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Sympathy

Are you of a sympathetic nature?

If so, do not let your sympathies help to add to the world's miseries.

That may seem a strange expression, but it can be explained if you will listen.

Much of the misery in the world is the result of imagination.

All of it is the result of selfishness and ignorance.

But hundreds and thousands of people believe themselves sick, sorrowful and poverty stricken, who would be well, glad and prosperous, if they only thought themselves so.

Every time you pour out your sympathy upon these self-made sufferers, you add to their burden of wrong thought, and make it just so much more difficult for them to rise out of their troubles.

I do not believe all the misfortune in the world is caused by wrong thinking in this life, or can be done away with by right thinking. The three-year-old child who toddles in front of a trolley car and loses a leg, while the tired mother is bending over the washtub to keep the wolf of hunger at bay, cannot be blamed for wrong thinking as the cause of its trouble. Neither can the deaf mute or the child born blind or deformed. We must go farther back, to former lives, to find the first cause of such misfortunes.

No "New Thought," no amount of optimistic theology or philosophy can restore the child's leg, or ears, or eyes. It is utter nonsense to say that miracles like these can be performed.

There are scores of individuals whom we meet handicapped in life's race by such dire calamities that we spontaneously pour forth our sympathy.

But, even to these, it were kinder and wiser to give diverting thoughts, and a new outlook, and to open up avenues for pleasure, and entertainment, and profit, in place of tears and condolence.

Sympathy, without alleviating actions to a sufferer, is like a cloud without rain to the parched earth.

But the great majority of people whom we encounter are making their own crosses, and we who offer them sympathy, and condolence, are but adding to the burden's weight.

I do not recommend coldness, indifference, or ridicule as a substitute for sympathy. But instead of leading the sick man on to tell you the details of his illness, and to describe all his symptoms, while your own body responds with sympathetic aches and pains as you listen, it is kinder to divert his attention to some cheerful and merry topic, or to refer to some case like his own which resulted in perfect restoration to health. Instead of going down into his underground cave of depression, bring him out into the wholesome sunlight of your own healthful state, even if for a moment only, and impress upon his mind that health belongs to him, and must return to him.

To the man in business trouble the same advice applies.

Tell him you are sorry for him, but do not take on his despondency to prove it.

Talk of the future and all the possibilities it holds for a determined man or woman.

Make him laugh. Speak of trouble as the gymnasium where our moral muscles are developed. Answer him that everything he desires is his if he will be persistent and determined in demanding his own. If you put force in your words you will leave an impression.

Do not go away from the house of trouble in tears, but leave the troubled ones you called upon smiling as you depart.

That is true sympathy.

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

  • Author and poet
  • Born November 5th, 1850 in Johnstown, Wisconsin and died October 30th, 1919
  • Famous line in poetry: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone."

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