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Other People_

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: The Freedom Of Life

HOWEVER disagreeable other people may be,--however unjust they may

be, however true it may be that the wrong is all on their side and

not at all on ours,--whatever we may suffer at their hands,--we can

only remedy the difficulty by looking first solely to ourselves and

our own conduct; and, not until we are entirely free from resentment

or resistance of any kind, and not until we are quiet in our own

minds with regard
o those who may be oppressing or annoying us,

should we make any effort to set them right.

This philosophy is sound and absolutely practical,--it never fails;

any apparent failure will be due to our own delinquency in applying

it; and, if the reader will think of this truth carefully until he

feels able to accept it, he will see what true freedom there is in

it,--although it may be a long time before he is fully able to carry

it out.

How can I remain in any slightest bondage to another when I feel

sure that, however wrong he may be, the true cause of my discomfort

and oppression is in myself? I am in bondage to myself, and it is to

myself that I must look to gain my freedom. If a friend is rude and

unkind to me, and I resent the rudeness and resist the unkindness,

it is the resentment and resistance that cause me to suffer. I am

not suffering for my friend, I am suffering for myself; and I can

only gain my freedom by shunning the resentment and resistance as

sin against all that is good and true in friendship. When I am free

from these things in myself,--when, as far as I am concerned, I am

perfectly and entirely willing that my friend should be rude or

unjust, then only am I free from him. It is impossible that he

should oppress me, if I am willing that he should be unjust or

unkind; and the freedom that comes from such strong and willing

non-resistance is like the fresh air upon a mountain. Such freedom

brings with it also a new understanding of one's friend, and a new

ability to serve him.

Unless we live a life of seclusion, most of us have more than one

friend, or acquaintance, or enemy, with whom we are brought into

constant or occasional contact, and by whom we are made to suffer;

not to mention the frequent irritations that may come from people we

see only once in our lives. Imagine the joy of being free from all

this irritability and oppression; imagine the saving of nervous

energy which would accompany such freedom; imagine the possibility

of use to others which would be its most helpful result!

If we once catch even the least glimpse of this quiet freedom, we

shall not mind if it takes some time to accomplish so desirable a

result, and the process of achieving it is deeply interesting.

The difficulty at first is to believe that so far as we are

concerned, the cause Of the trouble is entirely within, ourselves.

The temptation is to think:--

"How can I help resenting behavior like that! Such selfishness and

lack of consideration would be resented by any one."

So any one might resent it, but that is no reason why we should. We

are not to make other people's standards our own unless we see that

their standards are higher than ours; only then should we

change,--not to win the favor of the other people, but because we

have recognized the superior value of their standards and are glad

to put away what is inferior for what is better. Therefore we can

never excuse ourselves for resentment or resistance because other

people resent or resist. There can be no possible excuse for

resistance to the behavior of others, and it is safe to say that we

must _never pit our wills against the wills of other people._ If we

want to do right and the other man wants us to do wrong, we must

pass by his will, pass under it or over it, but never on any account

resist it. There has been more loss of energy, more real harm done,

through this futile engagement of two personal wills than can ever

be computed, and the freedom consequent upon refusing such contact

is great in proportion. Obedience to this law of not pitting our

wills against the wills of other people leads to new freedom in all

sorts of ways,--in connection with little, everyday questions, as to

whether a thing is one color or another, as well as in the great and

serious problems of life. If, in an argument, we feel confident that

all we want is the truth,--that we do not care whether we or our

opponents are in the right, as long as we. find the right

itself,--then we are free, so far as personal feeling is concerned;

especially if, in addition, we are perfectly willing that our

opponents should not be convinced, even though the right should

ultimately prove to be on our side.

With regard to learning how always to look first to ourselves,--

first we must become conscious of our own resentment and resistance,

then we must acknowledge it heartily and fully, and then we must go

to work firmly and steadily to refuse to harbor it. We must relax

out of the tension of our resistance with both soul and body; for of

course, the resistance contracts the nerves of our bodies, and, if

we relax from the contractions in our bodies, it helps us to gain

freedom from resistance in our hearts and minds. The same resistance

to the same person or the same ideas may return, in different forms,

many times over; but all we have to do is to persist in dropping it

as often as it returns, even if it be thousands of times.

No one need be afraid of losing all backbone and becoming a "mush of

concession" through the process of dropping useless resistance, for

the strength of will required to free ourselves from the habit of

pitting one's own will against that of another is much greater than

the strength we use when we indulge the habit. The two kinds of

strength can no more be compared than the power of natural law can

be compared to the lawless efforts of human waywardness. For the

will that is pitted against the will of another degenerates into

obstinacy, and weakens the character; whereas the will that is used

truly to refuse useless resistance increases steadily in strength,

and develops power and beauty of character. Again, the man who

insists upon pitting his will against that of another is constantly

blinded as to the true qualities of his opponent. He sees neither

his virtues nor his vices clearly; whereas he who declines the

merely personal contest becomes constantly clarified in his views,

and so helped toward a loving charity for his opponent,--whatever

his faults or difficulties may be,--and to an understanding and love

of the good in him, which does not identify him with his faults.

When we resent and resist, and are personally wilful, there is a

great big beam in our eye, which we cannot see through, or under, or

over,--but, as we gain our freedom from all such resistance, the

beam is removed, and we are permitted to see things as they really

are, and with a truer sense of proportion, our power of use


When a person is arguing with all the force of personal wilfulness,

it is both pleasant and surprising to observe the effect upon him if

he begins to feel your perfect willingness that he should believe in

his own way, and your willingness to go with him, too, if his way

should prove to be right. His violence melts to quietness because

you give him nothing to resist. The same happy effect comes from

facing any one in anger, without resistance, but with a quiet mind

and a loving heart. If the anger does not melt--as it often does--it

is modified and weakened, and--as far as we are concerned--it cannot

touch or hurt us.

We must remember always that it is not the repression or concealment

of resentment and resistance, and forbearing to express them, that

can free us from bondage to others; it is overcoming any trace of

resentment or resistance within our own hearts and minds. If the

resistance is in us, we are just as much in bondage as if we

expressed it in our words and actions. If it is in us at all, it

must express itself in one way or another,--either in ill-health, or

in unhappy states of mind, or in the tension of our bodies. We must

also remember that, when we are on the way to freedom from such

habits of resistance, we may suffer from them for a long time after

we have ceased to act from them. When we are turning steadily away

from them, the uncomfortable effects of past resistance may linger

for a long while before every vestige of them disappears. It is like

the peeling after scarlet fever,--the dead skin stays on until the

new, tender skin is strong underneath, and after we think we have

peeled entirely, we discover new places with which we must be

patient. So, with the old habits of resistance, we must, although

turning away from them firmly, be steadily patient while waiting for

the pain from them to disappear. It must take time if the work is to

be done thoroughly,--but the freedom to be gained is well. worth

waiting for.

One of the most prevalent forms of bondage is caring too much in the

wrong way what people think of us. If a man criticises me I must

first look to see whether he is right. He may be partly right, and

not entirely,--but, whatever truth there is in his criticism, I want

to know it in order that I may see the fault clearly myself and

remedy it. If his criticism is ill-natured it is not necessarily any

the less true, and I must not let the truth be obscured by his

ill-nature. All, that I have to do with the ill-nature is to be

sorry, on my friend's account, and help him out of it if he is

willing; and there is nothing that is so likely to make him willing

as my recognizing the justice of what he says and acting upon it,

while, at the same time, I neither resent nor resist his ill-nature.

If the man is both ill-natured and unjust,--if there is no touch of

what is true in his criticism,--then all I have to do is to cease

resenting it. I should be perfectly willing that he should think

anything he pleases, while I, so far as I can see, go on and do what

is right

_The trouble is that we care more to appear right than to be right._

This undue regard for appearances is very deep-seated, for it comes

from long habit and inheritance; but we must recognize it and

acknowledge it in ourselves, in order to take the true path toward

freedom. So long as we are working for appearances we are not

working for realities. When we love to _be_ right first, then we

will regard appearances only enough to protect what is good and true

from needless misunderstanding and disrespect. Sometimes we cannot

even do that without sacrificing the truth to appearances, and in

such cases we must be true to realities first, and know that

appearances must harmonize with them in the end. If causes are

right, effects must be orderly, even though at times they may not

seem so to the superficial observer. Fear of not being approved of

is the cause of great nervous strain and waste of energy; for fear

is resistance, and we can counteract that terrified resistance only

by being perfectly willing that any one should think anything he

likes. When moving in obedience to law--natural and spiritual--a

man's power cannot be overestimated; but in order to learn genuine

obedience to law, we must be willing to accept our limitations and

wait for them to be gradually removed as we gain in true freedom.

Let us not forget that if we are overpleased--selfishly pleased--at

the approval of others, we are just as much in bondage to them as if

we were angry at their disapproval. Both approval and disapproval

are helpful if we accept them for the use they can be to us, but are

equally injurious if we take them to feed our vanity or annoyance.

It is hard to believe, until our new standard is firmly established,

that only from this true freedom do we get the most vital sense of

loving human intercourse and companionship, for then we find

ourselves working hand in hand with those who are united to us in

the love of principles, and we are ready to recognize and to draw

out the best in every one of those about us.

If this law of freedom from others--which so greatly increases our

power of use to them and their power of use to us--had not been

proved absolutely practical, it would not be a law at all. It is

only as we find it practical in every detail, and as obedience to it

is proved to be the only sure road to established freedom that we

are bound to accept it. To learn to live in such obedience we must

be steady, persistent and patient,--teaching ourselves the same

truths many times, until a new habit of freedom is established

within us by the experience of our daily lives. We must learn and

grow in power from every failure; and we must not dwell with pride

and complacency on good results, but always move steadily and

quietly forward.