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Self-Expression

Every human being is intended to have a character of his own; to be what no other is, and to do what no other can.
—Chan King
The poor, exiled shrub dreams by a native longing of a splendid blossom which it has never seen, but is dimly conscious that it ought somehow to produce. This is the way in which the ideal of life, the life of full completion, haunts us all. We feel the thing we ought to be beating beneath the thing we are.
—Phillips Brooks
God hides some ideal in every human soul.
At some time in our life we feel a trembling, fearful longing to do some good thing.
Life finds its noblest spring of excellence in this hidden impulse to do our best.
—Phillips Brooks

A New Testament writer reminds us of the diversity of gifts possessed—one has that of healing; another, prophecy; another, tongues. All are expressions of the same spirit, but in the unity of the spirit there is a wide difference of expression. The same informing spirit may even express itself in two opposite extremes, and yet there be perfect unity in the inner force thus outworking. There must of necessity be this variety in the forms it takes and in their operation. It is of this ultimate expression that we as builders decide the form. The informing force is not ours—this is the gift. How we use this gift lies with ourselves, and the gift is really ours only through the true using. And this using of our gift or gifts should be in accordance with our deepest desires. The desire of the inmost self is the guide to all true effort, activity, expression. That which we truly desire, upon which we earnestly fix and center our minds, comes, of necessity, naturally and freely into the life. With the inception of any strong, true desire, we come into the real possession of the thing desired. Possession is not a matter of some future time, nor even of material expression. The latter belongs to the outward realization only. Someone may say: "This sounds very well indeed, but it is impossible for me to see the truth of it." Each thing actualized must first exist as an upwelling desire—a mental image—before it can be expressed, externalized. Now, this upwelling force, this primal feeling, is involuntary. The pictured plan of its outworking is of our making and direction, and the final product is wholly in our hands. We make our own pictures of life. If we make no pictures, have no plans, in our life activities, this central force is practically wasted—frittered away. We drift on the great ocean of existence, our minds go from one desire to another and accomplish nothing. We are like ships without a rudder: we may be intact in equipment otherwise, but if we have nothing to guide us, nothing of service will be achieved. We need a chart for our voyage, we need to know the purpose of our lives, each for himself to know the goal of expression for himself. None can interpret or decide for another. Each must work out his own salvation. Success in anything can never come through merely wishing or hoping or thinking or taking treatments for success. Any of these may serve as a stimulus, but anything worth the having must be steadfastly worked for; it does not come to folded hands. Our life-plan need not be a hard and fast one—it should be adjustable; growing with the added knowledge and new experiences of each day. We do not cast aside yesterday's chart, but enlarge it in keeping with today's horizon. One of the greatest mistakes in life is that of taking for granted that the thoughts and feelings, the conceptions and ideals, that bring us happiness today will satisfy us tomorrow. We hold tenaciously to the old ideals and forms of expression, and try to revivify them to meet the demands of the moment. There is such a thing as divine discontent—a constant hungering and thirsting after fuller expression, larger life, deeper realization. But this is as different as day is from night from the futile, feverish dissatisfaction that finds no pleasure in the present, yet makes no effort to actualize the larger ideal. To the "divine discontent"—the soul's outreaching—the life more abundant is the unfailing response. All expression comes through activity. Through repose and relaxation come the gathering together of the life forces and the accumulation of energy and strength. This, however, must alternate with activity, else the accumulation is of no service—is really injurious. The active life is essential to health on every plane, and is the truly religious life. Isolation from one's fellows—a life of separateness—pondering, perhaps, over some sacred book or revered truth, can never be the most deeply religious life, for it is not the natural life. Not the monk who shuts himself off from the world, to save his own soul, but the man who is acquainted with the joys as well as the griefs of the common people—who lives the common, every-day life, the simple, natural life—is the ideal we need today. Man works as God works; the pressure of energy he feels within him is from the source of his being—from God. We must follow out our own way—our own deepest desire and impulse; we must not imitate or blindly follow, for in this way we destroy the particular message which we came into the world to give. Each of us can do one thing best, and this is the thing for us to do. This does not mean that we are not to listen to counsel, but, after all is said and done, the self, the innermost, must finally decide. The one who gives advice offers the best he knows, the best for him. But what is best for one is not by any means the best for another. What do you want most to be or to do? that is the question. What is your deepest desire? To make the outer like the inner—this is what we are all, consciously or unconsciously, striving for. We shall not succeed all at once—we cannot build the whole structure in a moment. Shall we, then, yield to disappointment and discouragement—we have tried so hard and so long, hoped for so much and accomplished so little? There is no room for discouragement in this life. Take a broader, deeper view of it, and all is clear, and every step is seen to be an onward step. That life is worse than wasted which has not unfolded— expressed. No matter how full of possessions, of material things, and of power the span of life may be, it is empty, nevertheless, if the true self has not expressed itself. We may travel up and down the earth and search all the wisdom of the past, but if we have not found ourselves we are forever unsatisfied. We must come to know the innermost—we must be at home at the center of our being; this demand is written indelibly in the constitution of all things. And this we can do only through work. I use the word in the broadest sense. Just as there is no enjoyment of food on the physical plane without the requisite amount of exercise, so on every other plane, activity is essential to growth and development. When we are active, each doing "his own " work, there is a sense of completeness, of fitness, of buoyancy; there is the "keen functionary satisfaction" that marks the square man in the square hole, the final and unquestionable proof that we are doing the right thing in the right place. There can be no true harmony in the life until we have found our work—until we are doing our work. If we fail to express what is within us demanding unfoldment, we are like dead bodies walking about—mere "encumberers of the ground." We can realize the joy of living only through work—through self-expression. Mere inactivity is not rest. Rest ceases to be restful when the balance is lost and the activity is not in proportion. There must be this balance—this poise. Nature resents every excess. If at one time we do two days' work in one day we will presently have to take two days to do one day's work. As we work steadily and earnestly, doing each thing that comes to hand according to our best light at the moment, we find a corresponding increase of power. The greatest development comes through the well-doing of each duty, however apparently insignificant. The thing we know best how to do is usually the thing that needs to be done by us. We should strive to get a good perspective in our work—to take a broad and all-around view of life. As we, one by one, dispense with the useless, superficial things of our day-by-day life—as the needless tension and strain relaxes, when we begin to live simply, earnestly, naturally—we will find our power increased tenfold. We can accomplish, then, many times what we formerly could; we can dispatch things with greater speed and yet without hurry. When the mind is poised and the purpose kept constantly and clearly in view, action follows action in orderly sequence; there is no haste, yet no wasted effort or time. One may run, you know, with poise and even quietness, when another, walking, may be in haste and turmoil of spirit. Notice in playing the piano—there must be rapid movement, but it must also be orderly, measured, purposeful. To the purposeless mind, the presentation of two or three things to be done at one time produces confusion. In the purposeful mind there is no reason for confusion. Each new thing falls naturally into its place, and there is neither waste nor haste. If one lives out his own life sincerely there is always a place for him in the world—he cannot be superfluous. The world needs each of us, else we would not be here. Each has a natural, individual message. Of a dozen singers, for instance, there are no two just alike, though all, perhaps, may have the same register. Wherever there is life there is diversity of expression. Just as there are no two leaves alike among all the leaves on all the trees the world over, so there is never repetition in unfolding life. So, too, in our work, in so far as we give ourselves to it, it lives and is of service. We weave ourselves, our very souls, into whatever work we do sincerely. Now, in imitation it is different. No matter how perfect a copy is, it can never carry any special message. It does not live. It is well to learn of others, but only to the end that we the more completely express ourselves. Work often comes to us to be done. It seems to stand before us, directly in our way when we would go elsewhere and do other things. Now when this happens it is well to do the thing that presents itself—do it well, the best we can. We may not want to go on doing it forever, but the quickest way to get rid of it— to grow out of it into the way of our desires— is to face it and give it our best effort until the especial lesson that it holds for us is learned. We can never shirk or pass over things—however difficult or unwelcome they may seem. And often enough they prove angels in disguise. The clearer we keep our minds and the healthier our bodies are, the better work we will do in whatever line we may choose. We owe this to ourselves, to our fellow men, to God. This is our reasonable service—to "present our bodies whole and acceptable unto God." It is so much easier to be healthy and wholesome-minded and happy than the reverse, if only we would think so. It is the natural way. Heretofore we have thought so much of our weaknesses and failures, we have dwelt at such length on our discouragements and difficulties; and of course the result was, more difficulty and more failure. Now let us try the other way. Let us try a complete reversal of action. Let us remember that the power that is in us, working through us, is all—health and all—strength and all—happiness. There is no obstacle or hindrance to the full, free expression of this power except our own wills—our own desires or lack of desire. Remember, nothing presents itself to* us to be done that is too difficult for us to accomplish. No desire can come to us that is too high or too great for fulfilment. If anything comes to us that does not really belong to us, it will not stay—whether it be possessions or experience or whatever it may be. But we must work, nevertheless, for the keeping of even our own. A healer may give his very life to a patient, but if the patient puts forth no effort of his own, it will be of no permanent good. We must do our own work, live our own lives, make our own decisions. No other man or any number of men—not God himself—will do this for us. Work, in its broadest, its true sense is the most essential thing in life. Take work out of life and there is in reality nothing left: no interest, no purpose, no joy. All work should be the expression of one's real self. The kingdom of God can come on earth only as each individual finds his own salvation through work and brings it in this way. There is no soul exempt from this responsibility. The question comes to each of us now: Am I consciously endeavoring to unfold to the plan of life which God has written into my soul—to be true to the purest, the holiest, the highest instincts of my being? Am I trying to help others to be true to themselves? Do I desire happiness for others as earnestly as I desire it for myself? For it is only in this way that I must eventually work out my own salvation, and in so doing, help to bring the kingdom of God on earth.

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Charles Brodie Patterson

  • Canadian New Thought author
  • Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917

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