But moral irritability is more serious; that comes from the soul, and is the result of our wanting our own way. The immediate cause may be some physical disturbance, such as noise, or it may be aroused by other petty annoyances, like that of being obliged to wait for some one who is unpunctual, or by disagreement in an argument. There are very many causes for irritability, and we each have our own individual sensitiveness or antipathy, but, whatever the secondary cause, the primary cause is always the same,—resistance or unwillingness to accept our circumstances.
If we are fully willing to be disturbed, we cease to be troubled by the disturbance; if we are willing to wait, we are not annoyed by being kept waiting, and we are in a better, more quiet humor to help our friend to the habit of promptness. if we are willing that another should differ from us in opinion, we can see more clearly either to convince our friend, if he is wrong,—or to admit that he is right, and that we are wrong. The essential condition of good argument is freedom from personal feeling, with the desire only for the truth,—whether it comes from one party or the other.
Hurry, worry, and irritability all come from selfish resistance to the facts of life, and the only permanent cure for the waste of force and the exhausting distress which they entail, is a willingness to accept those facts, whatever they may be, in a spirit of cheerful and reverent obedience to law.
TO argue with nervous anxiety, either in ourselves or in others, is never helpful. Indeed it is never helpful to argue with “nerves” at all. Arguing with nervous excitement of any kind is like rubbing a sore. It only irritates it. It does not take long to argue excited or tired nerves into inflammation, but it is a long and difficult process to allay the inflammation when it has once been aroused. It is a sad fact that many people have been argued into long nervous illnesses by would-be kind friends whose only intention was to argue them out of illness. Even the kindest and most disinterested friends are apt to lose patience when they argue, and that, to the tired brain which they are trying to relieve, is a greater irritant than they realize. The radical cure for nervous fears is to drop resistance to painful circumstances or conditions. Resistance is unwillingness to endure, and to drop the resistance is to be strongly willing. This vigorous “willingness” is so absolutely certain in its happy effect, and is so impossible that it should fail, that the resistant impulses seem to oppose themselves to it with extreme energy. It is as if the resistances were conscious imps, and as if their certainty of defeat—in the case of their victim’s entire “willingness “—roused them to do their worst, and to hold on to their only possible means of power with all the more determination. Indeed, when a man