The Principle of Universal Application.
In conclusion, it is proper to add that the principle of influencing human character and action by noticing and commending what is right, rather than finding fault with what is wrong, is of universal application, with the mature as well as with the young. The susceptibility to this influence is in full operation in the minds of all men everywhere, and acting upon it will lead to the same results in all the relations of society. The way to awaken a penurious man to the performance of generous deeds is not by remonstrating with him, however kindly, on his penuriousness, but by watching his conduct till we find some act that bears some semblance of liberality, and commending him for that. If you have a neighbor who is surly and troublesome—tell him that he is so, and you make him worse than ever. But watch for some occasion in which he shows you some little kindness, and thank him cordially for such a good neighborly act, and he will feel a strong desire to repeat it. If mankind universally understood this principle, and would generally act upon it in their dealings with others—of course, with such limitations and restrictions as good sense and sound judgment would impose—the world would not only go on much more smoothly and harmoniously than it does now, but the progress of improvement would, I think, in all respects be infinitely more rapid.
FAULTS OF IMMATURITY.
A great portion of the errors and mistakes, and of what we call the follies, of children arise from simple ignorance. Principles of philosophy, whether pertaining to external nature or to mental action, are involved which have never come home to their minds. They may have been presented, but they have not been understood and appreciated. It requires some tact, and sometimes delicate observation, on the part of the mother to determine whether a mode of action which she sees ought to be corrected results from childish ignorance and inexperience, or from willful wrong-doing. Whatever may be the proper treatment in the latter case, it is evident that in the former what is required is not censure, but instruction.
A mother came into the room one day and found Johnny disputing earnestly with his Cousin Jane on the question which was the tallest—Johnny very strenuously maintaining that he was the tallest, because he was a boy. His older brother, James, who was present at the time, measured them, and found that Johnny in reality was the tallest.
Now there was nothing wrong in his feeling a pride and pleasure in the thought that he was physically superior to his cousin, and though it was foolish for him to insist himself on this superiority in a boasting way, it was the foolishness of ignorance only. He had not learned the principle—which half mankind do not seem ever to learn during the whole course of their lives—that it is far wiser and better to let our good qualities appear naturally of themselves, than to claim credit for them beforehand by boasting. It would have been much wiser for Johnny to have admitted at the outset that Jane might possibly be taller than he, and then to have awaited quietly the result of the measuring.