As a Matter of Course

Why is it not clear to us that to set our teeth, clench our hands, or hold any form of extreme tension and mistaken control, doubles, trebles, quadruples the impression of the feeling controlled, and increases by many degrees its power for attacking us another time? Persistent control of this kind gives a certain sort of strength. It might be called sham strength, for it takes it out of one in other ways. But the control that comes from non-resistance brings a natural strength, which not only steadily increases, but spreads on all sides, as the growth of a tree is even in its development.

“If a man takes your cloak, give him your coat also; if one compel you to go a mile, go with him twain.” “Love your enemies, do good to them that hurt you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.” Why have we been so long in realizing the practical, I might say the physiological, truth of this great philosophy? Possibly because in forgiving our enemies we have been so impressed with the idea that it was our enemies we were forgiving. If we realized that following this philosophy would bring us real freedom, it would be followed steadily as a matter of course, and with no more sense that we deserved credit for doing a good thing than a man might have in walking out of prison when his jailer opened the door. So it is with our enemies the moods.

I have written heretofore of bad moods only. But there are moods and moods. In a degree, certainly, one should respect one’s moods. Those who are subject to bad moods are equally subject to good ones, and the superficiality of the happier modes is just as much to be recognized as that of the wretched ones. In fact, in recognizing the shallowness of our happy moods, we are storing ammunition for a healthy openness and freedom from the opposite forms. With the full realization that a mood is a mood, we can respect it, and so gradually reach a truer evenness of life. Moods are phases that we are all subject to whilst in the process of finding our balance; the more sensitive and finer the temperament, the more moods. The rhythm of moods is most interesting, and there is a spice about the change which we need to give relish to these first steps towards the art of living.

It is when their seriousness is exaggerated that they lose their power for good and make slaves of us. The seriousness may be equally exaggerated in succumbing to them and in resisting them. In either case they are our masters, and not our slaves. They are steady consumers of the nervous system in their ups and downs when they master us; and of course retain no jot of that fascination which is a good part of their very shallowness, and brings new life as we take them as a matter of course. Then we are swung in their rhythm, never once losing sight of the point that it is the mood that is to serve us, and not we the mood.

As we gain freedom from our own moods, we are enabled to respect those of others and give up any endeavor to force a friend out of his moods, or even to lead him out, unless he shows a desire to be led. Nor do we rejoice fully in the extreme of his happy moods, knowing the certain reaction.

Respect for the moods of others is necessary to a perfect freedom from our own. In one sense no man is alone in the world; in another sense every man is alone; and with moods especially, a man must be left to work out his own salvation, unless he asks for help. So, as he understands his moods, and frees himself from their mastery, he will find that moods are in reality one of Nature’s gifts, a sort of melody which strengthens the harmony of life and gives it fuller tone.

Freedom from moods does not mean the loss of them, any more than non-resistance means allowing them to master you. It is non-resistance, with the full recognition of what they are, that clears the way.