Sources: Nerves And Common Sense
I KNOW a woman who says that if she wants to get her father's
consent to anything, she not only appears not to care whether he
consents or not, but pretends that her wishes are exactly opposite
to what they really are. She says it never fails; the decision has
always been made in opposition to her expressed desires, and
according to her real wishes. In other words, she has learned how to
manage her father.
This example is not unique. Many of us see friends managing other
friends in that same way. The only thing which can interfere with
such astute management is the difficulty that a man may have in
concealing his own will in order to accomplish what he desires.
Wilfulness is such an impulsive quantity that it will rush ahead in
spite of us and spoil everything when we feel that there is danger
of our not getting our own way. Or, if we have succeeded in getting
our own way by what might be called the "contrary method," we may be
led into an expression of satisfaction which will throw light on the
falseness of our previous attitude and destroy the confidence of the
friend whom we were tactfully influencing.
To work the "contrary method" to perfection requires a careful
control up to the finish and beyond it. In order never to be found
out, we have to be so consistent in our behavior that we gradually
get trained into nothing but a common every-day hypocrite, and the
process which goes on behind hypocrisy must necessarily be a process
of decay. Beside that, the keenest hypocrite that ever lived can
only deceive others up to a certain limit.
But what is one to do when a friend can only be reached by the
"contrary method"? What is one to do when if, for instance, you want
a friend to read a book, you know that the way to prevent his
reading it is to mention your desire? If you want a friend to see a
play and in a forgetful mood mention the fact that you feel sure the
play would delight him, you know as soon as the words are out of
your mouth you have put the chance of his seeing the play entirely
out of the question? What is one to do when something needs mending
in the house, and you know that to mention the need to the man of
the house would be to delay the repair just so much longer? How are
our contrary-minded friends to be met if we cannot pretend we do not
want what we do want in order to get their cooperation and consent?
No one could deliberately plan to be a hypocrite understanding what
a hypocrite really is. A hypocrite is a sham--a sham has nothing
solid to stand on. No one really respects a sham, and the most
intelligent, the most tactful hypocrite that ever lived is nothing
but a sham,--_false_ and a sham!
Beside, no one can manage another by the process of sham and
hypocrisy without sooner or later being found out, and when he is
found out, all his power is gone.
The trouble with the contrary-minded is they have an established
habit of resistance. Sometimes the habit is entirely inherited, and
has never been seen or acknowledged. Sometimes it has an inherited
foundation, with a cultivated superstructure.
Either way it is a problem for those who have to deal with
it,--until they understand. The "contrary method" does not solve the
problem; it is only a makeshift; it never does any real work, or
accomplishes any real end. It is not even lastingly intelligent.
The first necessity in dealing truly with these people is _not to be
afraid o f their resistances._ The second necessity, which is so
near the first that the two really belong side by side, is _never to
meet their resistances with resistances o f our own._
If we combat another man's resistance, it only increases his
tension. No matter how wrong he may be, and how right we are,
meeting resistance with resistance only breeds trouble. Two minds
can act and react upon one another in that way until they come to a
lock which not only makes lasting enemies of those who should have
been and could be always friends, but the contention locks up strain
in each man's brain which can never be removed without pain, and a
new awakening to the common sense of human intercourse.
If we want a friend to read a book, to go a journey, or to do
something which is more important for his own good than either, and
we know that to suggest our desire would be to rouse his resistance,
the only way is to catch him in the best mood we can, say what we
have to say, give our own preference, and at the same time feel and
express a willingness to be refused. Every man is a free agent, and
we have no right not to respect his freedom, even if he uses that
freedom to stand in his own light or in ours. If he is standing in
our light and refuses to move, we can move out of his shadow, even
though we may have to give up our most cherished desire in order to
If he is standing in his own light, and refuses to move, we can
suggest or advise and do whatever in us lies to make the common
sense of our opinion clear; but if he still persists in standing in
his own light, it is his business, not ours.
It requires the cultivation of a strong will to put a request before
a friend which we know will be resisted, and to yield to that
resistance so that it meets no antagonism in us. But when it is
done, and done thoroughly, consistently, and intelligently, the
other man's resistance reacts back upon himself, and he finds
himself out as he never could in any other way. Having found himself
out, unless his mulishness is almost past sanity, he begins to
reject his habit of resistance of his own accord.
In dealing with the contrary minded, the "contrary method" works so
long as it is not discovered; and the danger of its being discovered
is always imminent. The upright, direct method is according to the
honorable laws of human intercourse, and brings always better
results in the end, even though there may be some immediate failures
in the process.
To adjust ourselves rightly to another nature and go with it to a
good end, along the lines of least resistance, is of course the best
means of a real acquaintance, but to allow ourselves to manage a
fellow-being is an indignity to the man and worse than an indignity
to the mind who is willing to do the managing.
Our humanity is in our freedom. Our freedom is in our humanity. When
one, man tries to manage another, he is putting that other in the
attitude of a beast. The man who is allowing himself to be managed
is classing himself with the beasts.
Although this is a fact so evident on the base of it that it needs
neither explanation nor enlargement, there is hardly a day passes
that some one does not say to some one, "You cannot manage me in
that way," and the answer should be, "Why should you want to be
managed in any way; and why should I want to insult you by trying to
manage you at all?"
The girl and her father might have been intelligent friends by this
time, if the practice of the "contrary method" had not tainted the
girl with habitual hypocrisy, and cultivated in the father the
warped mind which results from the habit of resistance, and blind
weakness which comes from the false idea that he is always having
his own way.
If we want an open brain and a good, freely working nervous system,
we must respect our own freedom and the freedom of other
people,--for only as individuals stand alone can they really
influence one another to any good end.
It is curious to see how the men of habitual resistance pride
themselves on being in bondage to no one, not knowing that the fear
of such bondage is what makes them resist, and the fear of being
influenced by another is one of the most painful forms of bondage in
which a man can be.
The men who are slaves to this fear do not stop even to consider the
question. They resist and refuse a request at once, for fear that
pausing for consideration would open them to the danger of appearing
to yield to the will of another.
When we are quite as willing to yield to another as to refuse him,
then we are free, and can give any question that is placed before us
intelligent consideration, and decide according to our best
judgment. No amount of willfulness can force a man to any action or
attitude of mind if he is willing to yield to the willful pressure
if it seems to him best.
The worse bondage of man to man is the bondage of fear.