Quit Your Worrying!
George Wharton James
Part 1 out of 3
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QUIT YOUR WORRYING!
GEORGE WHARTON JAMES
"Living the Radiant Life," "What the White Race may learn from
the Indian," "The story of Scraggles," "California, Romantic and
Beautiful," "Our American Wonderlands," etc. etc.
who are standing on the banks of worry before the ocean of God's love
I cry aloud
"COME ON IN--THE WATER'S FINE!"
I THE CURSE OF WORRY
II OURS IS THE AGE OF WORRY
III NERVOUS PROSTRATION AND WORRY
IV HOLY WRIT, THE SAGES AND WORRY
V THE NEEDLESSNESS AND USELESSNESS OF WORRY
VI THE SELFISHNESS OF WORRY
VII CAUSES OF WORRY
VIII PROTEAN FORMS OF WORRY
IX HEALTH WORRIES
X THE WORRIES OF PARENTS
XI MARITAL WORRIES
XII THE WORRY OF THE SQUIRREL CAGE
XIII RELIGIOUS WORRIES AND WORRIERS
XIV AMBITION AND WORRY
XV ENVY AND WORRY
XVI DISCONTENT AND WORRY
XVII COWARDICE AND WORRY
XVIII WORRY ABOUT MANNERS AND SPEECH
XIX THE WORRIES OF JEALOUSY
XX THE WORRIES OF SUSPICION
XXI THE WORRIES OF IMPATIENCE
XXII THE WORRIES OF ANTICIPATION
XXIII HOW OUR WORRY AFFECTS OTHERS
XXIV WORRY VERSUS INDIFFERENCE
XXV WORRIES AND HOBBIES
JUST BE GLAD
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
_O heart of mine, we shouldn't worry so,
What we have missed of calm we couldn't have, you know!_
_What we've met of stormy pain,
And of sorrow's driving rain,
We can better meet again,
If it blow._
_We have erred in that dark hour, we have known,
When the tear fell with the shower, all alone._
_Were not shine and shower blent
As the gracious Master meant?
Let us temper our content
With His own._
_For we know not every morrow
Can be sad;
So forgetting all the sorrow
We have had,
Let us fold away our fears,
And put by our foolish tears,
And through all the coming years,
Just be glad._
Between twenty and thirty years ago, I became involved in a series of
occurrences and conditions of so painful and distressing a character
that for over six months I was unable to sleep more than one or two
hours out of the twenty-four. In common parlance I was "worrying
myself to death," when, mercifully, a total collapse of mind and body
came. My physicians used the polite euphemism of "cerebral congestion"
to describe my state which, in reality, was one of temporary insanity,
and it seemed almost hopeless that I should ever recover my health
and poise. For several months I hovered between life and death, and my
brain between reason and unreason.
In due time, however, both health and mental poise came back in
reasonable measure, and I asked myself what would be the result if I
returned to the condition of worry that culminated in the disaster.
This question and my endeavors at its solution led to the gaining of a
degree of philosophy which materially changed my attitude toward life.
Though some of the chief causes of my past worry were removed there
were still enough adverse and untoward circumstances surrounding me
to give me cause for worry, if I allowed myself to yield to it, so I
concluded that my mind must positively and absolutely be prohibited
from dwelling upon those things that seemed justification for worry.
And I determined to set before me the ideal of a life without worry.
How was it to be brought about?
At every fresh attack of the harassing demon I rebuked myself with the
stern command, "Quit your Worrying." Little by little I succeeded
in obeying my own orders. A measurable degree of serenity has since
blessed my life. It has been no freer than other men's lives from the
ordinary--and a few extraordinary--causes of worry, but I have learned
the lesson. I have _Quit Worrying_. To help others to attain the same
desirable and happy condition has been my aim in these pages.
It was with set purpose that I chose this title. I might have selected
"Don't Worry." But I knew that would fail to convey my principal
thought to the casual observer of the title. People _will_ worry, they
_do_ worry. What they want to know and need to learn is how to
quit worrying. This I have attempted herein to show, with the full
knowledge, however, that no one person's recipe can infallibly be used
by any other person--so that, in reality, all I have tried to do is
to set forth the means I have followed to teach myself the delightful
lesson of serenity, of freedom from worry, and thereby to suggest
to receptive minds a way by which they may possibly attain the same
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
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