As a Matter of Course

XIII.

SENTIMENT _versus_ SENTIMENTALITY.

FREEDOM from sentimentality opens the way for true sentiment.

An immense amount of time, thought, and nervous force is wasted in sentimentalizing about “being good.” With many, the amount of talk about their evils and their desire to overcome them is a thermometer which indicates about five times that amount of thought Neither the talk nor the thought is of assistance in leading to any greater strength or to a more useful life; because the talk is all talk, and the essence of both talk and thought is a selfish, morbid pleasure in dwelling upon one’s self. I remember the remark of a young girl who had been several times to prayer-meeting where she heard the same woman say every time that she “longed for the true spirit of religion in her life.” With all simplicity, this child said: “If she longs for it, why doesn’t she work and find it, instead of coming every week and telling us that she longs?” In all probability the woman returned from every prayer-meeting with the full conviction that, having told her aspirations, she had reached the height desired, and was worthy of all praise.

Prayer-meetings in the old, orthodox sense are not so numerous as they were fifty years ago; but the same morbid love of telling one’s own experiences and expressing in words one’s own desires for a better life is as common as ever.

Many who would express horror at these public forms of sentimentalizing do not hesitate to indulge in it privately to any extent. Nor do they realize for a moment that it is the same morbid spirit that moves them. It might not be so pernicious a practice if it were not so steadily weakening.

If one has a spark of real desire for better ways of living, sentimentalizing about it is a sure extinguisher if practised for any length of time.

A woman will sometimes pour forth an amount of gush about wishing to be better, broader, nobler, stronger, in a manner that would lead you, for a moment, perhaps, to believe in her sincerity. But when, in the next hour, you see her neglecting little duties that a woman who was really broad, strong, and noble would attend to as a matter of course, and not give a second thought to; when you see that although she must realize that attention to these smaller duties should come first, to open the way to her higher aspirations, she continues to neglect them and continues to aspire,–you are surely right in concluding that she is using up her nervous system in sentimentalizing about a better life; and by that means is doing all in her power to hinder the achievement of it.