I know now that the sum of all other
possessions does not necessarily add up to peace of
mind; on the other hand, I have seen this inner
tranquility flourish without the material supports of
property or even the buttress of physical health.
Peace of mind can transform a cottage into a spacious
manor hall; the want of it can make a regal residence an
Where then shall we look for it? The key to the
problem is to be found in Matthew Arnold's lines:
"We would have inward peace
But will not look within. . ."
But will not look within! Here, in a
single phrase, our willfulness is bared.
is a striking irony that, while religious teaching
emphasizes people's obligations to others, it says
little about their obligations to themselves. One
of the great discoveries of modern psychology is that
our attitudes towards ourselves are even more
complicated than our attitudes towards others. The
great commandment of religion, "Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself," might now be better
interpreted to mean, "Thou shalt love thyself
properly, and then thou wilt love thy neighbor."
will argue that this is a dangerous doctrine.
"Human beings love themselves too much
already," they will say. "The true goal
of life is the rejection of self in the service of
others." There are errors in this estimate of
human nature. The evidence points in quite the
opposite direction. We often treat ourselves more
rigidly, more vengefully, than we do others.
Suicide and more subtle forms of self-degradation such
as alcoholism, drug addiction, and promiscuity are
extreme proofs of this. But all the streets of the
world are teeming with everyday men and women who
mutilate themselves spiritually by self-criticism; who
go through life committing partial suicide--destroying
their own talents, energies, creative qualities.
one who goes through life hypnotized by thoughts of
inferiority, I would say, "In actuality, you are
quite strong and wise and successful. You have
done rather well in making a tolerable human existence
out of the raw materials at your disposal. There
are those who love and honor you for what you really
are. Take off your dark-colored glasses, assume
your place as an equal in the adult world, and realize
that your strength is adequate to meet the problems of
road to proper self-regard is the acceptance of
ourselves for what we are--a combination of strengths
and weaknesses. The great thing is that as long as
we live we have the privilege of growing. We can
learn new skills, engage in new kinds of work, devote
ourselves to new causes, make new friends.
Accepting, then, the truth that we are capable in some
directions and limited in others, that genius is rare,
that mediocrity is the portion of most of us, let us
remember also that we can and must change ourselves.
person who wishes to attain peace of mind must learn the
art of renouncing many things in order to possess other
things more fully.
philosopher Santayana pointed out that the great
difficulty in life does not so much arise in the choice
between good and evil as in the choice between good and
good. In early life, however, we do not realize
that one desire can be quite inconsistent with
another. The young boy may vacillate between a
dozen different plans for the future, but the mature
person will have to renounce many careers in order to
fulfill one. The same truth exists in the realm of
emotions. It is fitting for the adolescent to
transfer his or her love interest from one object of
affection to another, but it is tragic when the grown-up
still plays the role of the adolescent. He or she
has not yet learned that human growth means the closing
of many doors before one great door can be opened--the
door of mature love and of adult achievement.
first fundamental truth about our individual lives is
the indispensability of love to every human being.
By "love" I mean relatedness to some treasured
person or group, the feeling of belonging to a larger
whole, of being of value to others.
interdependence with others is the most encompassing
fact of human reality--our personalities are made by our
contacts with others. There is, therefore, a duty
which falls upon all of us--to become free, loving,
warm, cooperative, affirmative personalities.
love one's neighbors is to achieve an inner tolerance
for the uniqueness of others, to resist the temptation
to private imperialism. We must renounce undue
possessiveness in relation to friends, children--yes,
even our loves. The world is full of private
imperialists--the father who forces his artistic son
into business, or the mother who rivets her daughter to
her service by chains of pity, subtly refusing the
daughter a life of her own.
we insist that others conform to our ideas of what is
proper, good, acceptable, we show that we are not
certain of the rightness of our inner pattern.
Those who are sure of themselves are deeply willing to
let others be themselves. We display true love
when we cease to demand that our loved ones become
revised editions of ourselves. . . .
science and religion teach us that the obstacles to
serenity are not external. They lie within
us. If we acquire the art of proper self-love; if,
aided by religion, we free ourselves from shadow fears,
and learn honestly to face grief and transcend it; if we
flee from immaturity and boldly shoulder adult
responsibility; if we appraise and accept ourselves as
we really are, how then can we fail to create a good
life for ourselves? For then inward peace will be