Self-Control - William George Jordan - ebook

Man has two creators,—his God and himself. His first creator furnishes him the raw material of his life and the laws in conformity with which he can make that life what he will. His second creator,—himself,—has marvellous powers he rarely realizes. It is what a man makes of himself that counts.When a man fails in life he usually says, "I am as God made me." When he succeeds he proudly proclaims himself a "self-made man." Man is placed into this world not as a finality,—but as a possibility. Man's greatest enemy is,—himself. Man in his weakness is the creature of circumstances; man in his strength is the creator of circumstances. Whether he be victim or victor depends largely on himself.

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Table of contents

I The Kingship of Self-Control

II The Crimes of the Tongue

III The Red Tape of Duty

IV The Supreme Charity of the World

V Worry, the Great American Disease

VI The Greatness of Simplicity

VII Living Life Over Again

VIII Syndicating Our Sorrows

IX The Revelations of Reserve Power

X The Majesty of Calmness

XI Hurry, the Scourge of America

XII The Power of Personal Influence

XIII The Dignity of Self-Reliance

XIV Failure as a Success

XV Doing Our Best at All Times

XVI The Royal Road to Happiness

ISBN: 9788827800195
Youcanprint Self-Publishing

I The Kingship of Self-Control

Man has two creators,—his God and himself. His first creator furnishes him the raw material of his life and the laws in conformity with which he can make that life what he will. His second creator,—himself,—has marvellous powers he rarely realizes. It is what a man makes of himself that counts. When a man fails in life he usually says, “I am as God made me.” When he succeeds he proudly proclaims himself a “self-made man.” Man is placed into this world not as a finality,—but as a possibility. Man’s greatest enemy is,—himself. Man in his weakness is the creature of circumstances; man in his strength is the creator of circumstances. Whether he be victim or victor depends largely on himself. Man is never truly great merely for what he is, but ever for what he may become. Until man be truly filled with the knowledge of the majesty of his possibility, until there come to him the glow of realization of his privilege to live the life committed to him, as an individual life for which he is individually responsible, he is merely groping through the years. To see his life as he might make it, man must go up alone into the mountains of spiritual thought as Christ went alone into the Garden, leaving the world to get strength to live in the world. He must there breathe the fresh, pure air of recognition of his divine importance as an individual, and with mind purified and tingling with new strength he must approach the problems of his daily living. Man needs less of the “I am a feeble worm of the dust” idea in his theology, and more of the conception “I am a great human soul with marvellous possibilities” as a vital element in his daily working religion. With this broadening, stimulating view of life, he sees how he may attain his kingship through self-control. And the self-control that is seen in the most spectacular instances in history, and in the simplest phases of daily life, is precisely the same in kind and in quality, differing only in degree. This control man can attain, if he only will; it is but a matter of paying the price. The power of self-control is one of the great qualities that differentiates man from the lower animals. He is the only animal capable of a moral struggle or a moral conquest. Every step in the progress of the world has been a new “control.” It has been escaping from the tyranny of a fact, to the understanding and mastery of that fact. For ages man looked in terror at the lightning flash; to-day he has begun to understand it as electricity, a force he has mastered and made his slave. The million phases of electrical invention are but manifestations of our control over a great force. But the greatest of all “control” is self-control. At each moment of man’s life he is either a King or a slave. As he surrenders to a wrong appetite, to any human weakness; as he falls prostrate in hopeless subjection to any condition, to any environment, to any failure, he is a slave. As he day by day crushes out human weakness, masters opposing elements within him, and day by day re-creates a new self from the sin and folly of his past,—then he is a King. He is a King ruling with wisdom over himself. Alexander conquered the whole world except,—Alexander. Emperor of the earth, he was the servile slave of his own passions. We look with envy upon the possessions of others and wish they were our own. Sometimes we feel this in a vague, dreamy way with no thought of real attainment, as when we wish we had Queen Victoria’s crown, or Emperor William’s self-satisfaction. Sometimes, however, we grow bitter, storm at the wrong distribution of the good things of life, and then relapse into a hopeless fatalistic acceptance of our condition. We envy the success of others, when we should emulate the process by which that success came. We see the splendid physical development of Sandow, yet we forget that as a babe and child he was so weak there was little hope that his life might be spared. We may sometimes envy the power and spiritual strength of a Paul, without realizing the weak Saul of Tarsus from which he was transformed through his self-control. We shut our eyes to the thousands of instances of the world’s successes,—mental, moral, physical, financial or spiritual,—wherein the great final success came from a beginning far weaker and poorer than our own. Any man may attain self-control if he only will. He must not expect to gain it save by long continued payment of price, in small progressive expenditures of energy. Nature is a thorough believer in the installment plan in her relations with the individual. No man is so poor that he cannot begin to pay for what he wants, and every small, individual payment that he makes, Nature stores and accumulates for him as a reserve fund in his hour of need. The patience man expends in bearing the little trials of his daily life Nature stores for him as a wondrous reserve in a crisis of life. With Nature, the mental, the physical or the moral energy he expends daily in right-doing is all stored for him and transmuted into strength. Nature never accepts a cash payment in full for anything,—this would be an injustice to the poor and to the weak. It is only the progressive installment plan Nature recognizes. No man can make a habit in a moment or break it in a moment. It is a matter of development, of growth. But at any moment man may begin to make or begin to break any habit. This view of the growth of character should be a mighty stimulus to the man who sincerely desires and determines to live nearer to the limit of his possibilities. Self-control may be developed in precisely the same manner as we tone up a weak muscle,—by little exercises day by day. Let us each day do, as mere exercises of discipline in moral gymnastics, a few acts that are disagreeable to us, the doing of which will help us in instant action in our hour of need. The exercises may be very simple—dropping for a time an intensely interesting book at the most thrilling page of the story; jumping out of bed at the first moment of waking; walking home when one is perfectly able to do so, but when the temptation is to take a car; talking to some disagreeable person and trying to make the conversation pleasant. These daily exercises in moral discipline will have a wondrous tonic effect on man’s whole moral nature. The individual can attain self-control in great things only through self-control in little things. He must study himself to discover what is the weak point in his armor, what is the element within him that ever keeps him from his fullest success. This is the characteristic upon which he should begin his exercise in self-control. Is it selfishness, vanity, cowardice, morbidness, temper, laziness, worry, mind-wandering, lack of purpose?—whatever form human weakness assumes in the masquerade of life he must discover. He must then live each day as if his whole existence were telescoped down to the single day before him. With no useless regret for the past, no useless worry for the future, he should live that day as if it were his only day,—the only day left for him to assert all that is best in him, the only day left for him to conquer all that is worst in him. He should master the weak element within him at each slight manifestation from moment to moment. Each moment then must be a victory for it or for him. Will he be King, or will he be slave?—the answer rests with him.

II The Crimes of the Tongue

The second most deadly instrument of destruction is the dynamite gun,—the first is the human tongue. The gun merely kills bodies; the tongue kills reputations and, ofttimes, ruins characters. Each gun works alone; each loaded tongue has a hundred accomplices. The havoc of the gun is visible at once. The full evil of the tongue lives through all the years; even the eye of Omniscience might grow tired in tracing it to its finality. The crimes of the tongue are words of unkindness, of anger, of malice, of envy, of bitterness, of harsh criticism, gossip, lying and scandal. Theft and murder are awful crimes, yet in any single year the aggregate sorrow, pain and suffering they cause in a nation is microscopic when compared with the sorrows that come from the crimes of the tongue. Place in one of the scale-pans of Justice the evils resulting from the acts of criminals, and in the other the grief and tears and suffering resulting from the crimes of respectability, and you will start back in amazement as you see the scale you thought the heavier shoot high in air. At the hands of thief or murderer few of us suffer, even indirectly. But from the careless tongue of friend, the cruel tongue of enemy, who is free? No human being can live a life so true, so fair, so pure as to be beyond the reach of malice, or immune from the poisonous emanations of envy. The insidious attacks against one’s reputation, the loathsome innuendoes, slurs, half-lies, by which jealous mediocrity seeks to ruin its superiors, are like those insect parasites that kill the heart and life of a mighty oak. So cowardly is the method, so stealthy the shooting of the poisoned thorns, so insignificant the separate acts in their seeming, that one is not on guard against them. It is easier to dodge an elephant than a microbe. In London they have recently formed an Anti-Scandal League. The members promise to combat in every way in their power “the prevalent custom of talking scandal, the terrible and unending consequences of which are not generally estimated.” Scandal is one of the crimes of the tongue, but it is only one. Every individual who breathes a word of scandal is an active stockholder in a society for the spread of moral contagion. He is instantly punished by Nature by having his mental eyes dimmed to sweetness and purity, and his mind deadened to the sunlight and glow of charity. There is developed a wondrous, ingenious perversion of mental vision, by which every act of others is explained and interpreted from the lowest possible motives. They become like certain carrion flies, that pass lightly over acres of rose-gardens, to feast on a piece of putrid meat. They have developed a keen scent for the foul matter upon which they feed. There are pillows wet by sobs; there are noble hearts broken in the silence whence comes no cry of protest; there are gentle, sensitive natures seared and warped; there are old-time friends separated and walking their lonely ways with hope dead and memory but a pang; there are cruel misunderstandings that make all life look dark,—these are but a few of the sorrows that come from the crimes of the tongue. A man may lead a life of honesty and purity, battling bravely for all he holds dearest, so firm and sure of the rightness of his life that he never thinks for an instant of the diabolic ingenuity that makes evil and evil report where naught but good really exists. A few words lightly spoken by the tongue of slander, a significant expression of the eyes, a cruel shrug of the shoulders, with a pursing of the lips,—and then, friendly hands grow cold, the accustomed smile is displaced by a sneer, and one stands alone and aloof with a dazed feeling of wonder at the vague, intangible something that has caused it all. For this craze for scandal, sensational newspapers of to-day are largely responsible. Each newspaper is not one tongue, but a thousand or a million tongues, telling the same foul story to as many pairs of listening ears. The vultures of sensationalism scent the carcass of immorality afar off. From the uttermost parts of the earth they collect the sin, disgrace and folly of humanity, and show them bare to the world. They do not even require facts, for morbid memories and fertile imaginations make even the worst of the world’s happenings seem tame when compared with their monstrosities of invention. These stories, and the discussions they excite, develop in readers a cheap, shrewd power of distortion of the acts of all around them. If a rich man give a donation to some charity, they say: “He is doing it to get his name talked about,—to help his business.” If he give it anonymously, they say, “Oh, it’s some millionaire who is clever enough to know that refraining from giving his name will pique curiosity; he will see that the public is informed later.” If he do not give to charity, they say: “Oh, he’s stingy with his money, of course, like the rest of the millionaires.” To the vile tongue of gossip and slander, Virtue is ever deemed but a mask, noble ideals but a pretense, generosity a bribe. The man who stands above his fellows must expect to be the target for the envious arrows of their inferiority. It is part of the price he must pay for his advance. One of the most detestable characters in all literature is Iago.