’t worry about other people’s salvation. It may be they are nearer saved than you are. No man can’ be “worried” into accepting anything, even though _you_ may deem it the only Truth. I have known men whom others regarded as agnostics who had given more study to the question of personal religion than any ten of their critics. I can recall three–all of whom were men of wonderful mentality and great earnestness of purpose. John Burroughs’s first essays were written for his own soul’s welfare–the results of his long-continued mental struggles for light upon the subject. Major J.W. Powell, the organizer and director for many years of the United States Geological Survey and Bureau of American Ethnology, was brought up by a father and mother whose intense longing was that their son should be a Methodist preacher. The growing youth wished to please his parents, but was also compelled to satisfy his own conscience. The more he studied the creeds and doctrines of Methodism, the less he felt he could accept them, and much to the regret of his parents, he refused to enter the ministry. Yet, in relating the story to me, he asserted that his whole life had been one long agony of earnest study to find the highest truth. Taking me into his library, where there were several extended shelves filled from end to end with the ponderous tomes of the two great government bureaus that he controlled, he said: “Most people regard this as my life-work, and outwardly it is. Yet I say to you in all sincerity that the real, inner, secret force working through all this, has been that I might satisfy my own soul on the subject of religion.” Then, picking up two small volumes, he said: “In these two books I have recorded the results of my years of agonizing struggle. I don’t suppose ten men have ever read them through, or, perhaps, ever will, but these are the real story of the chief work of my inner life.”

I am one of the few men who have read both these books with scrupulous care, and yet were it not for what my friend told me of their profound significance to him, I should scarcely have been interested enough in their contents to read them through. At the same time, I _know_ that the men who, from the standpoint of their professionally religious complacency would have condemned Major Powell, never spent one-thousandth part the time, nor felt one ten-thousandth the real solicitude that he did about seeking “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Another friend in Chicago was Dr. M.H. Lackersteen, openly denounced as an agnostic, and even as an infidel, by some zealous sectaries. Yet Dr. Lackersteen had personally translated the whole of the Greek Testament, and several other sacred books of the Hebrews and Hindoos, in his intense desire to satisfy the demands of his own soul for the Truth. He was the soul of honor, the very personification of sincerity, and as much above some of his critics–whom I well knew–in these virtues, as they were above the scum of the slums.

The longer I live and study men the more I am compelled to believe that religion is a personal matter between oneself and God and is more of the spirit than most people have yet conceived. It is well known to those who have read my books and heard my lectures on the Old Franciscan Missions of California, that I revere the memory of Padres Junipero Serra, Palou, Crespi, Catala, Peyri, and others of the founders of these missions. I have equal veneration for the goodness of many Catholic priests, nuns, and laymen of to-day. Yet I am not a Catholic, though zealous sectaries of Protestantism–even of the church to which I am supposed to belong–sometimes fiercely assail me for my open commendation of these men of that faith. They are _worried_ lest I lean too closely towards Catholicism, and ultimately become one of that fold. Others, who hear my good words in favor of what appeals to me as noble and uplifting in the lives of those of other faiths of which they do not approve, worry over and condemn my “breadth” of belief. Indeed, I have many friends who give themselves an immense lot of altogether unnecessary worry about this matter. They have labelled themselves according to some denominational tag, and accept some form of belief that, to them, seems incontrovertible and satisfactory. Many of them are praying for me, and each that I may see the TRUTH from _his_ standpoint. For their prayers I am grateful. I cannot afford to lose the spirit of love behind and in every one of them. But for the _worry_ about me in their minds, I have neither respect, regard, toleration, nor sympathy. I don’t want it, can do without it, and I resent its being there. To each and all of them I say firmly: _Quit Your Worrying_ about my religion, or want of it. I am in the hands of the same loving God that you are. I have the promise of God’s Guiding Spirit as much as you have. I have listened respectfully and with an earnest and sincere desire to see and know the Truth, to all you have said, and now I want to be left alone. I have come to exclaim with Browning in _Rabbi Ben Ezra_:

Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive; Ten, who in ears and eyes
Match me. We all surmise,
They this thing, and I that: whom shall my soul believe?

For myself I have concluded that no one shall choose my religion for me, and all the worrying in the world shall not change my attitude.

And it is to the worrying of my friends that they owe this state of mind. For this reason, I found myself one day counting up the number of people of different beliefs who had solemnly promised to pray for me. There were Methodists, Campbellites, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Seventh Day Adventists, Presbyterians, Nazarenes, Holy Rollers, and others. Then the query arose: Whose prayers will be answered on my behalf? Each is sure that _his_ are the ones that can be effective; yet their prayers differ; they are, to some degree, antagonistic, and insofar as they petition that I become one of their particular fold, they nullify each other, as it is utterly impossible that I accept the specific form of faith of each. The consequent result in my own mind is that as I cannot possibly become what all these good people desire I should be, as their desires and prayers for me controvert each other, I must respectfully decline to be bound by any one of them. I _must_ and _will_ do my own choosing. Hence all the worry on my behalf is energy, strength, and effort wasted.

Let me repeat, then, to the worrier about the salvation of others: You are in a poor business. _Quit Your Worrying_. Hands off! This is none of your concern. Believe as little or as much and what you will for your own soul’s salvation, but do not put forth _your_ conceptions as the _only_ conceptions possible of Divine Truth before another soul who may have an immeasurably larger vision than you have. Oh, the pitiableness of man’s colossal conceit, the arrogance of his ignorance. As if the God of the Universe were so small that one paltry, finite man could contain in his pint measure of a mind all the ocean of His power, knowledge, and love. Let your small and wretched worries go. Have a little larger faith in the Love of the Infinite One. Tenderly love and trust those whose welfare you seek, and trust God at the same time, but don’t worry when you see the dear ones walking in a path you have not chosen for them. Remember your own ignorance, your own frailties, your own errors, your own mistakes, and then frankly and honestly, fearlessly and directly ask yourself the question if you dare to take upon your own ignorant self the responsibility of seeking to control and guide another living soul as to his eternal life.

Brother, Sister, the job is too big for you. It takes God to do that, and you are not yet even a perfect human being. Hence, while I long for all spiritual good for my sons and daughters, and for my friends, and I pray for them, it is in a large way, without any interjection of my own decisions and conclusions as to what will be good for them. I have no fears as I leave them thus in God’s hand, and regard every worry as sinful on my part, and injurious to them. I have no desire that they should accept my particular brand of faith or belief. While I believe absolutely in that which I accept for the guidance of my own life, _I would not fetter their souls with my belief if I could_. They are in wiser, better, larger, more loving Hands than mine. And if I would not thus fetter my children and friends, I dare not seek to fetter others. My business is to live my own religion to the utmost. If I must worry, I will worry about that, though, as I think my readers are well aware by now, I do not believe in any kind of worry on any subject whatever.

Hence, let me again affirm in concluding this chapter, I regard worry about the religion of others as unwarrantable on account of our own ignorances as to their peculiar needs, as well as of God’s methods of supplying those needs. It is also a useless expenditure of strength, energy, and affection, for, if God leads, your worry cannot possibly affect the one so led. It is also generally an irritant to the one worried over. Even though he may not formulate it into words he feels that it is an interference with his own inner life, a nagging that he resents, and, therefore, it does him far more harm than good; and, finally, it is an altogether indefensible attempt to saddle upon another soul your own faith or belief, which may be altogether unsuitable or inadequate to the needs of that soul.

There is still one other form of worry connected with the subject of religion. Many a good man and woman worries over the apparent well-being and success of those whom he, she, accounts wicked! They are seen to flourish as a green bay tree, or as a well-watered garden, and this seems to be unfair, unjust, and unwise on the part of the powers that govern the universe. If good is desirable, people ought to be encouraged to it by material success–so reason these officially good wiseacres, who subconsciously wish to dictate to God how He should run His world.

How often we hear the question: “Why is it the wicked prosper so?” or “He’s such a bad man and yet everything he does prospers.” Holy Writ is very clear on this subject. The sacred writer evidently was well posted on the tendency of human nature to worry and concern itself about the affairs of others, hence his injunction:

Fret not thyself because of evil doers.

In other words, it’s none of your business. And I am inclined to believe that a careful study of the Bible would reveal to every busybody who worries over the affairs of others that he himself has enough to do to attend to himself, and that his worry anyhow is a ridiculous, absurd, and senseless piece of supererogation, and rather a proof of human conceit and vanity than of true concern for the spiritual good of others.