Sisterly Discourse with John's Wife Concerning John,
The Family Purse,
The Parable of the Rich Woman and the Farmer's Wife,
Little Things that are Trifles,
A Mistake on John's Part,
Must-haves and May-bes,
What Good Will It Do?
Shall I Pass It On?
"Only Her Nerves,"
The Rule of Two,
The Perfect Work of Patience,
According to His Folly,
Is Marriage Reformatory?
And Other Relations-in-Law,
A Timid Word for the Step-mother,
Children as Helpers,
Children as Burden-bearers,
Our Young Person,
Getting Along in Years,
The Gospel of Conventionalities,
Familiar, or Intimate?
Cheerfulness as a Christian Duty,
The Family Invalid,
A Temperance Talk,
A Parting Word for Boy,
Homely, But Important,
THE RULE OF TWO.
One character mentioned in the unique rhyme of Mary and her Little Lamb, has never had due praise and consideration dealt out to him. The teacher who heartlessly expelled from the temple of learning the unoffending and guileless companion of the innocent maiden who is the heroine of the above-mentioned ditty, was, in spite of his cruelty, a philosopher. After the exit of the principal actors in the poem, we are told that the following conversation ensued:
"What makes the lamb love Mary so?" The eager children cry. "Because she loves the lamb, you know," The teacher did reply.
The teacher was wise in his generation. In his "reply," lies a world of meaning--one of the answers to the old question of the reason for personal antipathies and attractions, and may perhaps be said, in this case, to touch upon animal magnetism.
There are exceptions to every rule, and to the maxim that "love begets love" there are many instances to be cited in which the contrary proves true. We all have been so unfortunate at some time during our lives as to be liked by people of whom we were not fond. But, if we look the matter thoughtfully and honestly in the face, we will acknowledge that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred we are attracted toward a person as soon as we learn that that person finds us agreeable. Of course this knowledge must not be conveyed in a manner that disgusts by effusiveness a sensitive person. None of us like fulsome flattery, but a compliment so delicately hinted that it does not shock, and scarcely surprises the person for whom it is intended, seldom fails to produce an impression that is far from disagreeable. Certainly no more graceful compliment can be paid a man or woman by us selfish mortals than the acknowledgment of an affinity between ourselves and the person whom we would honor by our friendship. Said a well-known scholar to me:
"The most laudatory public speech ever addressed to me failed to make my heart glow as warmly as did the remark of an old friend not long ago. We had been separated for years, and at our reunion spent the first hour in talking of old times, etc. Suddenly, my friend turned to me, and grasping my hand exclaimed:
"'Old fellow! you always were, and still are, my affinity!'
"The subtle flattery of that one exclamation makes me even now thrill with a delicious throb of self-conceit."
Not long ago, I asked of an acquaintance who is a wonderful reader of character:
"Why has Mrs. S---- so many good friends?"
"Because she is such a good friend herself."
"But why is she attractive to so many people?" queried I.
"Because she is first attracted by them," was the quick response. "She goes on the principle that there is some good in everybody, and sets herself to work to find it. Each of us knows when she is thrown into contact with a person who likes her. It is as if each were surrounded with tinted atmospheres,--some green, some blue, some red, or yellow--in fact, there are more shades and colors than you can mention. When two reds meet, they mingle; when two harmonious tints touch, they may form a pleasing combination; but when such enemies as blue and green come together, they clash--fairly 'swear at one another,' and the persons enveloped in the opposing atmospheres are mutually disagreeable. The man who is surrounded by the color capable of most harmonious combinations is said to have personal magnetism."
May not this explanation, while rather far-fetched, afford some clue to the causes of personal popularity? And the thought following swift upon this is: If this be true, how much may each of us have to do with softening and making capable of harmony his and her own individual atmosphere? While we cannot change our "colors" (to follow out my friend's figure) we may shade them down and make them less pronounced, so that in time they may become capable of a variety of combinations.
Does not Faber touch upon this point, when he says:
"The discord is within which jars So roughly in life's song; 'Tis we ourselves who are at fault When others seem so wrong,"
We blame others for being uncongenial When the "discord is within," that makes all things go awry. A drunken man sees the whole world go around, and blames it, for its unsteadiness.
One way to render less obtrusive an inharmonious color, if we possess such is to keep it out of a strong light that will attract all eyes to it. Do not let us be proud of our personal defects and peculiarities. They are subjects for regret, not pride. When a woman boasts that she "knows she is often impatient, but she simply cannot help it, she is so peculiarly constituted!" she acknowledges a weakness of which she should be ashamed. If she is so undisciplined, so untrained, that she cannot avoid making life uncomfortable for those around her, she would better stay in a room by herself until she learns self-control. Often the very eccentricities of character to which we cling so tenaciously are but forms of vanity. Why should our preferences, our likes or dislikes be of more account than those of thousands of other people?
Another great mistake we make is that we try the effect of other colors with our own, and resent it hotly if they do not "go well together." We do not insist that they shall be like ours in tint, but they must act as good backgrounds, or form pleasing combinations with ours, or we will none of them. Now it is quite possible for human beings to hold contrary views from those entertained by you and me, and still be excellent members of society and reputable Christians. To many of us this seems incredible, but it is none the less true. Not only are individual characters different, but environment and education make us what we are. Very often a person who is uncongenial to us, will, in the surroundings to which she is fitted, be at ease, and perhaps even attractive.
I do not say that we must like everybody. That is a physical, mental and moral impossibility. But we may do others the justice of seeing their good traits as well as the bad. And sometimes when we find a chance acquaintance drearily uninteresting, it is because we do not take the trouble to find out what is in her.
Some people are always bored. May it not be because they look at everything animate and inanimate from a selfish standpoint, with the query in their minds, "How does that affect me?" The old definition of a bore as "a person who talks so much of himself that he gives you no chance to talk of yourself," may apply not only to the bore, but to the bored. When you find yourself wearied and uninterested, be honest enough to examine yourself calmly, and see if the reason is not because your vis-a-vis is not talking about anything which interests you especially. Should he turn the conversation upon your favorite occupation or pastime, or even upon your personal likes and dislikes (which, by the way, might be an infinite bore to him), would he not at once become entertaining?
Viewed from a selfish and politic standpoint, it is to our interest to make the best of everybody. We cannot always pick and choose our associates in the school of life, and must frequently be thrown with people whom we do not "take to," and, worse still, who may not "take to" us. Since this be true, would it not be better for us to look at their pleasantest side, and, by making ourselves agreeable to them, insure their friendly feeling for us? The old saying that the good-will of a dog is preferable to his ill-will, may still be quoted with regard to many specimens of the genus homo which we daily meet.
There is one case in which I make an exception to all that I have said--namely, when from the first, there is--not a feeling of dislike, but a strong, uncontrollable personal antipathy. If you are generally charitable and just, and have few actual dislikes, and meet a man against whom your whole nature revolts, who is as repulsive to you as a snake would be, avoid him. It is not necessary for you to tell others of the uncomfortable impression he has made upon you. He may not affect them in the same way. I acknowledge, not only from observation, but from personal experience, that there are certain people from whom one recoils with a feeling of physical as well as mental repugnance. I believe that every woman who reads this talk has an unerring feminine instinct which will thus prompt her when she meets her own particular "Dr. Fell."
But I also believe that we seldom meet characters which repel us in this especial way. Oftener some slight to ourselves, some one unfortunate speech, biases our judgment, and those against whom we are thus prejudiced are even sometimes connected to us by ties of consanguinity. We would do well to analyze the causes which lead to our feelings of dislike, and I fear we should often find that wounded self-esteem was the root of the evil. And, after all, what a great matter a little fire kindleth! Let us quench the spark before it ignites. It is arrant folly, not to mention wickedness, to make enemies for the little while we are here. There is an incurable heartache which comes from such mistakes. Owen Meredith describes it in a poem, every verse of which throbs with hopeless love and regret, and one of which teaches a lesson so much needed by us all that we would do well to commit to memory the last two lines, and repeat them almost hourly:
"I thought of our little quarrels and strife, And the letter that brought me back my ring; And it all seemed then, in the waste of life, Such a very little thing!"