The narrowness of our view, and the consequent limitations with which we surround ourselves is the cause of many of our failings to acquit ourselves in life as we ought, and to play the part allotted to us in a satisfactory manner. We often fail to realize our own position and the position of others with whom we are brought into contact either directly or indirectly, each day of our lives. There is a tendency with most of us to isolate ourselves too much and to view the events of life solely in the light of their effects upon us individually—to regard ourselves as complete in ourselves rather than as links only in the great chain of humanity. Now each link of a chain is complete in itself, and yet quite useless apart from the other links which go to make up the complete chain. Moreover a Haw or weak spot in any one link weakens the whole chain and is a source of great danger, so that even were all the other links sound and perfect the chain would be unsafe by reason of the one faulty link.
If we will try and look upon ourselves, then, as the single links it will help us very much to form a proper estimate of our position.
In the first place we shall begin to realize a point which is, perhaps, overlooked to a great extent by the majority of us, viz., our influence upon others, for this is a mighty power which we all wield in some degree, a power which is far-reaching and may bear results of vital importance.
Consciously or unconsciously we are at every moment influencing our fellow-men, and they in turn are influencing us.
How often has the importance of seeking good companions been urged upon the young—simply because of the good influence which is certain to arise, and the aid of which, in helping to form the character and conduct, is powerful.
But not only during our youth, at all periods of life we are extremely sensitive to influences from without, and whilst our efforts should be directed to warding off the evil and undesirable ones, we should seek to lay ourselves open to the good ones, so that by our condition of receptivity we may encourage them and derive all the benefit which may be had.
And of equal importance is it that we should endeavor to shed forth good influences ourselves upon those around us, bearing in mind that a small seed dropped in the right place, and at the right time, also may bring forth much fruit, long afterwards perhaps, when we have forgotten the incident.
l have said a small seed, because it is often the apparent trifles which are productive of the greatest results. Many of us are discouraged by the thought that we are unable to do anything great and prominent, and feel, perhaps, that the little we have it in our power to do is so small and unimportant as to be scarcely worth the doing. A greater mistake could not be made; it is the little things which make up life, and he who is faithful in the small things will have larger ones committed to him later. It is not for us to measure the results, we have only to sow, and there our responsibility ends.
Let us remember that simple acts may be powerful for good, and their effect upon others' lives far-reaching. A word of sympathy or advice in due season has before now saved a soul from despair and altered the course of a whole life; and the omission of that word may sometimes be followed by a wrecked life which it had been in our power to save had we but given it consideration and understood the power of our influence over another.
Helping others is not always a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence, or even of influence in the materialistic sense, but the mere knowledge that our sympathy is available is a stimulus to those whose feet are weary and whose hopes are dead, or who are perhaps lost in perplexity and doubt.
Hopelessness is a condition in which many find themselves at times in the strife and struggle of life, and it may be ours to lift one out of this condition by a word of encouragement, which shall nerve him for one more effort or perchance for many. This word of encouragement is help itself.
Our advice, too, is helpful at times to others, strangers though they may be to us, and may lead them to see a mistake, a failing, or a weakness of which they were ignorant, and which had not before been pointed out to them, and had been their one stumbling-block for years, or perhaps coming from one unknown to them may have impressed them, where the words of their own friends or relatives had failed to do so.
We should remember that the experience of no two lives is quite the same, and that others are weak where we may be strong, and strong possibly where we are weak, so that it is quite possible that we may learn from them in some respects and they learn from us in others. The knowledge, too, which we acquire should not be looked upon as our own, but should be passed on to others wherever opportunity offers, so that it may become a real force in the world rather than remain centered in ourselves which, though important, is not sufficient.
Once imparted to others it may become an ever—widening power—a truth set in motion, never again to become stationery.
Just as commerce is fostered and extended by the interchange of merchandise, so is progress aided and extended by the interchange of knowledge, and each man and woman should be a center from which go forth constantly rays of light to shine upon the pathway of others.
Depend upon it there can be no lasting satisfaction in acquiring wealth, whether it be of knowledge or of gold, for ourselves alone; we must share it with others or it only mocks us, and we must constantly realize that others there are who require it far more urgently than we do ourselves.
Did men but realize this they would be far less sparing with their time and money, but would gladly give, and think it a privilege to do so.
There are many ways then in which we may make our influence felt, if only we have the desire to do so.
We must regard it, however, as our solemn duty, or it will never be done at all. Things have an awkward tendency to be crowded out unless we look upon them as duties. Regarded as duties they get some kind of attention, even if they are not perfectly fulfilled. We have considered already the influence of sympathy, advice, and encouragement, and must not omit to mention another point, viz., the influence of our example. This latter is perhaps the most powerful we can exert over others, for it is perfectly true that "Actions speak louder than words." It is by these that our fellow men are enabled to assay us, and it was by the blamelessness of his life that Christ made the strongest appeal to the sympathy of men and established His claim as Son of God.
Mere words and sentiments, without acts, are nothing worth, for they may be insincere and thus serve only as a drug to the conscience, or even as a cloak to hide wrong doing.
It is the life which we live and the amount of our enthusiasm in doing good which is the test of our true condition—for to do good without hope of reward carries conviction even to the scoffer.
The world at large is quick to recognize sincerity and well-doing which spring from entirely unselfish motives, but is ever suspicious of the spurious article; but the motives which actuated some lives were so spotlessly pure that they have been reverenced by all with common consent, and their memories cherished long after this life was over.
Employers of labor in large business concerns, and those who are placed in authority over others, little realize the power they might be in influencing those who look up to them. Too often there is a mechanical sort of manner shown, which repels and alienates the sympathies and leads to the belief that self-interest is the only worthy motive, and that each must stand severely alone if the world is to work properly. The fact is that people too often mistrust each other's motives and get into the habit of encouraging suspicions concerning all, simply because they have met some who were not trustworthy. But that is like condemning the whole crop because we have found a specked apple.
The mere fact, however, that the rules of business life are each one for himself is sufficient in itself to make men suspicious of each other's motives, and it will only be possible to remedy this state of affairs by standing upon the Gospel of Brotherhood rather than that of divided interests.
How beautifully did Charles Dickens portray this desirable condition in his description of the firm of Churyble Bros., and has he not painted for us, with equal faithfulness, the opposite conditions of strife, jealousy and hate?
Yes, there are others, maybe, who look up to us as their superiors in wordly affairs, with respect and trust, possibly with admiration, and if we give them not the good which they had hoped to see, how bitter the disappointment for them, and how grave our responsibility.
We shall, of course, see faults, grave ones perhaps, but we must not allow these to turn us against the individual, for we too have our imperfections—yet too often we allow ourselves to become prejudiced against someone, solely on account of some little failing which annoys us. Let us rather just point it out patiently and quietly, for maybe they are not fully conscious of the weakness themselves, or do not attach sufficient importance to it.
We may often learn, too, from others, even though they have many faults and failings, for they also must have their good points, and perhaps just those points in which we are weakest ourselves.
True charity is what the world wants today, and wants badly—that spirit of tolerance and kindliness which brings its own reward, for we get back from our fellows precisely what we first give them. Envy is met with envy, suspicion with suspicion, dislike with dislike, and charity with charity.
But it is so difficult for us to take the initiative and to meet strife with peace—uncharitableness with charity, bitterness with sweetness. Our patience will be often taxed and over-taxed, and we shall meet with many failures, but let us remember that if we are to wield a good influence in the world, this is part of the discipline which we must undergo.
All else is being flung away.
He liveth longest who can tell
Of true things, truly done each day.
Be wise, and use thy wisdom well;
Who wisdom speaks must live it too;
He is the wisest who can tell
How first he lived, then spake the true.
Be thou in truthfulness arrayed;
Hold up to Earth thy touch divine;
Be what thou prayest to be made;
Let steps of charity be thine.
Fill up each hour with what will last
Improve the moments as they go
The Life above, when this is past,
Is the ripe fruit of life below.quote right
but is a seed cast into time, and grows through all eternity.
But the humility will not be founded on comparison of ourselves with the imperfect standards around us,
but on the increase of that internal knowledge which alone can make us aware of our internal wants.