At a symposium in St. Andrew's Methodist Church in New York, the pastor asked opinions on the best safeguards to temptation in the city. Among the written replies to the question by many well known people, including Rabindranath Tagore, Andrew Carnegie, Oscar L. Strauss, Arthur Brisbane, Lyman Abbott, Misha Applebaum, Henrietta Cros-man, and others, this of Henrietta Crosman was pronounced the best, - "Recognizing God as a present and practical help."
"Henrietta Crosman puts it well," said the pastor, "when she says 'recognizing God in all our affairs.' "In other words, when we recognize God, who is love, in all our affairs, our life is stabilized and strengthened; we are protected against evil and magnetized to draw all that is good to us.
If Miss Crosman's suggestion were adopted, not only by young people struggling amid the temptations of a great city, but by all people, young and old, in every condition, in city and country alike, what a lot of misery would be avoided! How much happier we should all be!
How many of us make our lives miserable by continued grumbling about our environment, our work, our neighbors, our condition generally, because we don't recognize God in all our affairs!
I know a woman who is always running down her town and the people in it. She has no kinship with them. She feels above them. She never has become reconciled to her environment; she says it is a shame to be obliged to bring up children in such a dead, God-forsaken place, where people have no ideals, and, of course, she is discontented and unhappy.
Now, the trouble is not with the town, but with the woman. She does not hold the right mental attitude toward her neighbors; she is not animated by the love spirit. She has lived in a number of towns which other inhabitants thought were very good, but in which she was no happier than she is now.
The root of this woman's discontent, as it is of many others, is petty social ambition.
She is a climber; always trying to break into the society of people socially above her, those who have a great deal more money than she has. And because she cannot keep up with them, she makes herself and her family miserable by condemning the whole place and the people in her own class. She considers herself above them, and we all know how a woman who holds herself superior to everybody in her neighborhood will be treated. Her neighbors, naturally enough, dislike her, and show their resentment in all sorts of disagreeable ways.
Many people are always in discord with their environment because they do not recognize God in all their affairs. Instead they waste an immense amount of time and energy in fretting and useless resisting, which could be used in bettering their condition.
If you are a fretter, a worrier, a pessimist, you will succumb to your unfortunate environment and be a nonentity in the world. If you are cheerful, hopeful, and an optimist in spite of hard conditions, your life will not be a failure no matter how inhospitable your surroundings. To recognize the God in your self and your environment is to be already a winner.
No matter in what environment we are compelled to be, we should try to get into harmony with it sufficiently to enable us to work smoothly, without the friction which exhausts and tears down. Friction in the human system is like sand in a piece of delicate machinery, which grinds and wears out the bearings much more quickly than the regular work which the machine is intended to perform.
No one can be happy or do good work while holding an antagonistic, pessimistic mental attitude. Pessimists are always knockers, and knockers are destroyers, not builders. The optimist is the builder, the one who holds the right spirit, the mental attitude that improves conditions and attracts sympathy and helpfulness from others.
If your work or your environment is distasteful, begin at once to change it by fitting yourself for a better position or a higher sphere. Antagonizing, worrying, faultfinding will only make things worse, may drive you from that which you feel is beneath you, to a still lower strata of work, a poorer, more uncongenial environment.
To go through life fretting, fuming, knocking your environment, your neighbors, your work, is to drive away the very things you want to attract. The way to change conditions is to make friends with them. The non-resistance philosophy helps you to economize your life forces, to store reserve energies, instead of dissipating them. It helps you to do the thing you want to do. It is working with God instead of against Him. It is recognizing Him in your affairs.
I recently came across the following lines somewhere, and they made a strong impression on me:
"I am not fighting my fight,
I am singing my song."
They express all the difference between those who have soured on life, who are always complaining of their lot, and look upon their work as hateful drudgery, and those who, whatever happens, sing their song, look upon life with a cheerful eye and find joy in their job.
The optimist makes life poetry, a song, the pessimist, with the same material, makes it dry, dreary prose.
What we get out of life depends upon how we look at it. Our mental attitude determines whether we shall be happy or miserable, whether we make life music or discord.
Some people have a faculty for touching the wrong keys; from the finest instrument they extract only discord. They sound the note of pessimism everywhere. All their songs are in a minor key. Everything is looking down. The shadows predominate in all their pictures. There is nothing bright, cheerful or beautiful about them. Their outlook is always gloomy; times are always hard and money tight. Everything in them seems to be contracting; nothing growing or expanding in their lives.
With others it is just the reverse. They cast no shadows. They radiate sunshine. Every bud they touch opens its petals and flings out its fragrance and beauty. They never approach you but to cheer; they never speak to you but to inspire. They scatter flowers wherever they go. They have that happy alchemy which turns prose into poetry, ugliness to beauty, discord to melody. They see the best in people and say pleasant and helpful things about them.
One man will put his very soul into the most unattractive calling and not only lift it to dignity, but by infusing into it the soul of an artist, make it radiant with beauty, while another will degrade the loftiest and most dignified vocation into drudgery, and make the grandest profession seem undesirable.
Some women shed such a radiance of good cheer, comfort and beauty through the humblest homes, homes with bare floors and pictureless walls, that they are transformed into palaces. They radiate a light through the poverty of their surroundings that never was on sea or land. They radiate the sweetness of love, which transforms and beautifies the humblest and homeliest surroundings, while other women cannot make an attractive home with a million dollars. In the midst of their expensive tapestry and costly works of art there is an inharmoniousness, a lack of that brightness and cheerfulness which come from an exquisite taste, born of a sense of the fit ness of things, and a heart that beats warm with helpfulness and love.
If the heart is right we can make the most trifling thing, the simplest act or duty beautiful, but if the heart is not right, nothing in the life will be true, or fine, or uplifting.
The one who faces life the right way, who is cheerful, hopeful, always expecting the best to come to him because he believes in the fatherhood of God, from whom all good things come, will increase his ability tremendously. His mental attitude will call out resources which the calamity howler, the pessimist loses, because his mental attitude closes his nature instead of opening it up. He negatives his mind, and hence greatly lessens his productive power. If we would only cultivate the optimistic spirit, the hopeful way of looking at things that should be natural to the children of an all-powerful Father, we could increase our efficiency a hundred per cent., and also reduce to a minimum the disagreeable things of life.
Half of our troubles and trials come from our gloomy outlook, from anticipating evil instead of good. Nine-tenths of the people we meet look as though they might be coming from a funeral instead of being on their way to life's great festival of joy and gladness.
The habit of anticipating evil, of always fearing that some unfortunate thing is going to happen, destroys one's peace of mind and happiness, and hence mars, one's health and efficiency. It is a proof that we do not recognize God in our affairs, but rather some evil force more powerful than God.
Have you ever noticed how many times a day you use the expression, "I'm afraid?" A great many of us use it habitually without realizing the injurious mental effect the words have. I tried to keep count one day of the number of times the expression was used by a somewhat pessimistic friend of mine. I was not with him all the day, but here are some of the instances which I recorded. In the morning when I met him he said, "Do you know, I'm afraid that we are going to have a very cold winter, and I'm afraid that it's going to have a very bad effect upon my business?" A little later he remarked "I'm afraid we're going to have serious trouble with Mexico." Switching on to family affairs he said, "I'm afraid my boy, who is away at school, is going to the bad. I'm afraid we're going to have trouble with all the children."
I lunched with him the same day, and the first thing he said when we sat down was "I'm afraid to eat these things. I've got dyspepsia. In fact, I have gotten so I'm afraid to eat almost anything," and so he went on fearing something all through the meal. He must have said "I'm afraid" at least twenty-five times in my hearing that day.
There is scarcely a human being who doesn't use this or some other pessimistic expression two or three, perhaps many more, times a day. Few of us realize that every time we say "I'm afraid" we are confessing a lack of faith in ourselves, and thereby weakening our faith in our ability to stand up against the thing we fear. Every time we say we are afraid of poverty, afraid of disease, afraid of conditions, afraid of this or afraid of that, we are undermining our confidence in ourselves, undermining our disease-resisting power. We are introducing a poison into our minds that will react on our health and efficiency.
Let us quit doing the things which we know injure us. Let us have done with fear, with pessimism, with the pessimist who seems to think that the pathway of human life always leads to the jungle! Let us look at life from the viewpoint of the optimist, who believes that it leads to the Paradise of the Promised Land. Let us recognize God in all our affairs, and say,
"I am not fighting my fight,
I am singing my song."