We should be willing that any one should think anything of us, so long as we have the strength of a good conscience. We should be willing to appear in any light if that appearance will enhance our use, or is a necessity of growth. If an awkward appearance is necessary in the process of our journey toward freedom, we must not resist the fact of its existence, and should only dwell on it long enough to shun its cause in so far as we can, and gain the good result of the greater freedom which will follow.
It is because the suffering from self-consciousness is often so intense that freedom from it brings, by contrast, so happy and so strong a sense of power.
There is a school for the treatment of stammerers in this country in which the pupils are initiated into the process of cure by being required to keep silence for a week. This would be a most helpful beginning in a training to overcome self-consciousness. We should recognize first that we must be willing to endure the effects of self-consciousness without resistance. Secondly, we should admit that the root of self-consciousness lies entirely in a selfish desire to appear well before others. If, while recognizing these two essential truths and confirming them until they are thoroughly implanted in our brains, we should quietly persist in going among people, the practice of silent attention to others would be of the greatest value in gaining real freedom. The practice of attentive and sympathetic silence might well be followed by people in general far more than it is. The protection of a loving, unselfish silence is very great: a silence which is the result of shunning all selfish, self-assertive, vain, or affected speech; a silence which is never broken for the sake of “making conversation,” “showing off,” or covering selfish embarrassment; a silence which is full of sympathy and interest,—the power of such a silence cannot be overestimated.
If we have the evil habit of talking for the sake of winning approval, we should practise this silence; or if we talk for the sake of calling attention to ourselves, for the sake of winning sympathy for our selfish pains and sorrows, or for the sake of indulging in selfish emotions, nothing can help us more than the habit of loving and attentive silence.
Only when we know how to practise this—in an impersonal, free and quiet spirit, one which is not due to outward repression of any kind—are we able to talk with quiet, loving, helpful speech. Then may we tell the clean truth without giving unnecessary offence, and then may we soothe and rest, as well as stimulate in, wholesome ways; then, also, will our minds open to receive the good that may come to us through the words and actions of others.
The Circumstances of Life