Again he resolved to see the man, to ask pardon for his spite, and to remove the fence. This time he went as far as his neighbor's gate, but still he couldn't get up his courage to go into the house. He thought, perhaps, the door would be slammed in his face, so again he let his good resolution wane, until one day he saw crape on the door. Then he knew his neighbor was gone, and that never while life lasted could he make amends for the wrong he had done him.
After the funeral he began to take the spite fence down, but he never ceased to blame himself for the two deaths. All his remaining years were clouded with regrets and unavailing remorse. He moved away from his beau tiful mansion, for he could not bear the sight of the desolate, empty house opposite, which was a perpetual reproach to him.
People who nurse a grudge or bitter resentment, who build spite fences to shut out the light, the air and the view from their neighbors, never get any real satisfaction out of such fiendish conduct; when too late they realize that they only added fuel to the flame of their anger and resentment, and further increased their unhappiness.
In good-will to men lies the cure for all the evils of society. With good-will to men in our hearts there is no possibility of cherishing a grudge against a neighbor, of wilfully injuring another. Hatred, ill-will, cannot live an instant in the presence of the Golden Rule, in the presence of love. Love melts all prejudices, dissolves all hatreds and jealousies, neutralizes all bitterness. All doors fly open to love. It has no enemies. It is a welcome guest everywhere. It needs no introduction. It introduces itself, and every created thing responds to it. It has transformed wild beasts into the dearest and most lovable of pets. It drives the brute out of every human being.
What a fearful price people pay for their revenge - a price which staggers their advancement, kills their efficiency, ruins their happiness, their characters.
I have known people to carry for years feelings of bitter hatred and a desire for revenge, a determination to "get square" with those who injured them, until their whole characters were so changed that they became almost inhuman. Hatred, revenge, and jealousy are poisons just as fatal to all that is noblest in us as arsenic is fatal to the physical life. And then think for a moment how unmanly, how unwomanly, how despicable it is to be waiting for an opportunity to injure another, or to "get square" with some one!
Robert Browning says: "It is good to forgive, best to forget." Many people, however, say of some one who has done them an injury, "I can forgive, but I can never forget." Now, this is not forgiving, for as long as we hold the injury done us in mind, we do not forgive from our hearts. This is not love's way. It is not God's way, for He has said to the wrongdoer who repents, "Though thy sins be as scarlet they shall be made whiter than snow."
If for any real or fancied wrong you hold a grudge against your neighbor, there is a better way of "getting square" than by building a spite fence. Love's way is infinitely better. It will win over your neighbor's respect and love, and it will have the approval of your own soul. You have tried the "getting square" policy, the hatred and grudge method; you have tried the revenge way, the jealousy way; you have tried the worry, the anxiety method, and these have pained and tortured you all the more. You have tried law and the courts to settle troubles and difficulties with neighbors and business associates, and perhaps you won lawsuits only to make bitter, lifelong enemies. But perhaps you have never yet tried love's way, excepting in spots. If you have not yet tried it as a principle, as a life philosophy, as a great life lubricant, begin now. It will smooth out all the rough places and wonderfully ease your journey over the jolts of life.
In proportion as you see the God in your friends and in your fellow beings generally will you call out their divine qualities and your own, because you appeal to the Godlike in them and in yourself. This is the secret of the brotherhood of man, of harmony and happiness.
Those who make love's way a life policy always see the best in people, and say pleasant, helpful things to them and about them. The trouble with most of us is that we do not make love's way a life policy; we do not open up our natures, throw wide the doors of our hearts and sympathies, and thus let in the sunshine of good-will, cheer and kindness.
If we were only as generous in judging others as we are in judging ourselves, as tolerant of others' weaknesses as we are of our own, we should be very slow to anger. The habit of holding the good-will, the kindly, sympathetic thought toward everybody would lift our minds above petty jealousy and meannesses; it would enrich and enlarge our whole nature. The daily habit of wishing everybody well, of feeling like wishing everybody a Godspeed, no matter if they are strangers, ennobles character and beautifies and enriches life.
Yet everywhere we see people who are quarreling about half of the time, nagging, faultfinding, "getting mad" and putting up spite fences for trifles unworthy of attention. What a way for men and women with divine possibilities to spend their lives!
It is the spirit of hate, of selfishness and greed, that has obsessed those who are responsible for the present awful war. Love has not yet been born in the hearts of those who have brought this tragedy upon the world. They do not know what brotherhood means. The Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule, are strangers to them. When love shall be born into their hearts there will be a new order of things.
Look out for the buried roots of former troubles, of old grudges, feelings of revenge, excuses for trying to get square! Root them up, cast them out of your heart and forget them, or you will be sorry. Obey the divine command, "Love your enemies," and you will have peace and happiness instead of discord and unhappiness.