Taking Offense

From Miscellaneous Writings by

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25    There is immense wisdom in the old proverb, “He
         that is slow to anger is better than the mighty.” Hannah
         More said, “If I wished to punish my enemy, I should
         make him hate somebody.”

         To punish ourselves for others’ faults, is superlative
30    folly. The mental arrow shot from another’s bow is

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1      practically harmless, unless our own thought barbs it.
         It is our pride that makes another’s criticism rankle, our
         self-will that makes another’s deed offensive, our egotism
         that feels hurt by another’s self-assertion. Well may we
5      feel wounded by our own faults; but we can hardly afford
         to be miserable for the faults of others.

         A courtier told Constantine that a mob had broken
         the head of his statue with stones. The emperor lifted
         his hands to his head, saying: “It is very surprising, but
10    I don’t feel hurt in the least.”

         We should remember that the world is wide; that there
         are a thousand million different human wills, opinions,
         ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a differ-
         ent history, constitution, culture, character, from all the
15    rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless
         action and reaction upon each other of these different
         atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest
         expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen
         relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great,
20    and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction
         of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with
         an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor
         accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a
         charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and
25    sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it,—de-
         termined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor
         even when it is, unless the offense be against God.

         Nothing short of our own errors should offend us. He
         who can wilfully attempt to injure another, is an object
30    of pity rather than of resentment; while it is a question
         in my mind, whether there is enough of a flatterer, a fool,
         or a liar, to offend a whole-souled woman.

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Love is the liberator.