QUIT YOUR WORRYING!
GEORGE WHARTON JAMES
"Living the Radiant Life," "What the White Race may learn from
the Indian," "The story of Scraggles," "California, Romantic and
Beautiful," "Our American Wonderlands," etc. etc.
who are standing on the banks of worry before the ocean of God's love
I cry aloud
"COME ON IN—THE WATER'S FINE!"
I THE CURSE OF WORRY
II OURS IS THE AGE OF WORRY
III NERVOUS PROSTRATION AND WORRY
IV HOLY WRIT, THE SAGES AND WORRY
V THE NEEDLESSNESS AND USELESSNESS OF WORRY
VI THE SELFISHNESS OF WORRY
VII CAUSES OF WORRY
VIII PROTEAN FORMS OF WORRY
IX HEALTH WORRIES
X THE WORRIES OF PARENTS
XI MARITAL WORRIES
XII THE WORRY OF THE SQUIRREL CAGE
XIII RELIGIOUS WORRIES AND WORRIERS
XIV AMBITION AND WORRY
XV ENVY AND WORRY
XVI DISCONTENT AND WORRY
XVII COWARDICE AND WORRY
XVIII WORRY ABOUT MANNERS AND SPEECH
XIX THE WORRIES OF JEALOUSY
XX THE WORRIES OF SUSPICION
XXI THE WORRIES OF IMPATIENCE
XXII THE WORRIES OF ANTICIPATION
XXIII HOW OUR WORRY AFFECTS OTHERS
XXIV WORRY VERSUS INDIFFERENCE
XXV WORRIES AND HOBBIES
JUST BE GLAD
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
O heart of mine, we shouldn't worry so,
What we have missed of calm we couldn't have, you know!
What we've met of stormy pain,
And of sorrow's driving rain,
We can better meet again,
If it blow.
We have erred in that dark hour, we have known,
When the tear fell with the shower, all alone.
Were not shine and shower blent
As the gracious Master meant?
Let us temper our content
With His own.
For we know not every morrow
Can be sad;
So forgetting all the sorrow
We have had,
Let us fold away our fears,
And put by our foolish tears,
And through all the coming years,
Just be glad.
Between twenty and thirty years ago, I became involved in a series of
occurrences and conditions of so painful and distressing a character
that for over six months I was unable to sleep more than one or two
hours out of the twenty-four. In common parlance I was "worrying
myself to death," when, mercifully, a total collapse of mind and body
came. My physicians used the polite euphemism of "cerebral congestion"
to describe my state which, in reality, was one of temporary insanity,
and it seemed almost hopeless that I should ever recover my health
and poise. For several months I hovered between life and death, and my
brain between reason and unreason.
In due time, however, both health and mental poise came back in
reasonable measure, and I asked myself what would be the result if I
returned to the condition of worry that culminated in the disaster.
This question and my endeavors at its solution led to the gaining of a
degree of philosophy which materially changed my attitude toward life.
Though some of the chief causes of my past worry were removed there
were still enough adverse and untoward circumstances surrounding me
to give me cause for worry, if I allowed myself to yield to it, so I
concluded that my mind must positively and absolutely be prohibited
from dwelling upon those things that seemed justification for worry.
And I determined to set before me the ideal of a life without worry.
How was it to be brought about?
At every fresh attack of the harassing demon I rebuked myself with the
stern command, "Quit your Worrying." Little by little I succeeded
in obeying my own orders. A measurable degree of serenity has since
blessed my life. It has been no freer than other men's lives from the
ordinary—and a few extraordinary—causes of worry, but I have learned
the lesson. I have Quit Worrying. To help others to attain the same
desirable and happy condition has been my aim in these pages.
It was with set purpose that I chose this title. I might have selected
"Don't Worry." But I knew that would fail to convey my principal
thought to the casual observer of the title. People will worry, they
do worry. What they want to know and need to learn is how to
quit worrying. This I have attempted herein to show, with the full
knowledge, however, that no one person's recipe can infallibly be used
by any other person—so that, in reality, all I have tried to do is
to set forth the means I have followed to teach myself the delightful
lesson of serenity, of freedom from worry, and thereby to suggest
to receptive minds a way by which they may possibly attain the same
It was the learned and wise Dr. Johnson who wrote:
He may be justly numbered amongst the benefactors of mankind,
who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences,
that may easily be impressed on the memory, and taught by
frequent recollection to recur habitually to the mind.
I have no desire to claim as original the title used for these
observations, but I do covet the joy of knowing that I have so
impressed it upon the memory of thousands that by its constant
recurrence it will aid in banishing the monster, worry.
It is almost unavoidable that, in a practical treatise of this nature,
there should be some repetition, both in description of worries and
the remedies suggested. To the critical reader, however, let me say:
Do not worry about this, for I am far more concerned to get my thought
into the heads and hearts of my readers than I am to be esteemed a
great writer. Let me help but one troubled soul to quit worrying and I
will forego all the honors of the ages that might have come to me had
I been an essayist of power. And I have repeated purposely, for I
know that some thoughts have to knock again and again, ere they are
admitted to the places where they are the most needed.
I have written strongly; perhaps some will think too strongly. These,
however, must remember that I have written advisedly. I have been
considering the subject for half or three parts of a life-time. I
have studied men and women; carefully watched their lives; talked with
them, and seen the lines worry has engraved on their faces. I have
seen and felt the misery caused by their unnecessary worries. I have
sat by the bedsides of people made chronic invalids by worry, and I
have stood in the cells of maniacs driven insane by worry. Hence I
hate it in all its forms, and have expressed myself only as the facts
Wherein I have sought to show how one might Quit his Worrying, these
pages presuppose an earnest desire, a sincere purpose, on the part
of the reader to attain that desirable end. There is no universal
medicine which one can drink in six doses and thus be cured of his
disease. I do not offer my book as a mental cure-all, or nostrum that,
if swallowed whole, will cure in five days or ten. As I have tried
to show, I conceive worry to be unnatural and totally unnecessary,
because of its practical denial of what ought to be, and I believe may
be, the fundamental basis of a man's life, viz., his perfect, abiding
assurance in the fatherly love of God. As little Pippa sang:
God's in his heaven,
All's right with the world.
The only way, therefore, to lose our sense of worry is to get back to
naturalness, to God, and learn the peace, joy, happiness, serenity,
that come with practical trust in Him. With some people this change
may come instantly; with others, more slowly. Personally I have had
to learn slowly, "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little,
there a little." And I would caution my readers not to expect too
much all at once. But I am fully convinced that as faith, trust, and
naturalness grow, worry will cease, will slough off, like the dead
skin of the serpent, and leave those once bound by it free from its
malign influence. Who cannot see and feel that such a consummation is
devoutly to be wished, worth working and earnestly striving for?
If I help a few I shall be more than repaid, if many, my heart will
[Signed: George Wharton James]
Pasadena, Calif. February, 1916.
QUIT YOUR WORRYING!
THE CURSE OF WORRY
Of how many persons can it truthfully be said they never worry, they
are perfectly happy, contented, serene? It would be interesting if
each of my readers were to recall his acquaintances and friends, think
over their condition in this regard, and then report to me the result.
What a budget of worried persons I should have to catalogue, and alas,
I am afraid, how few of the serene would there be named. When John
Burroughs wrote his immortal poem, Waiting, he struck a deeper note
than he dreamed of, and the reason it made so tremendous an impression
upon the English-speaking world was that it was a new note to them. It
opened up a vision they had not before contemplated. Let me quote it
here in full:
Serene I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, or tide or sea;
I rave no more 'gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.
I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.
Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me,
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.
What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it has sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.
The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height,
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.
The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high
Can keep my own away from me.
I have been wonderfully struck by the fact that in studying the
Upanishads, and other sacred books of the East, there is practically
no reference to the kind of worry that is the bane and curse of our
Occidental world. In conversation with the learned men of the Orient
I find this same delightful fact. Indeed they have no word in their
languages to express our idea of fretful worry. Worry is a purely
Western product, the outgrowth of our materialism, our eager striving
after place and position, power and wealth, our determination to be
housed, clothed, and jeweled as well as our neighbors, and a little
better if possible; in fact, it comes from our failure to know that
life is spiritual not material; that all these outward things are the
mere "passing show," the tinsel, the gawds, the tissue-paper, the blue
and red lights of the theater, the painted scenery, the mock heroes
and heroines of the stage, rather than the real settings of the real
life of real men and women. What does the inventor, who knows that his
invention will help his fellows, care about the newest dance, or the
latest style in ties, gloves or shoes; what does the woman whose heart
and brain are completely engaged in relieving suffering care if she is
not familiar with the latest novel, or the latest fashions in flounced
pantalettes? Life is real, life is earnest, and this does not mean
unduly solemn and somber, but that it deals with the real things
rather than the paper-flower shows of the stage and the imaginary
things of so-called society.
It is the fashion of our active, aggressive, material, Occidental
civilization to sneer and scoff at the quiet, passive, and less
material civilization of the Orient. We despise—that is, the
unthinking majority do—the studious, contemplative Oriental. We
believe in being "up and doing." But in this one particular of worry
we have much to learn from the Oriental. If happiness and a large
content be a laudable aim of life how far are we—the occidental
world—succeeding in attaining it? Few there be who are content, and,
as I have already suggested few there be who are free from worry. On
the other hand while active happiness may be somewhat scarce in
India, a large content is not uncommon, and worry, as we Westerners
understand it, is almost unknown. Hence we need to find the happy mean
between the material activity of our own civilization, and the mental
passivity of that of the Orientals. Therein will be found the calm
serenity of an active mind, the reasonable acceptance of things as
they are because we know they are good, the restfulness that comes
from the assurance that "all things work together for Good to them
that love God."
That worry is a curse no intelligent observer of life will deny. It
has hindered millions from progressing, and never benefited a soul. It
occupies the mind with that which is injurious and thus keeps out
the things that might benefit and bless. It is an active and real
manifestation of the fable of the man who placed the frozen asp in his
bosom. As he warmed it back to life the reptile turned and fatally bit
his benefactor. Worry is as a dangerous, injurious book, the reading
of which not only takes up the time that might have been spent in
reading a good, instructive, and helpful book, but, at the same time,
poisons the mind of the reader, corrupts his soul with evil images,
and sets his feet on the pathway to destruction.
Why is it that creatures endowed with reason distress themselves and
everyone around them by worrying? It might seem reasonable for the
wild creatures of the wood—animals without reason—to worry as to how
they should secure their food, and live safely with wilder animals
and men seeking their blood and hunting them; but that men and women,
endued with the power of thought, capable of seeing the why and
wherefore of things, should worry, is one of the strange and peculiar
evidences that our so-called civilization is not all that it ought to
be. The wild Indian of the desert, forest, or canyon seldom, if ever,
worries. He is too great a natural philosopher to be engaged in so
foolish and unnecessary a business. He has a better practical system
of life than has his white and civilized (!) brother who worries, for
he says: Change what can be changed; bear the unchangeable without
a murmur. With this philosophy he braves the wind and the rain, the
sand, and the storm, the extremes of heat and cold, the plethora of a
good harvest or the famine of a drought. If he complains it is within
himself; and if he whines and whimpers no one ever hears him. His
face may become a little more stern under the higher pressure; he may
tighten his waist belt a hole or two to stifle the complaints of his
empty stomach, but his voice loses no note of its cheeriness and his
smile none of its sweet serenity.
Why should the rude and brutal (!) savage be thus, while the cultured,
educated, refined man and woman of civilization worry wrinkles into
their faces, gray hairs upon their heads, querelousness into their
voices and bitterness into their hearts?
When we use the word "worry" what do we mean? The word comes from the
old Saxon, and was in imitation of the sound caused by the choking or
strangling of an animal when seized by the throat by another animal.
We still refer to the "worrying" of sheep by dogs—the seizing by the
throat with the teeth; killing or badly injuring by repeated biting,
shaking, tearing, etc. From this original meaning the word has
enlarged until now it means to tease, to trouble, to harass with
importunity or with care or anxiety. In other words it is undue
care, needless anxiety, unnecessary brooding, fretting thought.
What a wonderful picture the original source of the word suggests of
the latter-day meaning. Worry takes our manhood, womanhood, our high
ambitions, our laudable endeavors, our daily lives, by the throat,
and strangles, chokes, bites, tears, shakes them, hanging on like a
wolf, a weasel, or a bull-dog, sucking out our life-blood, draining
our energies, our hopes, our aims, our noble desires, and leaving us
torn, empty, shaken, useless, bloodless, hopeless, and despairing. It
is the nightmare of life that rides us to discomfort, wretchedness,
despair, and to that death-in-life that is no life at all. It is the
vampire that sucks out the good of us and leaves us like the rind of
a squeezed-out orange; it is the cooking-process that extracts and
wastes all the nutritious juices of the meat and leaves nothing but
the useless and tasteless fibre.
Worry is a worse thief than the burglar or highwayman. It goes beyond
the train-wrecker or the vile wretch who used to lure sailing vessels
upon a treacherous shore, in its relentless heartlessness. Once it
begins to control it never releases its hold unless its victim wakes
up to the sure ruin that awaits him and frees himself from its bondage
by making a great, continuous, and successful fight.
It steals the joy of married life, of fatherhood and motherhood; it
destroys social life, club life, business life, and religious life.
It robs a man of friendships and makes his days long, gloomy periods,
instead of rapidly-passing epochs of joy and happiness. It throws
around its victim a chilling atmosphere as does the iceberg, or
the snow bank; it exhales the mists and fogs of wretchedness and
misunderstanding; it chills family happiness, checks friendly
intercourse, and renders the business occupations of life curses
instead of blessings.
Worry manifests itself in a variety of ways. It is protean in its
versatility. It can be physical or mental. The hypochondriac conceives
that everything is going to the "demnition bow-wows." Nothing can
reassure him. He sees in every article of diet a hidden fiend of
dyspepsia; in every drink a demon of torture. Every man he meets is a
scoundrel, and every woman a leech. Children are growing worse
daily, and society is "rotten." The Church is organized for the mere
fattening of a raft of preachers and parsons who preach what they
don't believe and never try to practice. Lawyers and judges are all
dishonest swindlers caring nothing for honor and justice and seeking
only their fees; physicians and surgeons are pitiless wretches who
scare their patients in order to extort money from them; men in office
are waiting, lurking, hunting for chances to graft, eager to steal
from their constituents at every opportunity. He expects every thing,
every animal, every man, every woman to get the best of him—and, as a
rule, he is not disappointed. For we can nearly always be accommodated
in life and get that for which we look.
We are told that all these imaginary ills come from physical causes.
The hypochondrium is supposed to be affected, and as it is located
under the "short ribs," the hypochondriac continuously suffers from
that awful "sinking at the pit of the stomach" that makes him feel
as if the bottom had dropped out of life itself. He can neither eat,
digest his food, walk, sit, rest, work, take pleasure, exercise, or
sleep. His body is the victim of innumerable ills. His tongue, his
lips, his mouth are dry and parched, his throat full of slime and
phlegm, his stomach painful, his bowels full of gas, and he regards
himself as cursed of God—a walking receptacle of woe. To physician,
wife, husband, children, employer, employee, pastor, and friend alike
the hypochondriac is a pest, a nuisance, a chill and almost a curse,
and, poor creature, these facts do not take away or lessen our
sympathy for him, for, though most of his ills are imaginary, he
suffers more than do those who come in contact with him.
Then there is the neurasthenic—the mentally collapsed whose collapse
invariably comes from too great tension or worry. I know several
housewives who became neurasthenic by too great anxiety to keep their
houses spotless. Not a speck of dust must be anywhere. The slightest
appearance of inattention or carelessness in this matter was a great
source of worry, and they worried lest the maid fail to do her duty.
I know another housewife who is so dainty and refined that, though her
husband's income is strained almost to the breaking point, she must
have everything in the house so dainty and fragile that no ordinary
servant can be trusted to care for the furniture, wash the dishes,
polish the floors, etc., and the result is she is almost a confirmed
neurasthenic because, in the first place, she worries over her
dainty things, and, secondly, exhausts herself in caring for these
unnecessarily fragile household equipments.
Every neurasthenic is a confirmed worrier. He ever sits on the "stool
of repentance," clothing himself in sackcloth and ashes for what he
has done or not done. He cries aloud—by his acts—every five minutes
or so: "We have done those things which we ought not to have done and
have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and there
is no health in us." Everything past is regretted, everything present
is in doubt, and nothing but anxieties and uncertainties meet
the future. If he holds a position of responsibility he asks his
subordinates or associates to perform certain services and then
"worries himself to death," watching to see that they "do it right,"
or afraid lest they forget to do it at all. He wakes up from a sound
sleep in dread lest he forgot to lock the door, turn out the electric
light in the hall, or put out the gas. He becomes the victim of
uncertainty and indecision. He fears lest he decide wrongly, he
worries that he hasn't yet decided, and yet having thoroughly argued a
matter out and come to a reasonable conclusion, allows his worries to
unsettle him and is forever questioning his decision and going back to
revise and rerevise it. Whatever he does or doesn't do he regrets and
wishes he had done the converse.
Husbands are worried about their wives; wives about their husbands;
parents about their children; children about their parents. Farmers
are worried over their crops; speculators over their gamblings;
investors over their investments. Teachers are worried over their
pupils, and pupils over their lessons, their grades, and their
promotions. Statesmen (!) are worried over their constituents, and the
latter are generally worried by their representatives. People who have
schemes to further—legitimate or otherwise—are worried when they
are retarded, and competitors are worried if they are not. Pastors are
worried over their congregations,—occasionally about their salaries,
very often about their large families, and now and again about their
fitness for their holy office,—and there are few congregations that,
at one time or another, are not worried by, as well as about,
their pastors. The miner is worried when he sees his ledge "petering
out," or finds the ore failing to assay its usual value. The editor
is worried lest his reporters fail to bring in the news, and often
worried when it is brought in to know whether it is accurate or
not. The chemist worries over his experiments, and the inventor that
certain things needful will persist in eluding him. The man who has
to rent a house, worries when rent day approaches; and many who own
houses worry at the same time. Some owners, indeed, worry because
there is no rent day, they have no tenants, their houses are idle.
Others worry because their tenants are not to their liking, are
destructive, careless, or neglect the flowers and the lawn, or allow
the children to batter the furniture, walk in hob nails over the
hardwood floors, or scratch the paint off the walls. Men in high
position worry lest their superiors are not as fully appreciative
of their efforts as they should be, and they in turn worry their
subordinates lest they forget that they are subordinate.
Mistresses worry about their maids, and maids about their mistresses.
Some of the former worry because they have to go into their
kitchens, others because they are not allowed to go. Some mistresses
deliberately worry their servants, and others are worried because
their servants insist upon doing the worrying. Many a wife is worried
because of her husband's typewriter, and many a typewriter is worried
because her employer has a wife. Some typewriters are worried because
they are not made into wives, and many a one who is a wife wishes she
were free again to become a typewriter.
Thousands of girls—many of them who ought yet to be wearing
short dresses and playing with dolls—worry because they have no
sweethearts, and equal thousands worry because they do have them.
Many a lad worries because he has no "lassie," and many a one worries
because he has. Yesterday I rode on a street car and saw a bit of
by-play that fully illustrated this. On these particular cars there
is a seat for two alongside the front by the motorman. On this car,
chatting merrily with the handler of the lever, sat a black-eyed,
pretty-faced Latin type of brunette. That he was happy was evidenced
by his good-natured laugh and the huge smile that covered his face
from ear to ear as he responded to her sallies. Just then a young
Italian came on the car, directly to the front, and seemed nettled to
see the young lady talking so freely with the motorman. He saluted her
with a frown upon his face, but evidently with familiarity. The change
in the girl's demeanor was instantaneous. Evidently she did not wish
to offend the newcomer, nor did she wish to break with the motorman.
All were ill at ease, distraught, vexed, worried. She tried to bring
the newcomer into the conversation, which he refused. The motorman
eyed him with hostility now and again, as he dared to neglect his
duty, but smiled uneasily in the face of the girl when she addressed
him with an attempt at freedom.
Bye and bye the youth took the empty seat by the side of the girl,
and endeavored to draw her into conversation to the exclusion of the
motorman. She responded, twisting her body and face towards him,
so that her sweet and ingratiating smiles could not be seen by the
motorman. Then, she reversed the process and gave a few fleeting
smiles to the grim-looking motorman. It was as clear a case of
How happy could I be with either,
Were t'other dear charmer away,
as one could well see.
Just then the car came to a transfer point. The girl had a transfer
and left, smiling sweetly, but separately, in turn, to the motorman
and her young Italian friend. The latter watched her go. Then a new
look came over his face, which I wondered at. It was soon explained.
The transfer point was also a division point for this car. The
motorman and conductor were changed, and the moment the new crew came,
our motorman jumped from his own car, ran to the one the brunette had
taken, and swung himself on, as it crossed at right angles over
the track we were to take. Rising to his feet the youth watched the
passing car, with keenest interest until it was out of sight, clearly
revealing the jealousy, worry, and unrest he felt.
In another chapter I have dealt more fully with the subject of
the worries of jealousy. They are demons of unrest and distress,
destroying the very vitals with their incessant gnawing.
Too great emphasis cannot be placed upon the physical ills that come
from worry. The body unconsciously reflects our mental states. A
fretful and worrying mother should never be allowed to suckle her
child, for she directly injures it by the poison secreted in her milk
by the disturbances caused in her body by the worry of her mind.
Among the many wonderfully good things said in his lifetime Henry Ward
Beecher never said a wiser and truer thing than that "it is not the
revolution which destroys the machinery, but the friction." Worry is
the friction that shatters the machine. Work, to the healthy body and
serene mind, is a joy, a blessing, a health-giving exercise, but to
the worried is a burden, a curse and a destroyer.
Go where you will, when you will, how you will, and you will find most
people worrying to a greater or lesser extent. Indeed so full has our
Western world become of worry that a harsh and complaining note is far
more prevalent than we are willing to believe, which is expressed in
a rude motto to be found hung on many an office, bedroom, library,
study, and laboratory wall which reads:
Life is one Damn
Thing after Another
[Note: this is outlined in a block.]
Those gifted with a sense of humor laugh at the motto; the very
serious frown at it and reprobate its apparent profanity, those who
see no humor in anything regard it with gloom, the careless with
assumed indifference, but in the minds of all, more or less latent or
subconscious, there is a recognition that there is "an awful lot of
truth in it."
Hence it will be seen that worry is by no means confined to the poor.
The well-to-do, the prosperous, and the rich, indeed, have far more to
worry about than the poor, and for one victim who suffers keenly from
worry among the poor, ten can be found among the rich who are its
It is worry that paints the lines of care on foreheads and cheeks that
should be smooth and beautiful; worry bows the shoulders, brings out
scowls and frowns where smiles and sweet greetings should exist. Worry
is the twister, the dwarfer, the poisoner, the murderer of joy, of
peace, of work, of happiness; the strangler, the burglar of life; the
phantom, the vampire, the ghost that scares, terrifies, fills with
dread. Yet he is a liar and a scoundrel, a villain and a coward, who
will turn and flee if fearlessly and courageously met and defied.
Instead of pampering and petting him, humoring and conciliating him,
meet him on his own ground. Defy him to do his worst. Flaunt him,
laugh at his threats, sneer and scoff at his pretensions, bid him do
his worst. Better be dead than under the dominion of such a tyrant.
And, my word for it, as soon as you take that attitude, he will flee
from you, nay, he will disappear as the mists fade away in the heat of
the noonday sum.
Worry, however, is not only an effect. It is also a cause. Worry
causes worry. It breeds more rapidly than do flies. The more one
worries the more he learns to worry. Begin to worry over one thing
and soon you are worrying about twenty. And the infernal curse is not
content with breeding worries of its own kind. It is as if it were a
parent gifted with the power of breeding a score, a hundred different
kinds of progeny at one birth, each more hideous, repulsive, and
fearful than the other. There is no palliation, temporization, or
parleying possible with such a monster. Death is the only way to be
released from him, and it is your death or his. His death is a duty
God requires at your hands. Why, then, waste time? Start now and kill
the foul fiend as quickly as you can.
OURS IS THE AGE OF WORRY
How insulting! What a ridiculous statement! How ignorant of our
achievements! I can well imagine some of my readers saying when they
see this chapter heading. This, an age of worry! Why this is the age
of progress, of advancement, of uplift, of the onward march of a great
and wonderful civilization.
Certainly it is! See what we have done in electricity, look at the
telephone, telegraph, wireless and now the wireless telephone. See
our advancement in mechanics,—the automobile, the new locomotives,
vessels, etc. See our conquest of the air—dirigibles, aeroplanes,
hydroplanes and the like.
Yes! I see, and what of it? We have done, our advancement,
our conquest, etc., etc. Yes! I see we have not lessened our
arrogance, our empty-headed pride, our boasting. We—Why "we"?
What have you and I had to do with the new inventions in electricity
or mechanics or the conquest of the air?
Not one single, solitary thing! The progress of the world has
been made through the efforts of a few solitary, exceptional, rare
individuals, not by the combined efforts of us all. You and I are
as common, unprogressive, uninventive, indifferent mediocrities as
we—the common people—always were. We have not contributed one iota
to all this progress, and I often question whether mud; of it comes
to us more fraught with good than evil. We claim the results without
engaging in the work. We use the 'phone and worry because Central
doesn't get us our connections immediately, when we haven't the
faintest conception of how the connection is gained, or why we are
delayed. We ride on the fast train, but chafe and worry ourselves and
everybody about us to a frazzle because we are stopped on a siding by
a semaphore of a block station which we never have observed, and would
not understand if we did. We reap but have not sowed, gather but have
not strewed, and that is ever injurious and never beneficial. Our
conceit is flattered and enlarged, our importance magnified, our
"dignity"—God save the mark!—made more impressive, and as a result,
we are more the target for the inconsequential worries of life. We
worry if we are not flattered, if our importance is not recognized
even by strangers, and our dignity not honored—in other words we
worry that we are not kow-towed to, deferred to, respectfully
greeted on every hand and made to feel that civilization, progress
and advancement are materially furthered and enhanced by our mere
Every individual with such an outlook on life is a prolific
distributer of worry germs; he, she, is a pest and a nuisance,
more disturbing to the real peace of the community than a victim
of smallpox, and one who should be isolated in a pest-house. But,
unfortunately, our myopic vision sees only the wealth, the luxury, the
spending capacity of such an individual, and that ends it—we bow down
and worship before the golden calf.
If I had the time in these pages to discuss the history of worry, I am
assured I could show clearly to the student of history that worry is
always the product of prosperity; that while a nation is hard at work
at its making, and every citizen is engaged in arduous labor of one
kind or another for the upbuilding of his own or the national power,
worry is scarcely known. The builders of our American civilization
were too busy conquering the wilderness of New England, the prairies
of the Middle West, the savannahs and lush growths of the South, the
arid deserts of the West to have much time for worry. Such men and
women were gifted with energy, the power of initiative and executive
ability, they were forceful, daring, courageous and active, and in
their very working had neither time nor thought for worry.
But just as soon as a reasonable amount of success attended their
efforts, and they had amassed wealth their children began and
continued to worry. Not occupied with work that demands our unceasing
energy, we find ourselves occupied with trifles, worrying over our
health, our investments, our luxuries, our lap-dogs and our frivolous
occupations. Imagine the old-time pioneers of the forest, plain,
prairie and desert worrying about sitting in a draught, or taking cold
if they got wet, or wondering whether they could eat what would be set
before them at the next meal. They were out in the open, compelled to
take whatever weather came to them, rain or shine, hot or cold, sleet
or snow, and ready when the sunset hour came, to eat with relish and
appetite sauce, the rude and plain victuals placed upon the table.
Compare the lives of that class of men with the later generation of
"capitalists." I know one who used to live at Sherry's in New York.
His apartments were as luxurious as those of a monarch; he was
not happy, however, for worry rode him from morning to night. He
absolutely spent an hour or more each day consulting the menu, or
discussing with the steward what he could have to place upon his menu,
and died long before his time, cursed with his wealth, its resultant
idleness and the trifling worries that always come to such men. Had he
been reduced to poverty, compelled to go out and work on a farm, eat
oatmeal mush or starve for breakfast, bacon and greens for dinner,
and cold pork and potatoes or starve for supper, he would be alive and
Take the fussy, nervous, irritable, worrying men and women of life,
who poke their noses into other people's affairs, retail all the
scandal, and hand on all the slander and gossip of empty and,
therefore, evil minds. They are invariably well to do and without any
work or responsibilities. They go gadding about restless and feverish
because of the empty vacuity of their lives, a prey to worry because
they have nothing else to do. If I were to put down and faithfully
report the conversations I have with such people; the fool worries
they are really distressed with; the labor, time and energy they spend
on following chimeras, will o' the wisps, mirages that beckon to them
and promise a little mental occupation,—and over which they cannot
help but worry, one could scarcely believe it.
As Dr. Walton forcefully says in his admirable booklet:
The present, then, is the age, and our contemporaries are the
people, that bring into prominence the little worries, that
cause the tempest in the teapot, that bring about the worship
of the intangible, and the magnification of the unessential.
If we had lived in another epoch we might have dreamt of the
eternal happiness of saving our neck, but in this one we fret
because our collar does not fit it, and because the button
that holds the collar has rolled under the bureau.[A]
[Footnote A: Calm Yourself. By George Lincoln Walton, M.D.,
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, Mass.]
I am not so foolish as to imagine for one moment that I can correct
the worrying tendency of the age, but I do want to be free from worry
myself, to show others that it is unnecessary and needless, and also,
that it is possible to live a life free from its demoralizing and
altogether injurious influences.
NERVOUS PROSTRATION AND WORRY.
Nervous prostration is generally understood to mean weakness of the
nerves. It invariably comes to those who have extra strong nerves,
but who do not know how to use them properly, as well as those whose
nervous system is naturally weak and easily disorganized. Nervous
prostration is a disease of overwork, mainly mental overwork, and in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, comes from worry. Worry is
the most senseless and insane form of mental work. It is as if a
bicycle-rider were so riding against time that, the moment after he
got off his machine to sit down to a meal he sprang up again, and
while eating were to work his arms and legs as if he were riding.
It is the slave-driver that stands over the slave and compels him to
continue his work, even though he is so exhausted that hands, arms and
legs cease to obey, and he falls asleep at his task.
The folly, as well as the pain and distress of this cruel
slave-driving is that we hold the whip over ourselves, have trained
ourselves to do it, and have done it so long that now we seem unable
to stop. In another chapter there is fully described (in Dorothy
Canfield's vivid words) the squirrel-cage whirligig of modern society
life. Modern business life is not much better. Men compel themselves
to the endless task of amassing money without knowing why they amass
it. They make money, that they may enlarge their factories, to make
more ploughs, to get more money, to enlarge their factories, to make
more ploughs, to get more money, to enlarge more factories, to make
more ploughs, and so on, ad infinitum. Where is the sense of it.
Such conduct has well been termed money-madness. It is an obsession, a
disease, a form of hypnotism, a mental malady.
The tendency of the age is to drive. We drive our own children to
school; there they are driven for hours by one study after another;
even when they come home they bring lessons with them—the lovers of
study and over-conscientious because they want to do them, and the
laggards because they must, if they are to keep up with their classes.
If the parents of such children are not careful, they (the children)
soon learn to worry; they are behind-hand with their lessons; they
didn't get the highest mark yesterday; the class is going ahead of
them, etc., etc., until mental collapse comes.
For worrying is the worst kind of mental overwork. As Dr. Edward
Livingston Hunt, of Columbia University, New York, said in a paper
read by him early in 1912, before the Public Health Education
Committee of the Medical Society of the County of New York:
There is a form of overwork, exceedingly common and
exceedingly disastrous—one which equally accompanies great
intellectual labors and minor tasks. I allude to worry. When
we medical men speak of the workings of the brain we make
use of a term both expressive and characteristic. It is to
cerebrate. To cerebrate means to think, to reason, and to
reach conclusions; it means to concentrate and to work hard.
To think, then, is to cerebrate. To worry is to cerebrate
Worry is overwork of the most disastrous kind; it means to
drive the mental machinery at an unreasonable and dangerous
rate. Worry gives the brain no rest, but rather keeps the
delicate cells in constant and continuous action. Work is
wear; worry is tear. Overwork, mental strain, and worry lead
to a diminution of nerve force and to a prostration of the
vital forces and causes a degeneracy of the blood vessels of
Exhaustion, another name for fatigue, may show itself either
in the form of physical collapse, so that the patient lacks
resistance, and, becoming anemic and run down, falls a prey
to any and every little ailment, or in the form of mental
collapse. An exhausted brain then gives way to depression, to
fears, and to anxiety.
The vast majority of nervous breakdowns are avoidable; they
are the result of our own excesses and of the disregard we
show toward the ordinary laws of health and hygiene; they are
the results of the tremendous demands which are made upon us
by modern life; they are the result of the strenuous life.
From this analysis, made by an expert, it is evident that worry and
nervous prostration are but two points on the same circle. Nervous
prostration causes worry, and worry causes nervous prostration. Those
who overwork their bodies and minds—who drive themselves either with
the cares of business, the amassing of wealth, yielding to the demands
of society, the cravings of ambition, or the pursuit of pleasure, are
alike certain to suffer the results of mental overwork.
And here let me interject what to me has become a fundamental
principle upon which invariably I rely. It will be recalled what I
have said elsewhere of selfish and unselfish occupations. It is
the selfish occupations that produce nerve-exhaustion. Those that
are unselfish seldom result in the disturbance of the harmony or
equilibrium of our nature—whether we regard it as physical, mental,
or spiritual. This may seem to be a trancendental statement—perhaps
it is. But I am confidently assured of its essential truth. That man
or woman who is truly engaged in an unselfish work—a work that is for
the good of others—has a right to look for, to expect and to receive
from the great All Source of strength, power and serenity all that
is needed to keep the body, mind and soul in harmony, consequently in
perfect health and free from worry.
Hence the apparent paradox that, if you would care for yourself you
must disregard yourself in your loving care for others.
One great reason why worry produces nervous prostration is that it
Worry and sleeplessness are twin sisters. As one has well said:
"Refreshing sleep and vexing thoughts are deadly foes." Health and
happiness often disappear from those who fail to sleep, for sleep,
indeed, is "tired Nature's sweet restorer," as Young in his Night
Thoughts termed it. Shakspere never wrote anything truer when he
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great Nature's second course,
Chief nourisher of life's feast.
Or, where he spoke of it as
Sleep that sometimes shuts up sorrow's eye,
Steals me awhile from mine own company.
Even the Bible makes sleep one of the special blessings of God, for we
are told that "He giveth His beloved sleep." The sacred book contains
many references to sleeplessness and its causes.
Undoubtedly most potent among these causes is worry. The worrier
retires to his bed at the usual hour, but his brain is busy—it is
working overtime. What is it doing? Is it thinking over things
that are to be done, and planning for the future? If so, there is a
legitimate excuse, for as soon as the plan is laid, rest will come,
and he will sleep. Is he thinking over the mistakes of the past and
sensibly and wisely taking counsel from them? If so, he will speedily
come to a decision, and then sleep will bring grateful oblivion. Is
he thinking joyful thoughts? These will bring a natural feeling of
harmony with all things, and that is conducive to speedy sleep? Is
he thinking of how he may help others? That is equally soothing to
nerves, brain and body, and brings the refreshment of forgetfulness.
But no! the worrier has another method. He thinks the same thoughts
over and over again, without the slightest attempt to get anywhere. He
has thrashed them out before, so often that he can tell exactly what
each thought will lead to. His ideas go around in a circle like
the horse tied to the wheel. He is on a treadmill ever ascending,
tramping, up, up, up and up, and still up, but the wheel falls
down each time as far as he steps up, and after hours and hours of
unceasing, wracking, distressful mental labor, he has done absolutely
nothing, has not progressed one inch, is still in the clutch of the
same vicious treadmill. Brain weary, nerve weary, is there any wonder
that he rolls and tosses, throws over his pillow, kicks off the
clothes, groans, almost cries aloud in his agony of longing for rest.
Poor victim of worry and sleeplessness, how I long to help you get
rid of your evil habit and save others from falling into it. For both
worry and sleeplessness are habits, easily gained, and once gained
very hard to get rid of, yet both unnecessary, needless, and foolish.
The worry that produces sleeplessness is merciless; so merciless and
relentless that no fierce torture of a Black-hander can be described
that is worse in its long continuing and evil results. Lives are
wrecked, brains shattered, happiness destroyed by this monstrous evil,
and many a man and woman fastens it upon himself, herself,
through indulging in anxious thought, or by yielding to that equal
devil-dragon of self-pity.
David the psalmist graphically tells of his own case:
I am weary with my groaning;
Every night make I my bed to swim;
I water my couch with my tears,
Mine eye wasteth away because of grief. Ps. VI. 6:7.
At another time he cries
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words
of my groaning?
Oh my God, I cry in the day time, but thou answereth not;
And in the night season, I am not silent. Ps. XXII. 1:2.
Yet God heard him not until his groaning and self-pity were cast
aside, until he rested in God, trusted in Him. Then came rest, as he
graphically expresses it:
I laid me down and slept;
I awaked; for Jehovah sustaineth me. Ps. III. 5.
In peace will I both lay me down and sleep:
For thou, Jehovah, alone maketh me dwell in safety. Ps. IV. 8.
I will bless Jehovah, who hath given me counsel;
Yea, my heart instructeth me in the night seasons. Ps. XVI. 7.
See the result of this confidence in God.
I have set Jehovah always before me:
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:
My flesh also shall dwell in safety. Ps. XVI. 8:9.
And where the heart is glad, and one rejoiceth in the sense of peace
and safety, sweet sleep lays its soothing hand upon the work-worn
brain and body, tired with the labors of the day, and brings rest,
HOLY WRIT, THE SAGES, AND WORRY
Our civilization is called a Christian civilization. We are the
Christian nations. Yet, as I have shown in Chapters I and II,
ours is the worrying civilization. That worry is dishonoring to our
civilization, and especially to our professions as Christians is
self-evident. Let us then look briefly in the book we call our Holy
Bible, our Guide of Life, our Director to Salvation, and see what the
sacred writers have to say upon this subject. If they commend it, we
may assume that it will be safe to worry. If they rebuke or reprobate
it we may be equally assured that we have no right to indulge in it.
St. Paul seemed to have a very clear idea of worry when he said:
Be careful—[full of care]—for nothing, but in everything by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests
known unto God. Philippians 4:6.
How inclusive this is—full of care, anxiety, fretfulness, worry about
nothing, but in everything presenting your case to God. And then
comes the promise:
And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall
keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. IV. 7.
How clear, definite, full and satisfactory. What room for worry
is there in a heart full of the peace of God, which passeth all
understanding? And oh, how much to be desired is such an experience.
Browning, in his Abt Vogler, sings practically the same sweet song
where he says:
Sorrow is hard to bear, and doubt is slow to clear,
Each sufferer says his says, his scheme of the weal and woe:
But God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear;
The rest may reason and welcome; 'tis we musicians know.
If God whispers in the ear of the sufferer, the doubter, the
distressed, the worried, the peace must come; and if peace come, it
matters not what others' reasoning may bring to them, the knowledge
that God has whispered is enough; it brings satisfaction, content,
serenity, peace. The opposite of worry is rest, faith, trust, peace.
How full the Bible is of promises of rest to those who know and love
God and his ways of right-doing. Mendlessohn took the incitement of
the psalmist (Psalm 37:7), "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for
him," and made of it one of the tenderest, sweetest songs of all time.
Full of yearning over the worried, the distressed, the music itself
seems to brood in sympathetic and soothing power, as a mother croons
to her fretful child: "Why fret, why worry,—No, no! rest, rest my
little one, in the love of the all-Father," and many a weary, fretful,
worried heart has found rest and peace while listening to this sweet
and beautiful song.
There is still another passage in holy writ that the perpetual worrier
should read and ponder. It is the prophet Isaiah's assurance that God
says to His children: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I
Who has not seen a fretful, sick child taken up by a loving mother,
yield to her soothing influence in a few minutes and drop off into
restful, healthful, restoring sleep. What a wonderful and forceful
figure of speech, illustrative of a never-ceasing fact that the Spirit
of all good, the supreme Force of Love and Power in the universe is
looking, watching, without slumber or sleep, untiring, unfailing, ever
ready to give soothing comfort as does the mother, to those who fret
Then, when cause for worry seems to be ever present, why not call upon
this Loving Maternal Soothing Power? Why not rest in His arms, and
thus find peace, poise and serenity?
How much worry comes from fear as to the future. Men become hoarders,
savers, misers, or work themselves beyond healthful endurance, or shut
out the daily joys of existence in their business absorption, because
they dread poverty in their old age. "Wise provision" becomes a
driving monster, worrying them into a restless, fretful energy that
must be accumulating all the time.
Two thousand years ago this trait of human nature was so strongly
manifested that Christ felt called upon to restrain and rebuke it.
What a wonderful sermon He preached. It is worth while repeating it
here, and wise would that man, that woman be, who is worried about
to-morrow, were he, she, to read it daily. I give it in the revised
I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall
eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye
shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body
than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they
sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your
Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value
than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit
unto his stature? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil
not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, that even
Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day
is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much
more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore
anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink?
or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these
things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth
that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his
kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be
added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for
the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day
is the evil thereof. Matthew, 6:25-34.
Here is the wisest philosophy. Anxiety is suicide, peace is life;
worry destroys, serenity upbuilds. As you want to live, to grow,
possess your souls in peace and serenity. Work, aye, work mightily,
powerfully, daily, but work for the joy of it, not because worry
drives you to it. Work persistently, consistently and worthily,
because no man can live—or ought to live—without it, but do not let
work be your slave driver, your relentless master, urging you on to
drudgery, bondage to your counter, ledger or factory, until you drop
exhausted and lifeless. Work for the real joy of it, and then, filled
with the blessed trust in God the all-Father expressed as above by
Christ, throw your cares to the winds, bid your worries depart, and
accept what comes with serenity, peace and thankfulness.
Many proverbs have been written about worry, which it may be well
to recall. Certainly it can do no harm to those who worry to see how
their mental habit has been regarded, and is still regarded, by the
concentrated wisdom of the ages.
An old proverb says: "It is not work, but worry, that kills." How true
this is. Congenial work is a health-bringer, a necessity for a normal
life, a joy; it keeps the body in order, promotes digestion, induces
the sleep of perfect restoration and is one of man's greatest
blessings. But worry brings dis-ease (want of ease), discomfort,
wretchedness, promotes evil secretions which upset the normal workings
of the body, and is a constant banisher and disturber of sleep.
Still another proverb says: "Worry killed the cat." Many people read
this and fail to see its profound significance. It must be remembered
that in "the good old days," when this proverb was most rife, the
superstitious held that a cat had nine lives. Now, surely, the deep
meaning of the proverb is made apparent. Though the cat were possessed
of nine lives, worry would surely kill them all—either one by one,
by its horrid and determined persistence; or all at once, by the
concentrated virulence of its power.
There are many proverbs to the effect that "When worry comes in,
wit flies out," and these are all true. Worry unsettles the mind,
unbalances the judgment, induces fever of the intellect, which
renders calm, cool weighing of matters impossible. No man of great
achievements ever worried during his period of greatness. Had he done
so his greatness could never have been achieved. Imagine a general
trying to solve the vexing problems of a great combat which is going
against him, with his mind beset by numberless worries. He must
concentrate all his energies upon the one thing. If worry occupies
his attention, wit, sense, judgment, discretion, wisdom are crowded
out, have no place.
All the pictures given to us of Grant show him the most imperturbable
at the most trying times. When the fortunes of war seemed most against
him he was the most cheerful, the least disturbed. He had learned the
danger of worry, and compelled it to flee from him, that calm judgment
and clear-headed decisions might be his.
If, therefore, these great ones of earth found it essential to their
well-being to banish worry, how much more is it necessary that we of
the ordinary mass of mankind, of the commoner herd, apply ourselves to
the gaining of the same kind of wisdom.
An old countrywoman once said in my hearing: "Worry, and you hug a
hornet's nest." How suggestive both of the stinging that was sure to
come and the folly, the absurdity, the cruelty to oneself of the act.
The great Scotch philosopher, Blair, said: "Worry (or anxiety) is the
poison of human life," and how true it is. How biting, how corroding,
how destructive to life some poisons are, working speedily, suddenly,
awfully. Others there are that have a cumulative effect, until life
itself cannot bear the strain, and it goes out. Recently I was at a
home where a son was so worried over conditions that he felt ought not
to exist between his parents, that he totally collapsed, mentally,
and for a time was in danger of losing his reason. The folly of his
attitude is apparent to everyone but himself, though he now seeks in
the absorbing occupation of teaching, to free himself from the poison
of worry that was speedily destroying his reason.
Henry Labouchere, the sage who for so many years has edited the London
Truth, once wrote a couplet, that is as true as anything he ever
They who live in a worry,
Invite death in a hurry.
I want to be ready for death when it comes, but as yet I am not
extending an invitation to the gentleman with the scythe. Are you, my
worrying reader, anxious to be mowed down before your time? Quit your
worrying, and don't urge the Master Reaper to harvest you in until He
is sure you are ready.
Another sage once said: "To worry about to-morrow is to be unhappy
to-day," and the same thought is put into: "Never howl till you are
hit," and the popular proverb attributed erroneously to Lincoln for it
was long in use before Lincoln's time: "Do not cross the stream until
you get to it." Christ put the same thought into his Sermon on the
Mount, when He said: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
How utterly foolish and wrong it is to spoil to-day by fretting and
worrying over the possible evils of to-morrow. Many a man in business
has ruined himself by allowing worries about to-morrow to prevent him
from doing the needful work of to-day. The rancher who sits down and
worries because he fears it will not rain to-morrow, or it will rain,
fails to do the work of to-day ready for whatever the morrow may bring
forth. The wise Roman, Seneca, expressed the same thing in other words
when he wrote: "He grieves more than is necessary who grieves before
it is necessary," and our own Lowell had a similar thought in mind
which he expressed as follows: "The misfortunes hardest to bear are
those which never come." Even the Chinese saw the folly of worrying
over events that have not yet transpired, for they have a saying: "To
what purpose should a person throw himself into the water before the
boat is cast away (wrecked)."
All these proverbs, therefore, show that the wisdom of the ages
is against worrying over things that have not yet transpired. Let
to-morrow take care of itself. Live to-day. As Cardinal Newman's
wonderful hymn expresses it:
I do not ask to see the distant scene,
One step enough for me.
Furthermore, the evil we dread for to-morrow may never come. Every
man's experience demonstrates this. The bill for which he has not
money in the bank is met by the unexpected payment of an account
overdue, or not yet due. Hence if fears come of the morrow, if we are
tempted to worry about a grief that seems to be approaching, let us
resolutely cast the temptation aside, and by a full occupation of
mind and body in the work of the "now," engage ourselves beyond the
possibility of hearing the voice of the tempter.
When one considers the words that are regarded as synonymous with
"worry," or that are related to it, he sees what cruelties lurk in the
facts behind the words. To grieve, fret, pine, mourn, bleed, chafe,
yearn, droop, sink, give way to despair, all belong to the category of
Phrases like "to sit on thorns," "to be on pins and needles," "to
drain the cup of misery to the dregs," show with graphic power the
folly and curse of worry. Why should one sit on thorns, or on pins
and needles? If one does so accidentally he arises in a hurry, yet
in worrying, one seems deliberately, with intent, to sit down upon
prickles in order to compel himself to discomfort, distress, and pain.
Is there any wisdom, when one has the cup of misery at his lips, in
deliberately keeping it there, and persistently drinking it to the
"very dregs"? One unconsciously feels like shouting to the drinker:
"Put it down, you fool!" and if the harsh command be not instantly
obeyed, rushing up and dashing it out of the drinker's hand.
Take a few more words and look at them, and see how closely they are
related to worry,—to be displeased, fretted, annoyed, incommoded,
discomposed, troubled, disquieted, crossed, teased, fretted, irked,
vexed, grieved, afflicted, distressed, plagued, bothered, pestered,
bored, harassed, perplexed, haunted. These things worry does to those
who yield themselves to its noxious power.
Worry deliberately pains, wounds, hurts, pinches, tweaks, grates upon,
galls, chafes, gnaws, pricks, lancinates, lacerates, pierces, cuts,
gravels, corrodes, mortifies, shocks, horrifies, twinges and gripes
It smites, beats, punishes, wrings, harrows, torments, tortures,
racks, scarifies, crucifies, convulses, agonizes, irritates, provokes,
stings, nettles, maltreats, bites, snaps at, assails, badgers,
harries, persecutes, those who give it shelter.
Is it not apparent, then, that the only course open for a sensible man
or woman is to
THE NEEDLESSNESS AND USELESSNESS OF WORRY
Of all the mental occupations fallen into, invented, or discovered by
man, the most needless, futile, and useless of all is the occupation
of worry. We have heard it said often, when one was speaking of
another's work, or something he had done: "He ought to be in a better
business." So, in every case, can it be said of the worrier: He's
in a bad business; a business that ought not to exist, one without a
single redeeming feature. If for no other reason the fact implied by
the title of this chapter ought to be sufficient to condemn it. Worry
is needless, useless, futile, of none effect. Why push a heavy rock up
a mountain side merely to have it roll down again? Yet one might find
good in the physical development that came from this needless uphill
work. And he might laugh, and sing, and be cheery while he was doing
it. But in the case of the worrier he not only pushes the rock up the
hill, but he is beset with the dread that, every moment, it is going
to roll back and kill him, and he thinks of nothing but the fear, and
the strain, and the distress.
When one calmly considers, it is almost too ridiculous to write
seriously about the needlessness and uselessness of worry; its
futility is so self-evident to an intelligent mind. Yet, because so
many otherwise intelligent and good people are cursed by it, it seems
necessary to show its utter uselessness. These say: "I would stop
worrying if I could; but I can't help it; I worry in spite of myself!"
Don't you believe it! You doubtless think your statement is true, but
it is nothing of the kind. Worry could find no place in your mind
if it was full to overflowing with something really useful and
beneficial. It is a proof either that your mind bosses you,—in other
words, that you cannot direct it to think upon something worth while,
that it is absolutely untrained, undisciplined, uncontrolled,—or that
it is so empty, it takes to worry as a refuge against its own vacuity.
The fact of worry implies either that the worrier has no control over
his mind, or has an empty mind.
Now no intelligent person will, for one moment, confess to such
weakness of mind that he has no control over it. An unoccupied
mind can always be occupied if one so wills. No human being is so
constituted that nothing appeals to him or interests him, so
every mind can be awakened and filled with contemplation of good
things—things that will help, benefit and bless, if he so desires.
In the Foreword I have referred to my own experience. Many who knew
some of the facts and saw the change that came over my life, have
asked me how I succeeded in eliminating worry. I refused to allow my
mind to dwell upon harassing topics or events in my life. If I awoke
during the night, I turned on the light and picked up a book and
forced my thought into another channel. If the objectionable thoughts
obtruded during the day I did one of many things, as, for instance,
turned to my work with a frenzy of absorption; picked up my hat
and went for a walk; called upon friends; went to a concert; or a
vaudeville show; took in a lecture; stood and watched the crowds;
visited the railway stations—anything, everything, but dwell upon the
subjects that were tabooed.
Here was a simple and practical remedy, and I found it worked well.
But I can now see that there was a much better way. Where good is
substituted for evil one has "the perfect way," and the Apostle Paul
revealed himself a wise man of practical affairs, when he urged his
readers to "think on the things" that are lovely, pure, just, and of
good report. In my case I merely sought to prevent mental vacuity
so that the seven devils of worry could not rush into, and take
possession of, my empty mind; but I was indifferent, somewhat, to the
kind of thought or mental occupation that was to keep out the thoughts
of worry. A Nick Carter detective story was as good as a Browning
poem, and sometimes better; a cheap and absurd show than an uplifting
lecture or concert. How much better it would have been could I have
had my mind so thoroughly under control—and this control can surely
be gained by any and every man, woman, and child that lives,—that,
when worrying thoughts obtruded, I could have said immediately and
with authoritative power: I will to think on this thing, or that,
or the other. The result would have been an immediate and perfect
cessation of the worry that disturbed, fretted, and destroyed, for the
mind would have become engaged with something that was beneficial and
helpful. And remember this: God is good, and it is His pleasure to
help those who are seeking to help themselves. Or to put it in a way
that even our agnostic friends can receive, Nature is on the side of
the man or woman who is seeking to live naturally, that is, rightly.
Hence, substitute good thoughts for the worrying thoughts and the
latter will fade away as do the mist and fog before the morning sun.
Here, then, I had clearly demonstrated for myself the needlessness of
worry: I could prevent it if I would. And my readers cannot too soon
gain this positive assurance. They can, if they will. It is simply
a question of wanting to be free earnestly enough to work for freedom.
Is freedom from worry worth while; is it worth struggling for? To me,
it is one of the great blessings of life that worry is largely, if not
entirely, eliminated. I would not go back to the old worrying days for
all the wealth of Morgan, Rockefeller, and Carnegie combined.
As for the uselessness of worry; who is there, that has studied the
action of worry, that ever found any of the problems it was concerned
over improved by all the hours of worry devoted to it. Worry never
solved a problem yet; worry muddies the water still further instead of
clearing it; worry adds to the tangle instead of releasing it; worry
beclouds the mind, prevents sane judgment, confuses the reason, and
leads one to decisions that never ought to be made, and so to an
uncertainty, as vexatious and irritating as is the original problem
to be solved. If the worry pointed a way out of the difficulty I
would extol worry and regard it as a bitter draught of medicine, to be
swallowed in a hurry, but producing a beneficial result. But it never
does anything to help; it invariably hinders; it sets one chasing
shadows, produces ignes fatui before the eyes, and ultimately leads
one into the bog.
Elsewhere I have referred to the Indians' attitude of mind. If a
matter can be changed, change it; if not grin and bear it without
complaint. Here is practical wisdom. But to worry over a thing that
can be changed, instead of changing it, is the height of folly, and if
a matter cannot be changed why worry over it? How utterly useless is
the worry. Then, too, worry is the parent of nagging. Nagging is
worry put into words,—the verbal expression of worry about or towards
individuals. The mother wishes her son would do differently. Can the
boy's actions be changed? Then go to work to change them—not to worry
over them. If they cannot be changed, why nag him, why irritate him,
why make a bad matter worse? Nagging, like worry, never once did one
iota of good; it has caused infinite harm, as it sets up an irritation
between those whose love might overcome the difficulty if it were let
alone. Nagging is the constant irritation of a wound, the rubbing of
a sore, the salting an abraded place, the giving a hungry man a tract,
religious advice or a bible, when all he craves is food.
Ah, mother! many a boy has run away from home because your worry led
you to nag him; many a girl to-day is on the streets because father
or mother nagged her; many a husband has "gone on a tear" because he
could not face his wife's "worry put into words," even though no one
would attempt to deny that boy, girl and husband alike were wrong
in every particular, and the "nagger" in the right, save in the one
thing of worry and its consequent nagging.
In watching the lives of men and women I have been astonished, again
and again, that the fruitlessness of their worry did not demonstrate
its uselessness to them. No good ever comes from it. Everybody who has
any perception sees this, agrees to it, confesses it. Then why still
persist in it? Yet they do, and at the same time expect to be regarded
as intelligent, sane, normal human beings, many of whom claim, as
members of churches, peculiar and close kinship with God, forgetful of
the fact that every moment spent in worry is dishonoring to God.
How much needless anxiety, care, and absolute torture some women
suffer in an insane desire to keep their homes spotlessly clean. The
house must be without a speck of dirt anywhere; the kitchen must be as
spotless as the parlor; the sink must be so immaculate that you could
eat from it, if necessary; the children must always be in their best
bibs and tuckers and appear as Little Lord Fauntleroys; and no one,
at any time, or any circumstance, must ever appear to be dirty,
except the scavenger who comes to remove the accumulated debris of the
kitchen, and the man who occasionally assists the gardener.
These people forget that all dirt and dust is not of greater value
than spotless cleanliness. Let us look calmly at the problem for a few
minutes. Here is a housewife who cannot afford help to keep her house
as spotless as her instincts and her training desire. It is simply
impossible for her, personally, to go over the house daily with rag,
duster and dustpan. If she attempts it, as she does sometimes—she
overworks, and a breakdown is the result. What, then, is the sensible,
the reasonable, the only thing she should do? Sit down and "worry"
over her "untidy house"; lament that "the stairs have not been swept
since day before yesterday; that the parlor was not dusted this
morning; the music-room looks simply awful," and cry that "if Mrs.
Brown were to come in and see my wretchedly untidy house, I'm sure I
should die of shame!" Would this help matters? Would one speck of dirt
be removed as the result of the worry, the wailing, and the tears? Not
a speck. Every particle would remain just as before.
Yet other things would not be as they were before. No woman could feel
as I have suggested this "worriting creature" felt, without gendering
irritation in husband, children and friends. Is any house that was
ever built worth the alienation of dear ones? What is the dust, dirt,
disorder, of a really untidy house—I am supposing an extraordinary
case—compared with the irritation caused by a worrying housewife?
Furthermore: such a woman is almost sure to break down her own health
and become an irritable neurasthenic or hypochondriac, and thus add to
the burdens of those she loves.
There are women who, instead of following this course, make themselves
wretched—and everyone else around them—by the worry of contrasting
their lot with that of some one more fortunately situated than they.
She has a husband who earns more money than does hers; such an one
has a larger allowance and can afford more help—the worry, however,
is the same, little matter what form it takes, and worry is the
What, then, shall a woman do, who has to face the fact that she cannot
gratify her desire to keep her house immaculate, either because she
has not the strength to do it, or the money to hire it done. The old
proverb will help her: "What can't be cured must be endured." There
is wonderful help in the calm, full, direct recognition of unpleasant
facts. Look them squarely in the face. Don't dodge them, don't deny
them. Know them, understand them, then defy them to destroy your
happiness. If you can't dust your house daily, dust it thrice a week,
or twice, or once, and determine that you will be happy in spite of
the dust. The real comfort of the house need not thereby be impaired,
as there is a vast difference between your scrupulous cleanliness and
careless untidiness. Things may be in order even though the floor has
a little extra dust on, or the furniture has not been dusted for four
"But," you say, "I am far less disturbed by the over work than I am by
the discomfort that comes from the dust." Then all I can say is that
you are wrongly balanced, according to my notion of things. Your
health should be of far more value to you than your ideas of house
tidiness, but you have reversed the importance of the two. Teach
yourself the relative value of things. A hundred dollar bill is of
greater value than one for five dollars, and the life of your baby
more important than the value of the hundred dollar bill. Put first
things first, and secondly, and tertiary, and quarternary things
in their relative positions. Your health and self-poise should come
first, the comfort and happiness of husband and family next, the more
or less spotlessness and tidiness of the house afterwards. Then, if
you cannot have your house as tidy as you wish, resolutely resolve
that you will not be disturbed. You will control your own life and not
allow a dusty room—be it never so dusty—to destroy your comfort and
peace of mind, and that of your loved ones.
When a woman of this worrying type has children she soon learns that
she must choose between the health and happiness of her children
and the gratification of her own passionate desire for spotless
cleanliness. This gratification, if permanently indulged in, soon
becomes a disease, for surely only a diseased mind can value the
spotlessness of a house more than the health, comfort, and happiness
of children. Yet many women do—more's the pity. Such poor creatures
should learn that there is a dirtiness that is far worse than dirt in
a house—a dirtiness, a muddiness of mind, a cluttering of thought, a
making of the mind a harboring place for wrong thoughts. Not wrong in
the sense of immoral or wicked, as these words are generally used, but
wrong in this sense, viz., that reason shows the folly, the inutility,
the impracticability of attempting to bring up sane, healthy, happy,
normal children in a household controlled by the idea that spotless
cleanliness is the matter of prime importance to be observed. The
discomfort of children, husband, mother herself are nothing as
compared with keeping the house in perfect order. Any woman so
obsessed should be sent for a short time to an insane asylum, for she
certainly has so reversed the proper order of values as to be so far
insane. She has "cluttered up" her mind with a wrong idea, an idea
which dirties, muddies, soils her mind far worse than dust soils her
Reader, keep your mind free from such dirt—for dirt is but "matter in
the wrong place." Far better have dust, dirt, in your house, dirt on
your child's hands, face, and clothes, than on your own mind to give
you worry, discomfort and disease.
CHAPTER VI THE SELFISHNESS OF WORRY
If worry merely affected the one who worries it might be easier,
in many cases, to view worry with equanimity and calmness. But,
unfortunately, in the disagreeable features of life, far more than the
agreeable, the aphorism of the apostolic writer, "No man liveth unto
himself," seems to be more than ordinarily true. It is one proof of
the selfishness of the "worrier"—whether consciously or unconsciously
I do not say—that he never keeps his worry to himself. He must always
"out with it." The nervous mother worrying about her baby shows it
even to the unconscious child at her breast. When the child is older
she still shows it, until the little one knows as well as it knows
when the sun is shining that "mother is worrying again." The worrying
wife does not keep her worry to herself; she pours it out to, or upon,
her husband. The worrying husband is just the same. If it is the wife
that causes him to worry—or to think so—he pours out his worry
in turbulent words, thus adding fuel to a fire already too hot for
It is one of the chief characteristics of worry that it is seldom
confined to the breast of its victim. It loses its power, too often,
when shut up. It must find expression in looks, in tone of voice, in
sulkiness, in dumps, in nagging or in a voicing of its woes.
It is in this voicing of itself that worry demonstrates its inherent
selfishness. If father, mother, wife, friends, neighbors, anybody
can give help, pleasure, joy, instruction, profit, their voices are
always heard with delight. If they have reasonable cautions to give
to those they love, who seem to them to be thoughtless, regardless of
danger which they see or fear, or even foolhardy, let them speak out
bravely, courageously, lovingly, and they will generally be listened
to. But to have them voice their fretful, painful, distressing worries
no one is benefitted, and both speaker and the one spoken to are
positively harmed. For an unnecessary fear voiced is strengthened; it
is made more real. If one did not feel it before, it is now planted in
his mind to his serious detriment, and once there, it begins to breed
as disease germs are said to breed, by millions, and one moment of
worry weds another moment, and the next moment a family of worries
is born that surround, hamper and bewilder. Is this kindly, is it
helpful, is it loving, is it unselfish?
The questions answer themselves. The planting of worry in the mind of
another is heartless, cruel, unkind and selfish.
Another question naturally arises: If this course of action is
selfish, and the worrier really desires to be unselfish, how can he
control his worry, at least so as not to communicate it to another?
The answer also is clear.
Let him put a guard upon his lips, a watch upon his actions. Let him
say to himself: Though I do not, for my own sake, care to control the
needless worries of my life, I must not, I dare not curse other lives
with them. Hence I must at least keep them to myself—I must not voice
them, I must not display them in face, eyes or tone.
Then there is the mother who worries over her child's clothing. She
is never ceasing in her cautions. It is "don't, don't, don't," from
morning to night, and whether this seems "nagging" to her or not,
there would be a unanimous vote on the subject were the child
consulted as to his feelings. Of course the boy, the girl, must be
taught to take care of his, her, clothes, but this is never done by
nagging. A far better plan would be to fit a punishment which really
belongs to the evil or careless habit of the child. For instance, if
a boy will persist in throwing his hat anywhere, instead of hanging
it up, let the parent give him one caution, not in a threatening
or angry way, but in just as matter of fact a fashion as if she were
telling him of some news: "John, the next time you fail to hang your
hat in its proper place I shall lock it up for three days!"
Then, if John fails, take the hat and lock it up, and let it
stay locked-up, though the heavens fall. The same with a child's
playthings, tennis racquets, base-balls, bats, etc. As a rule one
application of the rule cures. This is immeasurably more sensible than
nagging, for it produces the required result almost instantly, and
there is little irritation to either person concerned, while nagging
is never effective, and irritates both all the time.
Other parents worry considerably over their children getting in the
In an article which recently appeared in Good Housekeeping Dr. Woods
Hutchinson says some sensible things on "Children as Cabbages." He
starts out by saying: "It is well to remember that not all dirt is
dirty. While some kinds of dirt are exceedingly dangerous, others are
absolutely necessary to life."
If your children get into the dirty and dangerous dirt, spend your
energies in getting them into the other kind of dirt, rather than in
nagging. Fall into the habit of doing the wise, the rational, the
sane thing, because it produces results, rather than the foolish,
irrational, insane thing which never produces a result save anger,
irritation, and oftentimes, alienation.
In a little book written by J.J. Bell, entitled Wee MacGregor, there
is a worrying mother. Fortunately she is sweet-spirited with it all,
or it would have been unbearable.
She and her husband John, and the baby, wee Jeannie, with Macgregor
were going out to dinner at "Aunt Purdie's," who was "rale genteel an'
awfu' easy offendit." The anxious mother was counselling her young son
regarding his behavior at the table of that excellent lady:
'An' mind, Macgreegor, ye're no' to be askin' fur jeely till
ye've ett twa bits o' breed-an'-butter. It's no' mainners; an'
yer Aunt Purdie's rale partecclar. An' yer no' to dicht yer
mooth wi' yer cuff—mind that. Ye're to tak' yer hanky an'
let on ye're jist gi'ein' yer nib a bit wipe. An' ye're no' to
scale yer tea nor sup the sugar if ony's left in yer cup when
ye're dune drinkin'. An' if ye drap yer piece on the floor
ye're no' to gang efter it; ye're jist to let on ye've ett it.
An' ye're no'—
'Deed, Lizzie,' interposed her husband, 'ye're the yin to
think aboot things.'
'Weel, John, if I dinna tell Macgreegor hoo to behave hissel',
he'll affront me,' etc., etc., etc.
Who has not thus seen the anxious mother? And who ever saw her
worrying and anxiety do much if any good? Train your child by all
means in your own home, but let up when you are going out, for your
worry worries him, makes him self-conscious, brings about the very
disasters you wish to avoid, and at the same time destroys his,
your, and everyone's else, pleasure who observes, feels, or hears the
expressions of worry.
CAUSES OF WORRY
Worry is as multiform and as diverse as are the people who worry.
Indeed worriers are the most ingenious persons in the world. When
every possible source of worry seems to be removed, they proceed
immediately to invent some new cause which an ordinary healthful mind
could never have conceived.
The causes of worry are innumerable. They represent the sum total
of the errors, faults, missteps, unholy aims, ambitions, foibles,
weaknesses and crimes of men. Every error, mistake, weakness, crime,
etc., is a source of worry—a cause of worry. Worry is connected only
with the weak, the human, the evil side of human nature. It has no
place whatever in association with goodness, purity, holiness, faith,
courage and trust in God. When good men and women worry, in so far as
they worry they are not good. Their worry is a sign of weakness, of
lack of trust in God, of unbelief, of unfaithfulness. The man who
knows God and his relationship to man; who knows his own spiritual
nature and his relationship to God never worries. There is no
possible place in such a man's life for worry.
Hence it will be seen that I believe worry to be evil, and nothing but
evil, and, therefore, without one reclaiming or redeeming feature, for
it can be productive of nothing but evil.
If you really desire to know the sources of your worry study each
worry as it comes up. Analyse it, dissect it, weigh it, examine it
from every standpoint, judge it by the one test that everything in
life must, and ought to submit to, viz.: its usefulness. What use
is it to you? How necessary to your existence? How helpful is it in
solving the problems that confront you; how far does it aid you in
their solution, wherein does it remove the obstacles before your
pathway. Find out how much it strengthens, invigorates, inspires you.
Ask yourself how much it encourages, enheartens, emboldens you. Put
down on paper every slightest item of good, or help, or inspiration
it is to you, and on the other hand, the harm, the discouragement, the
evil, the fears it brings to you, and then strike a balance.
I can tell you beforehand that after ten years' study—if so long were
necessary—you will fail to find one good thing in favor of worry,
and that every item you will enumerate will be against it. Hence, why
worry? Quit it!
Worry, like all evils, feeds on itself, and grows greater by its own
exercise. Did it decline when exercised, diminish when allowed a free
course, one might let it alone, even encourage it, in order that it
might the sooner be dead. But, unfortunately, it works the other
way. The more one worries the more he continues to worry. The more
he yields to it the greater becomes its power. It is a species of
hypnotism: once allow it to control, each new exercise diminishes the
victim's power of resistance.
Never was monster more cruel, more relentless, more certain to hang on
to the bitter end than worry. He shows no mercy, has not the slightest
spark of relenting or yielding. And his power is all the greater
because it is so subtle. He wants you to be "careful"—taking good
care, however, not to let you know that he means to make you full of
care. He pleads "love" as the cause for his existence. He would have
you love your child, hence "worry" about him. He thus trades on your
affection to blind you to your child's best interests by "worrying"
about him. For when worry besets you, is harassing you on every hand,
how can you possibly devote your wisdom, your highest intelligence to
safeguarding the welfare of the one you love.
Never was a slave in the South, though in the hands of a Legree,
more to be pitied than the slave of worry. He dogs every footstep, is
vigilant every moment. He never sleeps, never tires, never relaxes,
never releases his hold so long as it is possible for him to retain
it. When you seek to awaken people to the terror, the danger, the
hourly harm their slavery to worry is bringing to them, they are so
completely in worry's power that they weakly respond: "But I can't
help it." And they verily believe they can't; that their bondage is
a natural thing; a state "ordained from the foundation of the world,"
altogether ignoring the frightful reflection such a belief is upon the
goodness of God and his fatherly care for his children. Natural! It is
the most unnatural thing in existence. Do the birds worry? The beasts
of the field? The clouds? The winds? The sun, moon, stars, and comets?
The trees? The flowers? The rain-drops? How Bryant rebukes the worrier
in his wonderful poem "To a Water Fowl," and Celia Thaxter in her
"Sandpiper." The former sings of the fowl winging its solitary way
where "rocking billows rise and sink on the chafed ocean-side," yet
though "lone wandering" it is not lost. And from its protection he
deduces the lesson:
He who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone
Will lead my steps aright.
And so Celia Thaxter sang of the sandpiper:
He has no thought of any wrong,
He scans me with a fearless eye.
And her faith expressed itself in a later verse:
I do not fear for thee, though wroth
The tempest rushes through the sky:
For are we not God's children both,
Thou, little sandpiper, and I?
There is no worry in Nature. It is man alone that worries. Nature goes
on her appointed way each day unperturbed, unvexed, care-free, doing
her allotted tasks and resting absolutely in the almighty sustaining
power behind her. Should man do any less? Should man—the reasoning
creature, with intelligence to see, weigh, judge, appreciate,—alone
be uncertain of the fatherly goodness of God; alone be unable to
discern the wisdom and love behind all things? Worry, therefore, is an
evidence that we do not trust the all-fatherliness of God.
It is also the direct product of vanity, pride and self-conceit. If
these three qualities of evil in the human heart could be removed a
vast aggregate amount of worry would die instantly. No one can study
his fellow creatures and not soon learn that an immense amount of
worry is caused by these three evils.
We are worried lest our claims to attention are not fully recognized,
less our worth be not observed, our proper station accorded to us. How
we press our paltry little claims upon others, how we glorify our own
insignificant deeds; how large loom up our small and puny acts. The
whole universe centers in us; our ego is a most important thing;
our work of the highest value and significance; our worth most
The fact of the matter is most men and women are inestimable, their
deeds of value, their lives of importance. Our particular circle needs
us, as we need those who compose it, we are all important, but few,
indeed, are there, whose power, influence and importance reach far.
Most of the men and women of the world are ordinary. A man may be
a king in Wall street, and yet influence but few outside of his own
immediate sphere. Most probably he is unknown to the great mass of
mankind. Adventitious circumstances bring some men and women more
prominently before the world than others, but even such fame as this
is transient, evanescent, and of little importance. The devoted love
of our own small circle; the reliable friendship of the few; the
blind adoration of the pet dog are worth more than all the "fame," the
"eclat," the "renown" of the multitude. And where we have such love,
friendship, and blind adoration, let us rest content therein, and
smile at the floods of temporary and evanescent emotion which sweep
over the mob, but do not have us for their object. I have just read
a letter which perfectly illustrates how our vanity, our pride, and
personal importance bring much worry to us. The writer—practically
a stranger coming from a far-away state—evidently expected to be
received with a cordial welcome and open arms, by one who scarcely
knew him, given an important place in a lengthy program where men
of national reputation were to speak, and generally be treated with
deference and respect. Unfortunately his name was not placed in
full on the program,—curtly initialed he called it—and owing to
its length "the chairman caused me to spoil my remarks by asking me to
shorten them," and a hotel clerk "outrageously insulted" him when he
asked for information. Then, to make ill matters worse—piling Ossa.
upon Pelion—he was asked to speak at a certain club, with others.
One of the newspapers, in reporting the event, commented upon what the
others said and did but ignore him. This he thought might have been
merely an oversight, but when, the next day, he saw another report
wherein he was not mentioned he was certain "it was a deliberate
intention to ignore" him. He then asks that the person to whom he
writes "try to find out who is responsible for this affront," and tell
him—in order that he may worry some more, I suppose, over trying to
"get back at him."
Poor, poor fellow, how he is to be pitied for being so "sensitive," so
sure that people regard him enough to want to affront him.
Here is a perfect illustration of the worries caused by vanity;
five complaints in one letter, of indignities, or affronts, that an
ordinary, robust red-blooded man would have passed by without notice.
If I were to worry over the times I have been ignored and neglected
I should worry every day. I am fairly well known to many hundreds of
thousands of people who read my books, my magazine articles, and hear
my lectures, yet I often go to cities and there are no brass bands,
no committee, flowers, or banquet to welcome me. No! indeed, the
indignity is thrust upon me of having to walk to the hotel, carry
my own grip, and register, the same as any other ordinary, common,
everyday man! Why should not my blood boil when I think of it? Then,
too, when I recall how often my addresses are ignored in the local
press, ought not I to be aroused to fierce ire? When a hotel clerk
fails to recognize my national importance and gives me a flippant
answer when I ask for information should I not deem it time that the
Secretary of State interfere and write a State paper upon the matter?
Oh vanity, conceit, pride, how many sleepless hours of worry and fret
you bring to your victims, and the pitiable, the lamentable thing
about it all is that they congratulate themselves upon being filled
with "laudable pride," "recognizing their own importance," and
knowing that "honorable ambition" is beneficial. Nothing that causes
unnecessary heart-aches and worry is worth while, and of all the
prolific causes of these woes commend me to the vanity, the conceit,
the pride of small minds and petty natures.
False pride leads its victim to want to make a false impression. He
puts on a false appearance. He wishes to appear wiser, better, in
easier circumstances, richer than he is. He wears a false front. He is
unnatural. He dare not—having decided to make the appearance, and win
the impression of falseness—be natural. Hence he is self-conscious
all the time lest he make a slip, contradict himself, lose the result
he is seeking to attain. He is to be compared to an actor whose part
requires him to wear a wig, a false moustache, a false chin. In the
hurry of preparation these shams are not adjusted properly and the
actor rushes on the stage fearful every moment lest his wig is
awry, his moustache fall off, or the chin slip aside and make him
ridiculous. He dare not stop to make sure, to "fix" them if they are
wrong, as that would reveal their falsity immediately. He can only
play on, sweating blood the while.
In the case of the actor one can laugh at the temporary fear and
worry, but what a truly pitiable object is the man, the woman, whose
whole life is one dread worry lest his, her, false appearance be
discovered. And while pride and vanity are not the only sources of
these attempts to make false impressions upon others they are a most
prolific source. In another chapter I have treated more fully of this
phase of the subject.
Wastefulness, extravagance, is a prolific source of worry. Spend
to-day, starve to-morrow. Throw your money to the birds to-day;
to-morrow the crow, jay, and vulture will laugh and mock at you. Feast
to-day; next week you may starve. Riches take to themselves wings
and fly away. No one is absolutely safe, and while many thousands
go through life indifferent about their expenditures, wasteful and
extravagant and do not seem to be brought to time therefor, it must
not be forgotten that tens of thousands start out to do the same thing
and fail. What is the result? Worry over the folly of the attempt;
worry as to where the necessary things for the future are coming from!
While I would not have the well-to-do feel that they must be niggardly
I would earnestly warn them against extravagance, against the
acquiring of expensive habits of wastefulness that later on may be
chains of a cruel bondage. Why forge fetters upon oneself? Far better
be free now and thus cultivate freedom for whatever future may come.
For as sure as sure can be wilful waste and reckless extravagance now
will sometime or other produce worry.
One great, deep, awful source of worry is our failure to accept the
inevitable. Something happens,—we wilfully shut our eyes to the fact
that this something has changed forever the current of our lives,
and if the new current seems evil, if it brings discomfort,
separation, change of circumstance, etc., we worry, and worry, and
continue to worry. This is lamentably foolish, utterly absurd and
altogether reprehensible. Let us resolutely face the facts, accept
them, and then reshape our lives, bravely and valiantly, to suit the
For instance a friend of mine spent twenty years in the employ of a
great corporation. As a reward of faithful service he was finally put
in a responsible position as the head of a department. A few months
ago he was sent East on a special mission connected with his work.
Just before his return the corporation elected a new president,
who "shook up" the whole concern, changed around several officials,
dismissed others, and in the case of my friend, supplanted him by a
new man imported from the East, offering him a subordinate position,
but, at the same salary he had before been receiving.
How should this man have treated this settled fixed fact in his
life? He had two great broad pathways open to him. In one he would
deliberately recognize and accept the changed condition, acquiese in
it and live accordingly. It is not pleasant to be supplanted, but if
another man is appointed to do the work you have been doing, and your
superiors think he can do it better than you have been doing it, then
manfully face the facts and accord him the most sincere and hearty
support. It may be hard, but our training and discipline,—which means
our improvement and advancement—come, not from doing the easy and
pleasant things, but from striving, cheerfully and pleasantly to do
the arduous and disagreeable ones. The other way open for my friend
was to resent the change, accept it with anger, let his vanity be
wounded, and begin to worry over it. What would have been the probable
result? The moment he began to worry his efficiency would have
decreased, and he would thus have prepared himself for another "blow"
from his employers, another change less to his advantage, and with a
possible reduction in salary. His employers, too, would have pointed
to his decreased efficiency—the only thing they consider—as
justification for their act.
I would not say that if a man, in such a case as I have described,
deems that he has been treated unjustly, should not protest, but, when
he has protested, and a decision has been rendered against him let him
accept the judgment with serenity, refuse to worry over it, and go to
work with loyalty and faithfulness, or else seek new employment.
Even, on the other hand, were he to have been discharged, there could
have come no good from yielding to worry. Accept the inevitable, do
not argue or fret about it, put worry aside, go to work to find a new
position, and make what seemed to be an evil the stepping-stone to
Mrs. Jessie Benton Fremont, the wife of the gallant pathfinder,
General Fremont, was afflicted with deafness in the later years of her
life. She,—the petted and flattered, the caressed and spoiled child
of fortune, the honored and respected woman of power and superior
ability—deaf, and unable to participate in the conversation going
on around her. Many a woman under these conditions, would have become
irritable, irascible, and a reviler of Fate. To any woman it would
have been a great deprivation, but to one mentally endowed as Mrs.
Fremont, it was especially severe. Yet did she "worry" about it? No!
bravely, cheerfully, boldly, she accepted the inevitable, and
in effect defied the deafness that had come to her to destroy her
happiness, embitter her life, take away the serenity of her mind and
the equipoise of her soul. If there had to be a battle to gain this
high plane of acceptance, she fought it out in secret, for her friends
and the world never heard a word of a murmur from her. I had the joy
of a talk with her about it, for it was a joy to have her make light
of her affliction, in the great number of good things wherein God
had blessed her. Laughingly she said: "Even in deafness I find many
compensations. One is never bored by conversation that is neither
intelligent, instructive or interesting. I can go to sleep under the
most persistent flood of boredom, and like the proverbial water on a
duck's back it never bothers me. Again, I never hear the unpleasant
things said about either my friends or my enemies, and what a blessing
that is. I am also spared hearing about many of the evils, the
disagreeable, the unpleasant and horrible things of life that I cannot
change, help, or alleviate, and I am thankful for my ignorance.
Then, again, when people say things that I can and do hear—in my
trumpet—that I don't think anyone should ever say, I can rebuke them
by making them think that I heard them say the very opposite of what
they did say, and I smile upon them 'and am a villain still.'"
Charles F. Lummis, the well-known litterateur and organizer of the
South-West Museum, of Los Angeles, after using his eyes and brain more
liberally than most men do in a lifetime thrice, or four times as long
as his, was unfortunately struck blind. Did he "worry" over it, and
fret himself into a worse condition? No! not for a moment. Cheerfully
he accepted the inevitable, got someone to read and write for him, to
guide him through the streets, and went ahead with his work just as
if nothing had happened, looking forward to the time when his eyesight
would be restored to him and hopefully and intelligently worked to
that end. In a year or so he and his friends were made happy by that
coming to pass, but even had it not been so, I am assured Dr. Lummis
would have faced the inevitable without a whimper, a cry, or a word of
worry or complaint.
Those who yield to worry over small physical ills should read his
inspiring My Friend Will,[A] a personal record of his sucessful
struggle against two severe and prostrating attacks of paralysis. One
perusal will show them the folly and futility of worry; a second will
shame them because they have so little self-control as to spend their
time, strength, and energy in worry; and a third perusal will lead
them to drive every fragment of worry out of the hidden recesses
of their minds and set them upon a better way—a way of serenity,
equipoise, and healthful, strenuous, yet joyous and radiant living.
[Footnote A:My Friend Will, by C.F. Lummis, A.C. McClurg Co.,
Recently I had a conversation with the former superintendent of a poor
farm, which bears upon this subject in a practical way. In relating
some of his experiences he told of a "rough-neck"—a term implying
an ignorant man of rude, turbulent, quarrelsome disposition—who
had threatened to kill the foreman of the farm. Owing to their
irreconcilable differences the rough inmate decided to leave and so
informed the superintendent, thus practically dismissing himself from
the institution. A year later he returned and asked to be re-admitted.
After a survey of the whole situation the superintendent decided that
it was not wise to re-admit him, and that he would better secure
a situation for him outside. He offered to do so and the man left
apparently satisfied. Three days later he reappeared, entered the
office with a loaded and cocked revolver held behind his back, and
abruptly announced: "I've come to blow out your brains." Before he
could shoot the superintendent was upon him and a fierce struggle
ensued for the possession of the weapon. The superintendent at last
took it away, secured help and handcuffed the would-be murderer.
Realizing that his act was the result of at least partial insanity,
the was-to-be victim did not press the charge of murderous assault but
allowed—indeed urged that he be sent to the insane asylum where he
Now this is the point I wish to make. It is perfectly within the
bounds of possibility that this man will some day be regarded as
safely sane. Yet it is well known by the awful experiences of many
such cases that it is both possible and probable that during the
months or years of his incarceration he will continue to harbor, even
to feed and foster the bitter feeling, the hatred, perhaps, that
led him to attempt the murder of the superintendent, and that on his
release he will again attempt to carry out his nefarious and awful
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
There are many other causes of worry, some of them so insidious, so
powerful, as to call for treatment in special chapters.
PROTEAN FORMS OF WORRY
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
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
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
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
'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
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
THE WORRIES OF PARENTS
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
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
I would give thee new life altogether, as good, ages hence,
At this moment,—had love but the warrant love's heart to
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
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
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.
THE WORRY OF THE SQUIRREL CAGE
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
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
'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
'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
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
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
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
'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
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,
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
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
RELIGIOUS WORRIES AND WORRIERS
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
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
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
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
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.
AMBITION AND WORRY
Some forms of ambition are sure and certain developers and feeders of
worry and fretful distress, and should be guarded against with jealous
care. We hear a great deal from our physicians of the germs of disease
that seize upon us and infect our whole being, but not all the disease
germs that ever infected a race are so demoralizing to one's peace and
joy as are the germs of such deadly mental diseases as those of envy,
malice, covetousness, ambition, and the like. Ambition, like wine, is
a mocker. It is a vain deluder of men. It takes an elevated position
and beckons to you to rise, that you may be seen and flattered of men.
It does not say: "Gain strength and power, wisdom and virtue, so that
men will place you upon the pedestal of their veneration, respect,
and love," but it bids you seize the "spotlight" and hold it, and no
sooner are you there than it begins to pester you, as with a hundred
thousand hornets, flying around and stinging you, with doubts and
questionings as to whether your fellows see you in this elevated
place, whether they really discern your worth, your beauty, your
shining qualities; and, furthermore, it quickens your hearing, and
bids you strain to listen to what they say about you, and as you do
so, you are pricked, stabbed, wounded by their slighting and jeering
remarks, their scornful comments upon your impertinent and impudent
arrogance at daring to take such a place, and their open denial of
your possession of any of the qualities which would entitle you to so
honored a position in the eyes of men.
Then, too, it must be recalled that, when fired with the desires of
this mocker, ambition, one is inclined, in his selfish absorption, to
be ruthless in his dealings with others. It is so easy to trample upon
others when a siren is beckoning you to climb higher, and your ears
are eagerly listening to her seductive phrases. With her song in
your ears, you cannot hear the wails of anguish of others, upon whose
rights and life you trample, the manly rebukes of those you wound,
or the stern remonstrances of those who bid you heed your course.
Ambition blinds and deafens, and, alas, calluses the heart, kills
comradeship, drives away friendship in its eager selfishness, and in
so doing, lets in a flood of worries that ever beset its victims. They
may not always be in evidence while there is the momentary triumph of
climbing, but they are there waiting, ready to teeter the pedestal,
whisper of its unsure and unstable condition, call attention to those
who are digging around its foundations, and to the fliers in the air,
who threaten to hurl down bombs and completely destroy it.
Phaeton begged that his father, Phoebus Apollo, allow him to drive
the flaming chariot of day through the heavens, and, in spite of all
warnings and cautions, insisted upon his power and ability. Though
instructed and informed as to the great dangers he evoked, he seized
the reins with delight, stood up in the chariot, and urged on the
snorting steeds to furious speed. Soon conscious of a lighter load
than usual, the steeds dashed on, tossing the chariot as a ship at
sea, and rushed headlong from the traveled road of the middle zone.
The Great and Little Bear were scorched, and the Serpent that coils
around the North Pole was warmed to life. Now filled with fear and
dread, Phaeton lost self-control, and looked repentant to the goal
which he could never reach. The unrestrained steeds dashed hither and
thither among the stars, and reaching the Earth, set fire to trees,
cities, harvests, mountains. The air became hot and lurid. The rivers,
springs, and snowbanks were dried up. The Earth then cried out in her
agony to Jupiter for relief, and he launched a thunderbolt at the now
cowed and broken-hearted driver, which not only struck him from the
seat he had dishonored, but also out of existence.
The old mythologists were no fools. They saw the worries, the dangers,
the sure end of ambition. They wrote their cautions and warnings
against it in this graphic story. Why will men and women, for the sake
of an uncertain and unsure goal, tempt the Fates, and, at the same
time, surely bring upon themselves a thousand unnecessary worries
that sting, nag, taunt, fret, and distress? Far better seek a goal of
certainty, a harbor of sureness, in the doing of kindly deeds, noble
actions, unselfish devotion to the uplift of others. In this mad rush
of ambitious selfishness, such a life aim may seem chimerical, yet
it is the only aim that will reach, attain, endure. For all earthly
fame, ambitious attainment, honor, glory is evanescent and temporary.
Like the wealth of the miser, it must be left behind. There is no
pocket in any shroud yet devised which will convey wealth across the
River of Death, and no man's honors and fame but that fade in the
clear light of the Spirit that shines in the land beyond.
Then, ambitious friend, quit your worrying, readjust your aim, trim
your lamp for another and better guest, live for the uplift of others,
seek to give help and strength to the needy, bring sunshine to the
darkened, give of your abundance of spirit and exuberance to those who
have little or none, and thus will you lay up treasure within your own
soul which will convert hell into heaven, and give you joy forever.
So long as men and women believe that happiness lies in outdistancing,
surpassing their fellows in exterior or material things, they cannot
help but be subjects to worry. To determine to gain a larger fortune
than that possessed by another man is a sure invitation to worry
to enter into possession of one's soul. Who has not seen the vain
struggles, the distress, the worry of unsatisfied ambitions that would
have amounted to nothing had they been gratified? In Women's Clubs—as
well as men's—many a heart-ache is caused because some other woman
gains an office, is elected to a position, is appointed on a committee
you had coveted.
The remedy for this kind of worry is to change the aim of life.
Instead of making position, fame, the attainment of fortune, office, a
fine house, an automobile, the object of existence, make the doing
of something worthy a noble manhood or womanhood the object of your
ambition. Strive to make yourself worthy to be the best president
your club has ever had; endeavor to be the finest equipped, mentally,
for the work that is to be done, whether you are chosen to do it or
not, and keep on, and on, and still on, finding your joy in the work,
in the benefit it is to yourself, in the power it is storing up within
Then, as sure as the sun shines, the time will come when you will be
chosen to do the needed work. "Your own will come to you." Nothing can
hinder it. It will flow as certainly into your hands as the waters of
the river flow into the sea.
ENVY AND WORRY
Envy is a prolific source of worry. Once allow this demon of unrest
to fasten itself in one's vitals, and worry claims every waking
hour. Envy is that peculiar demon of discontent that cannot see
the abilities, attainments, achievements, or possessions of another
without malicious determination to belittle, deride, make light of, or
absolutely deny their existence, while all the time covetously craving
them for itself. Andrew Tooke pictures Envy as a vile female:
A deadly paleness in her cheek was seen;
Her meager skeleton scarce cased with skin;
Her looks awry; an everlasting scowl
Sits on her brow; her teeth deform'd and foul;
Her breast had gall more than her breast could hold;
Beneath her tongue coats of poison roll'd;
No smile e'er smooth'd her furrow'd brow but those
Which rose from laughing at another's woes;
Her eyes were strangers to the sweets of sleep,
Devouring spite for ever waking keep;
She sees bless'd men with vast success crown'd,
Their joys distract her, and their glories wound;
She kills abroad, herself's consum'd at home,
And her own crimes are her perpetual martyrdom.
Ever watching, with bloodshot eyes, the good things of others, she
hates them for their possessions, longs to possess them herself,
lets her covetousness gnaw hourly at her very vitals, and yet, in
conversation with others, slays with slander, vile innuendo, and
falsehood, the reputation of those whose virtues she covets.
As Robert Pollock wrote of one full of envy:
It was his earnest work and daily toil
With lying tongue, to make the noble seem
Mean as himself.
* * * * *
Whene'er he heard,
As oft he did, of joy and happiness,
And great prosperity, and rising worth,
'Twas like a wave of wormwood o'er his soul
Rolling its bitterness.
Aye! and he drank in great draughts of this bitter flood, holding it
in his mouth, tasting its foul and biting qualities until his whole
being seemed saturated with it, hating it, dreading it, suffering
every moment while doing it, yet enduring it, because of his envy at
the good of others.
Few there are, who, at some time or other in their lives, do not have
a taste, at least, of the stinging bite of envy. Girls are envious of
each other's good looks, clothes, possessions, houses, friends; boys
of the strength, skill, ability, popularity of others; women of other
women, men of other men, just as when they were boys and girls.
One of the strongest words the great Socrates ever wrote was against
envy. He said:
Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of murder and
revenge, the beginner of secret sedition, the perpetual
tormentor of virtue. Envy is the filthy slime of the soul; a
venom, a poison, a quicksilver, which consumeth the flesh, and
drieth up the marrow of the bones.
And history clearly shows that the wise philosopher stated facts.
Caligula slew his brother because he possessed a beauty that led him
to be more esteemed and favored than he. Dionysius, the tyrant, was
vindictive and cruel to Philoxenius, the musician, because he could
sing; and with Plato, the philosopher, because he could dispute,
better than himself. Even the great Cambyses slew his brother,
Smerdis, because he was a stronger and better bowman than himself or
any of his party. It was envy that led the courtiers of Spain to crave
and seek the destruction of Columbus, and envy that set a score of
enemies at the heels of Cortes, the conqueror of Peru.
It is a fearful and vindictive devil, is this devil of envy, and he
who yields to it, who once allows it admittance to the citadel of his
heart, will soon learn that every subsequent waking and even sleeping
moment is one of worry and distress.
DISCONTENT AND WORRY
Closely allied to envy is discontent. These are blood relations, and
both are prolific sources of worry. And lest there are those who
think because I have revealed, in the preceding chapter, the demon of
worry—envy—as one that attacks the minds of the great and mighty, it
does not enter the hearts of everyday people, let me quote, entire, an
article and a poem recently written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox in The Los
Angeles Examiner. The discontent referred to clearly comes from envy.
Some one has blond tresses, while she has black. This arouses her
envy. She is envious because another's eyes are blue, while hers
are brown; another is tall, while she is small; etc., etc. There is
nothing, indeed, that she cannot weep and worry over:
There is a certain girl I know, a pretty little elf,
Who spends almost her entire thoughts in pity for herself.
Her glossy tresses, raven black, cause her to weep a pond—
She is so sorry for herself because they are not blond.
Her eyes, when dry, are very bright and very brown, 'tis true,
But they are almost always wet, because they are not blue.
She is of medium height, and when she sees one quite tall
She weeps all day in keenest pain because she is so small.
But if she meets some tiny girl whom she considers fair,
Then that she is so big herself she sobs in great despair.
When out upon a promenade her tears she cannot hide,
To think she is obliged to walk while other folks can ride.
But if she drives, why then she weeps—it is so hard to be
Perched stiffly in a carriage seat while other girls run free.
She used to cry herself quite sick to think she had to go
Month after month to dreary schools; that was her constant woe.
But on her graduating day, my, how her tears did run!
It seemed so sorrowful to know that her school life was done.
One day she wept because she saw a funeral train go by—
It was so sad that she must live while other folks could die.
And really all her friends will soon join with her in those tears
Unless she takes a brighter view of life ere many years.
The conceited girl or woman is tiresome and unpleasant as a companion,
but the morbidly discontented woman is far worse. Perhaps you have met
her, with her eternal complaint of the injustice of Fate toward her.
She feels that she is born for better things than have befallen her;
her family does not understand her; her friends misjudge her; the
public slights her.
If she is married she finds herself superior to her husband and to her
associates. She is eternally longing for what she has not, and when
she gets it is dissatisfied.
The sorrowful side of life alone appeals to her.
This she believes is due to her "artistic nature." The injustice of
fortune and the unkindness of society are topics dear to her heart.
She finds her only rapture in misery.
If she is religiously inclined she looks toward Heaven with more grim
satisfaction in the thought that it will strip fame, favor and fortune
from the unworthy than because it will give her the benefits she feels
She does not dream that she is losing years of Heaven here upon earth
by her own mental attitude.
WE BUILD OUR HEAVENS THOUGHT BY THOUGHT.
If you are dwelling upon the dark phases of your destiny and upon the
ungracious acts of Fate, you are shaping more of the same experience
for yourself here and in realms beyond.
You are making happiness impossible for yourself upon any plane. In
your own self lies Destiny.
I have known a woman to keep her entire family despondent for years by
her continual assertions that she was out of her sphere, misunderstood
The minds of sensitive children accepted these statements and grieved
over "Poor Mother's" sad life until their own youth was embittered.
The morbid mother seized upon the sympathies of her children like a
leech and sapped their young lives of joy.
The husband grew discouraged and indifferent under the continual
strain, and what might have been a happy home was a desolate one, and
its memory is a nightmare to the children to-day.
Understand yourself and your Divine possibilities and you will
cease to think you are misunderstood.
It is not possible to misunderstand a beautiful, sunny day.
All nature rejoices in its loveliness.
Give love, cheerfulness, kindness and good-will to all
humanity, and you need not worry about being misunderstood.
Give the best you have to each object, purpose and individual,
and you will eventually receive the best from humanity.
COWARDICE AND WORRY
Cowardice is a much more prolific source of worry than most people
imagine. There are many varieties of cowardice, all tracing their
ancestry back to fear. Fear truly makes cowards of us all. There are
the physical cowards, the social cowards, the business cowards, the
hang-on-to-your-job cowards, the political cowards, the moral cowards,
the religious cowards, and fifty-seven, nay, a hundred and one other
varieties. Each and all of these have their own attendant demons of
worry. Every barking dog becomes a lion ready to tear one to pieces,
and no bridge is strong enough to allow us to pass over in safety. No
cloud has a silver lining, and every rain-storm is sure to work
injury to the crops rather than bring the needful moisture for their
What a piteous sight to see a man who dares not express his honest
opinions, who must crawl instead of walk upright, in the presence of
his employer, lest he lose his job. How his cowardice worries him,
meets him at every turn, torments him, lest some incautious word be
repeated, lest he say or do the wrong thing. And so long as there
are cowards to employ, bully employers will exist. Nay, the cowardice
seems to call out bullying qualities. Just as a cur will follow you
with barkings and threatening growls if you run from him, and yet turn
tail and run when you boldly face him, so with most men, with society,
with the world—flee from them, show your fear of them, and they will
harry you, but boldly face them, they gentle down immediately, fawn
upon you, lie down, or, to use an expressive slang phrase, "come and
eat out of your hand."
How politicians straddle the fence, refrain from expressing their
opinions, deal in glittering generalities, because of their cowardly
fears. How they turn their sails to catch every breath of popular
favor. How cautious, politic, wary, they are, and how fears worry and
besiege them, whenever they accidentally or incidentally say something
that can be interpreted as a positive conviction. And yet men really
love a brave man in political life; one who has definite convictions
and fearlessly states them; who has no worries as to results but dares
to say and do those things only of which his conscience approves. No
matter how one may regard Roosevelt, cowardice is one thing none will
accuse him of. He says his say, does his will, expresses himself with
freedom upon any and all subjects, let results be as they may. Such
a man is free from the petty worries that beset most politicians.
He knows nothing of their existence. They cannot breathe in the free
atmosphere that is essential to his life; like the cowardly cur, they
run away at his approach.
Oh, cowards all, of every kind and degree, quit ye like men, be strong
and of good courage, dare and do, dare and say, dare and be, take a
manly stand, fling out your banner boldly to the breeze, cry out as
did Patrick Henry: "Give me liberty, or give me death," or as that
other patriot did: "Sink or swim, survive or perish, I give my hand
and my heart to this vote." Do the things you are afraid of; dare the
men who make cowards of you; say the things you fear to say; and be
the things you know you ought to be, and it will surprise you how the
petty devils of worry will slink away from you. You will walk in new
life, in new strength, in new joy, in new freedom. For he who lives a
life free from worries of this nature, has a spontaneity, a freedom,
an exuberance, an enthusiasm, a boldness, that not only are winsome in
themselves, make friends, open the doors of opportunity, attract the
moving elements of life, but that give to their possessor an entirely
new outlook, a wider survey, a more comprehensive grasp. Life itself
becomes bigger, grander, more majestic, more worth while, the whole
horizon expands, and from being a creature of petty affairs, dabbling
in a small way in the stuff of which events are made, he becomes a
potent factor, a man, a creator, a god, though in the germ.
WORRY ABOUT MANNERS AND SPEECH
Many people are desperately worried about their manners. One has
but to read the letters written to the "Answers to Correspondents"
departments of the newspapers to see how much worry this subject of
manners causes. This springs, undoubtedly, from a variety of causes.
People brought up in the country, removing to the city, find the
conditions of life very different from those to which they have been
accustomed, and they are uncertain as to what city people regard
as the right and proper things to do. Where one, perforce, must act,
uncertainty is always irritating or worrying, and, because of this
uncertainty, many people worry even before the time comes to act. Now,
if their worry would take a practical and useful turn—or, perhaps, I
had better state it in another way, viz., that if they would spend
the same time in deciding what their course of action should be—there
would be an end put to the worry.
We have all seen such people. They are worried lest their clothes are
not all right for the occasion, lest their tie is of the wrong shade,
their shoes of the correct style, and a thousand and one things that
they seem to conjure up for the especial purpose of worrying over
them. Who has not seen the nervousness, the worried expression on the
face, the real misery of such people, caused by trifles that are so
insignificant as not to be worth one-tenth the bother wasted on them.
The learning of a few fundamental principles will help out
wonderfully. The chief end of "good manners" is to oil the wheels
of social converse. Hence, the first and most important principle to
learn is a due and proper consideration for the rights, opinions, and
comfort of others. In other words, don't think of yourself so much as
of the other fellow. Let your question be, not: How can I secure
my own pleasure and comfort? but How can I best secure his? It is a
self-evident proposition that you cannot make him feel comfortable and
happy if you are uncomfortable and unhappy. Hence, the first thing to
do is to quit worrying and be comfortable. This desired state of mind
will come as soon as you have courageously made up your mind as to
what standard of manners you intend to follow. The world is made up
to-day, largely, of two classes: those who have money, and those who
don't. Of the former class, a certain few set themselves up as the
arbiters of good manners; they decide what shall be called "good
form," and what is not allowable. If you belong to that class, the
best thing you can do is to learn "to play the game their way." Study
their rules of calling cards, and learn whether you leave one, two,
three, or six when you are calling upon a man, or a woman, or both, or
their oldest unmarried daughter, or the rest of the family. This is
a regular game like golf, or polo. You have to know the course, the
tools to use, and the method of going from one goal to another. Now, I
never knew any ordinarily intelligent man or woman who couldn't learn
the names of the tools used in golf, the numbers of the holes, and the
rules of the game. How you play the game is another matter. And so
is it in "good society." You can learn the rules as easily as the next
one, and then it is "up to you" as to how you play it. You'll have
to study the fashions in clothes; the fashions in handkerchiefs, and
how to flirt with them; when to drink tea, and where; how to lose
money gracefully at bridge; how to gabble incessantly and not know
what you are talking about; how to listen "intelligently" and not have
the remotest idea what your vis-a-vis is saying to you; you'll have
to join 'steen clubs, and read ten new novels a day; go to every new
play; know all about the latest movies; know all the latest ideas
of social uplift, study art, the spiritual essence of color, the
futurists, and the cubists. Of course, you'll study the peerage of
England and know all about rank and precedence—and, indeed, you'll
have your hands and mind so full of things that will make such a hash
of life that it will take ten specialists to straighten you out and
help you to die forty years before your time. Hence, if that is the
life you intend to live, throw this book into the fire. It will be
wasting your time to read it.
If you don't belong to the class of the extra rich, but are all the
time wishing that you did; that you had their money, could live as
they live, and, as far as you can, you imitate, copy, and follow
them, then, again, I recommend that you give this book to the nearest
newsboy and let him sell it and get some good out of it. You are not
yet ready for it, or else you have gone so far beyond me in life, that
you are out of my reach.
If, on the other hand, you belong to the class of workers, those who
have to earn their living and wish to spend their lives intelligently
and usefully, you can well afford to disregard—after you have learned
to apply the few basic principles of social converse—the whims, the
caprices, the artificial code set up by the so-called arbiters of
fashion, manners, and "good form," which are not formulated for
the promotion of intelligent intercourse between real manhood and
womanhood, but for the preservation and strengthening of the barriers
of wealth and caste.
Connected with this phase of the subject is a consideration of those
who are worried lest in word or action, they fail in gentility. They
are afraid to do anything lest it should not be regarded as genteel.
When they shake hands, it must be done not so much with hearty,
friendly spontaneity, but with gentility, and you wonder what that
faint touch of fingers, reached high in air, means. They would be
mortified beyond measure if they failed to observe any of the little
gentilities of life, while the larger consideration of their visitor's
disregard of the matter, would entirely escape them. To such people,
social intercourse is a perpetual worry and bugbear. They are on the
watch every moment, and if a visitor fails to say, "Pardon me," at the
proper place, or stands with his back to his hostess for a moment, or
does any other of the things that natural men and women often do, they
Then it would be amusing, were it not pathetic, to see how particular
they are about their speech—what they say, and how they say it.
As Dr. Palmer has tersely said: "We are terrorized by custom, and
inclined to adjust what we would say to what others have said before,"
and he might have added: It must be said in the same manner.
I cannot help asking why men and women should be terrorized by
custom—the method followed or prescribed by other men and women. Why
be so afraid of others; why so anxious to "kow-tow" to the standards
of others? Who are they? What are they, that they should demand the
reverent following of the world? Have you anything to say? Have you
a right to say it? Is it wise to say it? Then, in the name of God, of
manhood, of common sense, say it, directly, positively, assertively,
as is your right, remembering the assurance of the Declaration of
Independence that "all men are created equal." Don't worry about
whether you are saying it in the genteel fashion of some one else's
standard. Make your own standard. Even the standards of the grammar
books and dictionaries are not equal to that of a man who has
something to say and says it forcefully, truthfully, pointedly,
directly. Dr. Palmer has a few words to say on this phase of the
subject, which are well worthy serious consideration: "The cure for
the first of these troubles is to keep our eyes on our object, instead
of on our listener or ourselves; and for the second, to learn to rate
the expressiveness of language more highly than its compeers.
The opposite of this, the disposition to set correctness above
expressiveness, produces that peculiarly vulgar diction, known as
"school-ma'am English," in which for the sake of a dull accord with
usage, all the picturesque, imaginative, and forceful employment of
words is sacrificed."
There you have it! If you have something to say that really means
something, think of that, rather than of the way of saying it, your
hearer, or yourself. Thus you will lose your self-consciousness, your
dread, your fear, your worry. If your thought is worth anything,
you can afford to laugh at some small violation of grammar, or the
knocking over of some finical standard or other. Not that I would be
thought to advocate either carelessness, laziness, or indifference in
speech. Quite the contrary, as all who have heard me speak well know.
But I fully believe that thought is of greater importance than form
of expression. And, as for grammar, I believe with Thomas Jefferson,
that "whenever, by small grammatical negligences, the energy of your
ideas can be condensed or a word be made to stand for a sentence, I
hold grammatical rigor in contempt."
I was present once when Thomas Carlyle and a technical grammarian
were talking over some violation of correct speech—according to the
latter's standard—when Carlyle suddenly burst forth in effect, in his
rich Scotch burr: "Why, mon, I'd have ye ken that I'm one of the men
that make the language for little puppies like ye to paw over with
your little, fiddling, twiddling grammars!"
By all means, know all the grammar you can. Read the best of poets and
prose authors to see how they have mastered the language, but don't
allow your life to become a burden to you and others because of your
worry lest you "slip a grammatical cog" here and there, when you know
you have something worth saying. And if you haven't anything worth
saying, please, please, keep your mouth shut, no matter what the
genteel books prescribe, for nothing can justify the talk of an
empty-headed fool who will insist upon talking when he and his
listeners know he has nothing whatever to say. So, if you must worry,
let it be about something worth while—getting hold of ideas, the
strength of your thought, the power of your emotion, the irresistible
sweep of your enthusiasm, the forcefulness of your indignation about
wrong. These are things it is worth while to set your mind upon, and
when you have decided what you ought to say, and are absorbed with
the power of its thought, the need the world has for it, you will care
little about the exact form of your words. Like the flood of a mighty
stream, they will pour forth, carrying conviction with them, and to
convince your hearer of some powerful truth is an object worthy the
highest endeavor of a godlike man or woman—surely a far different
object than worrying as to whether the words or method of expression
meet some absurd standard of what is conceived to be "gentility."
Congressman Hobson, of Merrimac fame, and Ex-President Roosevelt are
both wonderful illustrations of the point I am endeavoring to impress
upon my readers. I heard Hobson when, in Philadelphia, at a public
dinner given in his honor, he made his first speech after his return
from Cuba. It was evident that he had been, and was, much worried
about what he should say, and the result was everybody else was
worried as he tried to say it. His address was a pitiable failure,
mainly because he had little or nothing to say, and yet tried to make
a speech. Later he entered Congress, began to feel intensely upon the
subjects of national defense and prohibition of the alcoholic liquor
traffic. A year or so ago I heard him speak on the latter of these
subjects. Here, now, was an entirely different man. He was possesed
with a great idea. He was no longer trying to find something to say,
but in a powerful, earnest, and enthusiastic way, he poured forth
facts, figures, argument, and illustration, that could not fail to
convince an open mind, and profoundly impress even the prejudiced.
It was the same with Roosevelt. When he first began to speak in
public, it was hard work. He wrote his addresses beforehand, and then
read them. Perhaps he does now, for aught I know to the contrary, but
I do know that now that he is full of the subjects of national honor
in dealing with such cases as Mexico, Belgium, and Armenia, and our
preparedness to sacrifice life itself rather than honor, his words
pour forth in a perfect Niagara of strong, robust, manly argument,
protest, and remonstrance, which gives one food for deep thought no
matter how much he may differ.
There are those who worry about the "gentility" of others. I remember
when Charles Wagner, the author of The Simple Life, was in this
country. We were dining at the home of a friend and one of these
super-sensitive, finical sticklers for gentility was present. Wagner
was speaking in his big, these super-sensitive, finical sticklers for
gentility simple, primitive way of a man brought up as a peasant,
and more concerned about what he was thinking than whether his "table
manners" conformed to the latest standard. There was some gravy on his
plate. He wanted it. He took a piece of bread and used it as a sop,
and then, impaling the gravy-soaked bread on his fork, he conveyed it
to his mouth with gusto and relish. My "genteel" friend commented upon
it afterwards as "disgusting," and lost all interest in the man and
his work as a consequence.
To my mind, the criticism was that of a fool.
John Muir, the eminent poet-naturalist of the Mountains of
California, had a habit at the table of "crumming" his bread—that
is, toying with it, until it crumbled to pieces in his hand. He
would, at the same time, be sending out a steady stream of the most
entertaining, interesting, fascinating, and instructive lore about
birds and beasts, trees and flowers, glaciers and rocks, that one
ever listened to. In his mental occupancy, he knew not whether he was
eating his soup with a fork or an ice-cream spoon—and cares less.
Neither did any one else with brains and an awakened mind that soared
above mere conventional manners. And yet I once had an Eastern woman
of great wealth, (recently acquired), and of great pretensions to
social "manners," at whose table Muir had eaten, inform me that she
regarded him as a rude boor, because, forsooth, he was unmindful
of these trivial and unimportant conventions when engaged in
Now, neither Wagner nor Muir would justify any advocacy on my part of
neglect of true consideration, courtesy, or good manners. But where
is the "lack of breeding" in sopping up gravy with a piece of bread or
"crumming," or eating soup with a spoon of one shape or another? These
are purely arbitrary rules, laid down by people who have more time
than sense, money than brains, and who, as I have elsewhere remarked,
are far more anxious to preserve the barand unimportant conventions
when engaged in conive realization of the biblical idea of the
"brotherhood of man."
THE WORRIES OF JEALOUSY
A prolific source of worry is jealousy; not only the jealousy that
exists between men and women, but that exists between women and women,
and between men and men. There are a thousand forms that this hideous
monster of evil assumes, and when they have been catalogued and
classified, another thousand will be found awaiting, around the
corner, of entirely different categories. But all alike they have
one definite origin, one source, one cause. And that cause, I am
convinced, is selfishness. We wish to own, to dominate, to control,
absolutely, entirely, for our own pleasure, and satisfaction, that of
which we are jealous. In Chapter One I tell the incident of the young
man on the street car whose jealous worry was so manifest when he
saw his "girl" smiling upon another man. I suppose most men and women
feel, or have felt, at some time or other, this sex jealousy. That
woman belongs to me, her smiles are mine, her pleasant words
should fall on my ear alone; I am her lover, she, the mistress of
my heart; and that should content her.
Every writer of the human heart has expatiated upon this great source
of worry—jealousy. Shakspere refers to it again and again. The whole
play of Othello rests upon the Moor's jealousy of his fair, sweet,
and loyally faithful Desdemona. How the fiendish Iago plays upon
Othello's jealous heart until one sees that:
Trifles, light as air,
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ.
Iago bitterly resents a slight he feels Othello has put upon him. With
his large, generous, unsuspicious nature, Othello never dreams of such
a thing; he trusts Iago as his intimate friend, and thus gives the
crafty fiend the oportunity he desires to
put the Moor
Into a jealousy so strong
That judgment cannot cure …
Make the Moor thank me, love me, reward me,
For making him egregiously an ass
And practicing upon his peace and quiet
Even to madness.
Othello gives his wife, Desdemona, a rare handkerchief. Iago urges his
own wife, who is Desdemona's maid, to pilfer this and bring it to him.
When he gets it, he leaves it in Cassio's room. Cassio was an intimate
friend of Othello's, one, indeed, who had gone with him when he went
to woo Desdemona, and who, by Iago's machinations, had been suspended
from his office of Othello's chief lieutenant. To provoke Othello's
jealousy Iago now urges Desdemona to plead Cassio's cause with her
husband, and at the came time eggs on Othello to watch Cassio:
Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio;
Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor secure.
I would not have your free and noble nature
Out of self-bounty be abus'd; look to 't.
Thus he works Othello up to a rage, and yet all the time pretends to
be holding him back:
I do see you're mov'd;
I pray you not to strain my speech
To grosser issues nor to larger reach
Than to suspicion.
Iago leaves the handkerchief in Cassio's room, at the same time
The Moor already changes with my poison;
Dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons,
Which at the first are scarce found to distaste,
But with a little act upon the blood,
Burn like the mines of sulphur.
And as he sees the tortures the jealous worries of the Moor have
already produced in him, he exultingly yet stealthily rejoices:
Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou hadst yesterday.
Well might Othello exclaim that he is "Set on the rack." Each new
suspicion is a fresh pull of the lever, a tightening of the strain
to breaking point, and soon his jealousy turns to the fierce and
murderous anger Iago hoped it would:
Like to the Pontic sea,
Whose icy current and compulsive course
Ne'er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
To the Propontic and the Hellespont,
Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace,
Shall ne'er look back, ne'er ebb to humble love,
Till that a capable and wide revenge
Swallow them up.
Thus was he urged on, worried by his jealousy, until, in his bloody
rage, he slew his faithful wife. Poor Desdemona, we weep her fate, yet
at the same time we should deeply lament that Othello was so beguiled
and seduced by his jealousy to so horrible a deed. And few men or
women there are, unless their souls are purified by the wisdom of God,
that are not liable to jealous influences. Our human nature is weak
and full of subtle treacheries, that, like Iago, seduce us to our own
undoing. He who yields for one moment to the worries of jealousy
is already on the downward path that leads to misery, woe and deep
undoing, Iago is made to declare the philosophy of this fact, when, in
the early portion of the play he says to Roderigo:
'Tis in ourselves we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our
gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners; so that if
we will plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up
thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with
many, either to have it sterile with idleness or manured with
industry, why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies
in our wills.
Therein, surely, is great truth. We can plant or weed up, in the
garden of our minds, whatever we will; we can "have it sterile
with idleness," or fertilize it with industry, and it must ever be
remembered that the more fertile the soil the more evil weeds will
grow apace if we water and tend them. Our jealous worries are the
poisonous weeds of life's garden and should be rooted out instanter,
and kept out, until not a sign of them can again be found.
Solomon sang that "jealousy is as cruel as the grave; the coals
thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame."
What a graphic picture of worry—a fire of vehement flame, burning,
scorching, destroying peace, happiness, content, joy and reducing them
In my travel and observation I have found a vast amount of jealous
worry in institutions of one kind and another—such as the Indian
Service, in reform schools, in humane societies, in hospitals, among
the nurses, etc. It seems to be one of the misfortunes of weak human
nature when men and women associate themselves together to do some
work which ought to call out all the nobleness, the magnanimity, the
godlike qualities of their souls, they become maggoty with jealous
worries—worry that they are not accorded the honor that is their
due; worry that their work is not properly appreciated; worry lest
someone else becomes a favorite of the Superintendent, etc., etc.,
etc., ad libitum. Worries of this nature in every case, are a proof
of small, or undeveloped, natures. No truly great man or woman can
be jealous. Jealousy implies that you are not sure of your own worth,
ability, power. You find someone else is being appreciated, you
covet that appreciation for yourself, whether you deserve it or not.
In other words you yield to accursed selfishness, utterly forgetful of
the apostolic injunction: "In honor preferring one another."
And the same jealousies are found among men and women in every walk of
life, in trade, in the office, among professors in schools, colleges,
universities; in the learned professions, among lawyers, physicians
and even among the ministers of the gospel, and judges upon the bench.
Oh! shame! shame! upon the littleness, the meanness, the paltriness
of such jealousies; of the worries that come from them. How any human
being is to be pitied whose mortal mind is corroded with the biting
acid of jealous worry. When I see those who are full of worry because
yielding to this demon of jealousy I am almost inclined to believe
in the old-time Presbyterian doctrine of "total depravity." Whenever,
where-ever, you find yourself feeling jealous, take yourself by the
throat (figuratively), and strangle the feeling, then go and frankly
congratulate the person of whom you are jealous upon some good you can
truthfully say you see in him; spread his praises abroad; seek to do
him honor. Thus by active work against your own paltry emotion you
will soon overcome it and be free from its damning and damnable
Akin to the worries of jealousy are the worries of hate. How much
worry hate causes the hater, he alone can tell. He spends hours in
conjuring up more reasons for his hate than he would care to write
down. Every success of the hated is another stimulant to worry, and
each step forward is a sting full of pain and bitterness.
He who hates walks along the path of worry, and so long as he hates he
must worry. Hence, there is but one practical way of escape from the
worries of hatred, viz., by ceasing to hate, by overcoming evil with
THE WORRIES OF SUSPICION
He who has a suspicious mind is ever the prey of worry. Such an one is
to be pitied for he is tossed hither and yon, to and fro, at the whim
of every breath of suspicion he breathes. He has no real peace of
mind, no content, no unalloyed joy, for even in his hours of pleasure,
of recreation, of expected jollity he is worrying lest someone is
trying to get ahead of him, his vis-a-vis is "jollying" him, his
partner at golf is trying to steal a march on him, he is not being
properly served at the picnic, etc.
These suspicious-minded people are sure that every man is a scoundrel
at heart—more or less—and needs to be watched; no man or woman is to
be trusted; every grocer will sand his sugar, chicory his coffee, sell
butterine for butter, and cold-storage eggs for fresh if he gets a
chance. To accept the word of a stranger is absurd, as it is also
to believe in the disinterestedness of a politician, reformer,
office-holder, a corporation, or a rich man. But to believe evil,
to expect to be swindled, or prepare to be deceived is the height
of perspicacity and wisdom. How wonderfully Shakspere in Othello
portrays the wretchedness of the suspicious man. One reason why Iago
so hated the Moor was that he suspected him:
the thoughts whereof
Doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards,
And nothing can or shall content my soul
Till I am even'd with him.
How graphic the simile, "gnaw my inwards;" it is the perpetual symbol
of worry; the poisonous mineral ever biting away the lining of the
stomach; just as mice and rats gnaw at the backs of the most precious
books and destroy them; aye, as they gnaw during the night-time and
drive sleep away from the weary, so does suspicion gnaw with its sharp
worrying teeth to the destruction of peace, happiness and joy.
Then, when Iago has poisoned Othello's mind with suspicions about his
wife, how the Moor is worried, gnawed by them:
By heaven, he echoes me,
As if there were some monster in his thought
Too hideous to be shown—(To Iago) Thou dost mean something.
I heard thee say even now, thou lik'dst not that,
When Cassio left my wife; what didst not like?
And when I told thee he was of my counsel
In my whole course of wooing, thou criedst 'Indeed!'
And didst contract and purse thy brow together,
As if thou then hadst shut up in thy brain
Some horrible conceit. If thou dost love me,
Show me thy thought.
And then we know, how, with crafty, devilish cunning, Iago plays upon
these suspicions, fans their spark into flames. He pretends to be
doing it purely on Othello's account and accuses himself that:
it is my nature's plague
To spy into abuses, and yet my jealousy
Shapes faults that are not:
and then cries out:
O beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss
Who certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;
But, O, what damned minutes tells he o'er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!
There, indeed, the woe of the suspicious is shown. His minutes are
really "damned;" peace flies his heart, rest from his couch, sanity
from his throne, and, yielding himself, he becomes filled with
murderous anger and imperils his salvation here and hereafter.
THE WORRIES OF IMPATIENCE
How many of our worries come from impatience? We do not want to wait
until the fruition of our endeavors comes naturally, until the time is
ripe, until we are ready for that which we desire. We wish to
overrule conditions which are beyond our power; we fail to accept
the inevitable with a good grace; we refuse to believe in our
circumscriptions, our limitations, and in our arrogance and pride
express our anger, our indignation, our impatience.
I have seen people whose auto has broken down, worried fearfully
because they would not arrive somewhere as they planned, and in their
impatient fretfulness they annoyed, angered, and upset all around
them, without, in one single degree, improving their own condition
or hastening the repair of the disaster. What folly; what more than
A child may be excused for its impatience and petulance for it has not
yet learned the inevitable facts of life—such as that breaks must be
repaired, tires must be made so that they will not leak, and that the
gasoline tank cannot be empty if the machine is to run. But a man, a
woman, is supposed to have learned these incontrovertible facts, and
should, at the same time, have learned acquiesence in them.
A train is delayed; one has an important engagement; worry seems
inevitable and excusable. But is it? Where is the use? Will it replace
the destroyed bridge, renew the washed out track, repair the broken
engine? How much better to submit to the inevitable with graceful
acceptance of the fact, than to fret, stew, worry, and at the same
time, irritate everyone around you.
How serenely Nature rebukes the impatience of the fretful worrier. A
man plants corn, wheat, barley, potatoes—or trees, that take five,
seven years to come to bearing, such as the orange, olive, walnut,
date, etc. Let him fret ever so much, worry all he likes, chafe and
fret every hour; let him go and dig up his seeds or plants to urge
their upgrowing; let him even swear in his impatient worry and
threaten to smash all his machinery, discharge his men, and turn
his stock loose; Nature goes on her way, quietly, unmoved, serenely,
unhurried, undisturbed by the folly of the one creature of earth who
is so senseless as to worry—viz., man.
Many a man's hair has turned gray, and many a woman's brow and
cheeks have become furrowed because of fretful, impatient worry over
something that could not be changed, or hastened, or improved.
My conception of life is that manhood, womanhood, should rise superior
to any and all conditions and circumstances. Whatever happens, Spirit
should be supreme, superior, in control. And until we learn that
lesson, life, so far, has failed. Inasmuch as we do learn it, life has
become a success.
THE WORRIES OF ANTICIPATION
He crosses every bridge before he comes to it, is a graphic and
proverbial rendering of a description of the man who worries in
anticipation. Something, sure, is going to happen. He is always
fearful, not of what is, but of what is going to be. For twenty years
he has managed to live and pay his rent, but at the beginning of each
month he begins afresh to worry where "next month's rent is going
to come from." He's collected his bills fairly well for a business
life-time, but if a debtor fails to send in his check on the very day
he begins to worry and fear lest he fail to receive it. His wife has
given him four children, but at the coming of the fifth he is sure
something extraordinarily painful and adverse is going to happen.
He sees—possibly, here, I should say, she sees—their son climbing
a tree. She is sure he will fall and break a leg, an arm, or his neck.
Her boy mustn't ride the horse lest he fall and injure himself; if he
goes to swim he is surely in danger of being drowned, and she could
never allow him or his sister to row in a boat lest it be overturned.
The child must be watched momentarily, lest it fall out of the window,
search out a sharp knife, swallow poison, or do some irreparable
damage to the bric-a-brac.
Here let me relate an incident the truth of which is vouched for, and
which clearly illustrates the difference between the attitude of worry
and that of trust. One day, when Flattich, a pious minister of the
Wurtemberg, was seated in his armchair, one of his foster children
fell out of a second-story window, right before him, to the pavement
below. He calmly ordered his daughter to go and bring up the child.
On doing so it was found the little one had sustained no injury.
A neighbor, however, aroused by the noise, came in and reproached
Flattich for his carelessness and inattention. While she was thus
remonstrating, her own child, which she had brought with her, fell
from the bench upon which she had seated it, and broke its arm. "Do
you see, good woman," said the minister, "if you imagine yourself to
be the sole guardian of your child, then you must constantly carry it
in your arms. I commend my children to God; and even though they then
fall, they are safer than were I to devote my whole time and attention
Those who anticipate evils for their children too often seem to bring
down upon their loved ones the very evils they are afraid of. And one
of the greatest lessons of life, and one that brings immeasurable
and uncountable joys when learned, is, that Nature—the great
Father-Mother of us all—is kindly disposed to us. We need not be so
alarmed, so fearful, so anticipatory of evil at her hands.
Charles Warren Stoddard used to tell of the great dread Mark Twain was
wont to feel, during the exhaustion and reaction he felt at the close
of each of his lectures, lest he should become incapable of further
writing and lecturing and therefore become dependent upon his friends
and die a pauper. How wonderfully he conquered this demon of perpetual
worry all those who know his life are aware; how that, when his
publisher failed he took upon himself a heavy financial burden, for
which he was in no way responsible, went on a lecture tour around the
world and paid every cent of it, and finally died with his finances in
a most prosperous condition.
The anticipatory worries of others are just as senseless, foolish and
absurd as were those of Mark Twain, and it is possible for every man
to overcome them, even as did he.
The cloud we anticipate seldom, if ever, comes, and then, generally,
in a different direction from where we sought it. Time spent on
looking for the cloud, and figuring how much of injury it will do
us had better be utilized in garnering the hay crop, bringing in the
lambs, or hauling warm fodder and bedding for them.
There is another side, however, to this worrying anticipation of
troubles. The ancient philosophers recognized it. Lucan wrote: "The
very fear of approaching evil has driven many into peril."
There are those who believe that the very concentration of thought
upon a possible evil will bring to pass the peculiar arrangement of
circumstances that makes the evil. Of this belief I am not competent
to speak, but I am fully assured that it is far from helpful to be
contemplating the possibility of evil. In my own life I have found
that worrying over evils in anticipation has not prevented their
coming, and, on the other hand, that where I have boldly faced the
situation, without fear and its attendant worries, the evil has fled.
Hence, whether worries in hand, or worries to come, worries real or
worries imaginary, the wise, sane and practical course is to kill them
all and thus Quit Your Worrying.
HOW OUR WORRY AFFECTS OTHERS
If worry affected merely ourselves it would be bad enough, but we
could tolerate it more than we do. For it is one of the infernal
characteristics of worry that our manifestation of it invariably
affects others as injuriously as it affects ourselves.
An employer who worries his employees never gets the good work out
of them as does the one who has sense enough to keep them happy,
good-natured and contented. I was lecturing once for a large
corporation. I had two colleagues, who "spelled me" every hour. For
much of the time we had no place to rest, work or play between our
lectures. Our engagement lasted the better part of a year, and the
result was that, during that period where our reasonable needs were
unprovided for, we all failed to give as good work as we were capable
of. We were unnecessarily worried by inadequate provision and our
employers suffered. Henry Ford, and men of his type have learned this
lesson. Men respond rapidly to those who do not worry them. Governor
Hunt and Warden Sims, of Arizona, have learned the same fact in
dealing with prisoners of the State Penitentiary. The less the men
are "worried" by unnecessarily harsh treatment, absurd and cruel
restrictions, curtailment of natural rights, the better they act, the
easier they are liable to reform and make good.
Dr. Musgrove to his Nervous Breakdowns, tells a story of two
commanders which well illustrates this point:
In a certain war two companies of men had to march an equal
distance in order to meet at a particular spot. The one
arrived in perfect order, and with few signs of exhaustion,
although the march had been an arduous one. The other company
reached the place utterly done up and disorganised. It was all
a question of leadership; the captain of the first company
had known his way and kept his men in good order, while the
captain of the second company had never been sure of himself,
and had harassed his subordinates with a constant succession
of orders and counter-orders, until they had hardly known
whether they were on their heads or their heels. That was why
they arrived completely demoralised.
In war, as in peace, it is not work that kills so much as worry.
A general may make his soldiers work to the point of exhaustion as
Napoleon often did, yet have their almost adoring worship. But the
general who worries his men gets neither their good will nor good
A worrying mother can keep a whole house in a turmoil, from father
down to the latest baby. The growing boys and girls soon learn to
dread the name of "home," and would rather be in school, in the
backyard playing, in the attic, at the neighbors, or in the streets,
anywhere, than within the sound of their mother's worrying voice,
or frowning countenance. A worrying husband can drive his wife
distracted, and vice versa. I was dining not long ago with a couple
that, from outward appearance, had everything that heart could desire
to make them happy. They were young, healthy, had a good income, were
both engaged in work they liked, yet the husband worried the
wife constantly about trifles. If she wished to set the table in a
particular way he worried because she didn't do it some other way; if
she drove one of their autos he worried because she didn't take the
other; and when she wore a spring-day flowery kind of a hat he worried
her because his mother never wore any other than a black hat. The
poor woman was distracted by the absolute absurdities, frivolities and
inconsequentialities of his worries, yet he didn't seem to have sense
to see what he was doing. So I gave him a plain practical talk—as I
had been drawn into a discussion of the matter without any volition on
my part—and urged him to quit irritating his wife so foolishly and so
Some teachers worry their pupils until the latter fail to do the work
they are competent to do; and the want of success of many an ambitious
teacher can often be attributed to his, her, worrying disposition.
Remember, therefore, that when you worry you are making others unhappy
as well as yourself, you are putting a damper, a blight, upon other
lives as well as your own, you are destroying the efficiency of other
workers as well as your own, you are robbing others of the joy of life
which God intended them freely to possess. So that for the sake of
others, as well as your own, it becomes an imperative duty that you
QUIT YOUR WORRYING.
WORRY VERSUS INDIFFERENCE
The aim and object of all striving in life should be to grow more
human, more humane, less selfish, more helpful to our fellows. Any
system of life that fails to meet this universal need is predestined
to failure. When, therefore, I urge upon my readers that they quit
their worrying about their husbands or wives, sons and daughters,
neighbors and friends, the wicked and the good, I do not mean that
they are to harden their hearts and become indifferent to their
welfare. God forbid! No student of the human heart, of human life, and
of the Bible can long ignore the need of a caution upon these lines.
The sacred writer knew what he was talking about when he spoke of the
human heart as deceitful and desperately wicked. It is deceitful or it
would never blind people as it does to the inutility, the futility of
much of their goodness. A goodness that is wrapped up in a napkin, and
lies unused for the benefit of others, rots and becomes a putrid mass
of corruption. It can only remain good by being unselfishly used for
the good of others, and to prove that the human heart is desperately
wicked one needs only to look at the suffering endured by mankind
unnecessarily—suffering that organized society ought to prevent and
The parable of the lost sheep was written to give us this needful
lesson. The shepherd, when he found one of his sheep gone, did not sit
down and wring his hands in foolish and useless worry as to what would
happen to the sheep, the dangers that would beset it, the thorns,
the precipices, the wolves. Nor did he count over the times he had
cautioned the sheep not to get away from its fellows. Granted that
it was conceited, self-willed, refused to listen to counsel,
disobedient—the main fact in the mind of the shepherd was that it was
lost, unprotected, in danger, afraid, cold, hungry, longing for the
sheepfold, the companionship of its fellows and the guardianship of
the shepherd. Hence, he went out eagerly and sympathetically, and
searched until he found it and brought it back to shelter.
This, then, should be the spirit of those who have needed my
caution and advice to quit their worrying about their loved ones and
others—Do not worry, but do not, under any consideration, become
hard-hearted, careless, or indifferent. Better by far preserve your
interest and the human tenderness that leads you to the useless and
needless expenditure of energy and sympathy in worry than that you
should let your loved ones suffer without any care, thought, or
endeavor on their behalf. But do not let it be a sympathy that leads
to worry. Let it be helpful, stimulating, directive, energizing in the
good. Overcome evil with good. Resist evil and it will flee from you.
So long as those you love are absorbed in the things that in the past
have led you to worry over them, be tender and sympathetic with them,
surround them with your holy and helpful love.
Jesus was tender and compassionate with all who were sick or diseased
in body or mind. He was never angry with any, save the proud and
self-righteous Pharisees. He tenderly forgave the adulterous woman,
justified the publican and never lectured or rebuked those who came to
have their bodily and mental infirmities removed by him. Let us then
be tender with the erring and the sinful, rather than censorious,
and full of rebuke. Is it not the better way to point out the
right—overcome the evil with the good, and thus bind our erring
loved ones more firmly to ourselves. Surely our own errors, failures,
weaknesses and sins ought to have taught us this lesson.
In the bedroom of a friend where I recently slept, was a card on
which was illuminated these words, which bear particularly upon this
The life that has not known and accepted sorrow is strangely
crude and untaught; it can neither help nor teach, for it has
never learned. The life that has spurned the lesson of sorrow,
or failed to read it aright, is cold and hard. But the life
that has been disciplined by sorrow is courageous and full of
holy and gentle love.
And it is this holy, gentle, and courageous love that we need to
exercise every day towards those who require it, rather than the
worry that frets still more, irritates, and widens the gulf already
existent. So, reader, don't worry, but help, sympathetically and
lovingly, and above all, don't become indifferent, hard-hearted and
WORRIES AND HOBBIES
Though these words are much alike in sound they have no sympathy
one with another. Put them in active operation and they rush at each
other's throats far worse than Allies and Germans are now fighting.
They strive for a death grip, and as soon as one gets hold he hangs on
to the end—if he can. Yet, as in all conflicts, the right is sure to
win in an equal combat, the right of the hobby is absolutely certain
to win over the wrong of the worry.
Webster defines a hobby as: "A subject or plan which one is constantly
setting off," or "a favorite and ever recurring theme of discourse,
thought, or effort," but the editor of The Century Dictionary has
a better definition, more in accord with modern thought, viz., "That
which a person persistently pursues or dwells upon with zeal or
delight, as if riding a horse."
Are you cursed by the demon of worry? Has he got a death grip on your
throat? Do you want to be freed from his throttling assaults? If
so, get a hobby, the more mentally occupying the better, and ride it
earnestly, sincerely, furiously. Let it be what it will, it will
far more than pay in the end, when you find yourself free from the
nightmare of worry that has so relentlessly ridden you for so long.
Collect bugs, old china, Indian baskets, Indian blankets, pipes,
domestic implements, war paraphanalia, photographs, butterflies; make
an herbarium of the flowers of your State; collect postage stamps, old
books, first editions; go in for extra-illustrating books; pick up and
classify all the stray phrases you hear—do anything that will occupy
your mind to the exclusion of worry.
And let me here add a thought—the more unselfish you can make your
hobby the better it will be for you. Perhaps I can put it even in a
better way yet: The less your hobby is entered into with the purely
personal purpose of pleasing yourself, and the more actively you can
make it beneficial, helpful, joy-giving to others, the more potent
for good it will be in aiding you to get rid of your worries. He who
blesses another is thrice blessed, for he not only blesses himself by
the act, but brings upon himself the blessing of the recipient and of
Almighty God, with the oft-added blessing of those who learn of
the good deed and breathe a prayer of commendation for him. In San
Francisco there is a newspaper man who writes in a quaint, peculiar,
simple, yet subtle fashion, who signs himself "K.C.B." During the
Panama-Pacific Exposition one of his hobbies was to plan to take there
all the poor youngsters of the streets, the newsboys, the little ones
in hospitals, the incurables, the down-and-outers of the work-house
and poor-farm, and finally, the almost forgotten old men and women of
I saw strong men weep with deep emotion at the procession of
automobiles conveying the happy though generally silent throngs on
one of these occasions, and "K.C.B." must have felt the showers of
blessings that were sent in his direction from those who saw and
appreciated his beautiful helpfulness.
There is nothing to hinder any man, woman, youth or maiden from doing
exactly the same kind of thing, with the same spirit, and bringing
a few hours of happiness to the needy, thus driving worry out of the
mind, putting it hors de combat, so that it need never again rise
from the field.
Every blind asylum, children's hospital, slum, old lady's home, old
man's home, almshouse, poor-farm, work-house, insane asylum, prison,
and a thousand other centers where the poor, needy, sick and afflicted
gather, has its lonely hearts that long for cherishing, aching brows
that need to be soothed, pain to be alleviated; and there is no
panacea so potent in removing the worries of our own life as to engage
earnestly in removing the positive and active ills of others.
People occasionally ask me if I have any hobby that has helped me ward
off the attacks of worry. I do not believe I have ever answered this
question as fully as I might have done, so I will attempt to do so
now. One of my first hobbies was food reform and hygienic living. When
I was little more than twelve years of age I became a vegetarian
and for nine years lived the life pretty rigorously. I have always
believed that simpler, plainer living than most of us indulge in, more
open air life, sleeping, working, living out of doors, more active,
physical exercise of a useful character, would be beneficial. Then I
became a student of memory culture. Professor William Stokes of
the Royal Polytechnic Institution became my friend, and for years
I studied his system of Mnemonics, or as it was generally termed
"Artificial Memory." Then I taught it for a number of years, and
evolved from it certain fundamental principles upon which I have
largely based the cultivation of my own memory and mentality, and for
which I can never be sufficiently thankful. Then I desired to be a
public speaker. I became a "hobbyist" on pronunciation, enunciation,
purity of voice, phrasing and getting the thought of my own mind in
the best and quickest possible way into the minds of others. For years
I kept a small book in which I jotted down every word, its derivation
and full meaning with which I was not familiar. I studied clear
enunciation by the hour; indeed as I walked through the streets I
recited to myself, aloud, so that I could hear my own enunciation,
such poems as Southey's Cataract of Lodore, where almost every word
terminates in "ing." For I had heard many great English and American
speakers whose failure to pronounce this terminal "ing" in such
words as coming, going, etc., used to distress me considerably. Other
exercises were the catches, such as "Peter Piper picks a peck of
pickled peppers," or "Selina Seamstich stitches seven seams slowly,
surely, serenely and slovenly," or "Around a rugged rock a ragged
rascal ran a rural race." Then, too, Professor Stokes had composed a
wonderful yarn about the memory, entitled "My M-made memory medley,
mentioning memory's most marvelous manifestations." This took up as
much as three or four pages of this book, every word beginning with m.
It was a marvelous exercise for lingual development. He also had
"The Far-Famed Fairy Tale of Fenella," and these were constantly
and continuously recited, with scrupulous care as to enunciation. My
father was an old-time conductor of choral and oratorio societies, and
was the leader of a large choir. I had a good alto voice and under his
wise dicipline it was cultivated, and I was a certificated reader of
music at sight before I was ten years old. Then I taught myself
to play the organ, and before I was twenty I was the organist and
choir-master of one of the largest Congregational churches of my
native town, having often helped my father in the past years to drill
and conduct oratorios such as The Messiah, Elijah, The Creation,
etc. When I began to speak in public the only special instruction I
had for the cultivation of the voice was a few words from my father to
this effect: Stand before the looking-glass and insist that your face
appear pleasant and agreeable. Speak the sentence you wish to hear.
Listen to your own voice, you can tell as well as anyone else whether
its sound is nasal, harsh, raucous, disagreeable, affected, or in
any way displeasing or unnatural. Insist upon a pure, clear, natural,
pleasing tone, and that's all there is to it. When you appear before
an audience speak to the persons at the further end of the hall and
if they can hear you don't worry about anyone else. Later, when I had
become fairly launched as a public speaker, he came to visit me, and
when I appeared on my platform that night I found scattered around on
the floor, where none could see them but myself, several placards upon
which he had printed in easily-read capitals: Don't shout—keep cool.
Avoid ranting. Make each point clear. Don't ramble, etc.
When I was about fourteen I took up phonography, or stenography as
it is now known. This was an aid in reporting speeches, making notes,
etc., but one of its greatest helps was in the matter of analysing the
sounds of words thus aiding me in their clear enunciation.
At this time I was also a Sunday school teacher, and at sixteen years
of age, a local preacher in the Methodist church. This led to my
becoming an active minister of that denomination after I came to the
United States, and for seven years I was as active as I knew how to
be in the discharge of this work. In my desire to make my preaching
effective and helpful I studied unweariedly and took up astronomy,
buying a three inch telescope, and soon became elected to Fellowship
in the Royal Astronomical Society of England. Then I took up
microscopy, buying the fine microscope from Dr. Dallinger, President
of the Royal Microscopical Society, with which he had done his great
work on bacilli—and which, by-the-way, was later stolen from me—and
I was speedily elected a Fellow of that distinguished Society. A
little later Joseph Le Conte, the beloved geologist of the California
State University, took me under his wing, and set me to work solving
problems in geology, and I was elected, in due time, a Fellow of the
Geological Society of England, a society honored by the counsels of
such men as Tyndall, Murchison, Lyell, and all the great geologists of
the English speaking world.
Just before I left the ministry, in 1889, I took up, with a great deal
of zeal, the study of the poet Browning. I had already yielded to the
charm of Ruskin—whom I personally knew—and Carlyle, but Browning
opened up a new world of elevated thought to me, in which I am still
a happy dweller. In seeking a new vocation I naturally gravitated
towards several lines of thought and study, all of which have
influenced materially my later life, and all of which I pursued with
the devotion accorded only to hobbies. These were I: A deeper study
of Nature, in her larger and manifestations, as the Grand Canyon of
Arizona, the Petrified Forest, the Yosemite Valley, the Big Trees, the
High Sierras, (with their snow-clad summits, glaciers, lakes, canyons,
forests, flora and fauna), the Colorado and Mohave Deserts, the
Colorado River, the Painted Desert, and the many regions upon which I
have written books. II: The social conditions of the submerged tenth,
which led to my writing of a book on The Dark Places of Chicago
which was the stimulating cause of W.T. Stead's soul-stirring book If
Christ Came to Chicago. Here was and is the secret of my interest in
all problems dealing with social unrest, the treatment of the poor
and sinful, etc., for I was Chaplain for two years of two homes for
unfortunate women and girls. III. A deeper study of the Indians, in
whom I had always been interested, and which has led to my several
books on the Indians themselves, their Basketry, Blanketry, etc. IV. A
more detailed study of the literature of California and the West, and
also, V. A more comprehensive study of the development of California
and other western states, in order that I might lecture more
acceptably upon these facinating themes.
Here, then, are some of the hobbies that have made, and are making, my
life what it is. I leave it to my readers to determine which has
been the better—to spend my hours, days, weeks, months and years in
getting my livelihood and worrying, or in providing for my family
and myself, and spending all the spare time I had upon these many and
varied hobbies, some of which have developed into my life-work. And
I sincerely hope I shall be absolved from any charge of either
self-glorification or egotism in this recital of personal experiences.
At the time I was passing through them I had no idea of their great
value. They were the things to which something within me bade me flee
to find refuge from the worries that were destroying me, and it is
because of their triumphant success that I now recount them, in the
fervent desire that they may bring hope to despondent souls, give
courage to those who are now wavering, uncertain and pessimistic, and
thus rid them of the demons of fret and worry.
Now that I have come to my final words where all my final admonitions
should be placed, I find I have little left to say, I have said it
all, reader, in the chapters you have read (or skipped.) Indeed I have
not so much cared to preach to you myself, as to encourage, incite
you to do your own preaching. This is, by far, the most effective,
permanent and lasting. Improvement can come only from within. A seed
of desire may be sown by an outsider, but it must grow in the soil of
your soul, be harbored, sheltered, cared for, and finally beloved by
your own very self, before it will flower into new life for you.
That you may possess this new life—a life of work, of achievement, of
usefulness to others—is my earnest desire, and this can come only to
its fullest fruition in those who have learned to QUIT WORRYING.