There are, of course, innumerable things, little and big, which we shall be enabled to give to others and to receive from others as the true sympathy grows.
The common-sense of it all appeals to us forcibly.
Who wants to carry about a mass of personal prejudices when he can replace them by the warm, healthy feeling of sympathetic friendship? Who wants his nerves to be steadily irritated by various forms of intolerance when, by understanding the other’s point of view, he can replace these by better forms of patience?
This lower relief is little compared with the higher power gained, but it is the first step up, and the steps beyond go ever upward. Human nature is worth knowing and worth loving, and it can never be known or loved without open sympathy.
Why, we ourselves are human nature!
Many of us would be glad to give sympathy to others, especially in little ways, but we do not know how to go to work about it; we seem always to be doing the wrong thing, when our desire is to do the right. This comes, of course, from the same inability to take the other’s point of view; and the ability is gained as we are quiet and watch for it.
Practice, here as in everything else, is what helps. And the object is well worth working for.
How to live at peace with others is a problem which, if practically solved, would relieve the nervous system of a great weight, and give to living a lightness and ease that might for a time seem weirdly unnatural. It would certainly decrease the income of the nerve-specialists to the extent of depriving those gentlemen of many luxuries they now enjoy.
Peace does not mean an outside civility with an inside dislike or annoyance. In that case, the repressed antagonism not only increases the brain-impression and wears upon the nervous system, but it is sure to manifest itself some time, in one form or another; and the longer it is repressed, the worse will be the effect. It may be a volcanic eruption that is produced after long repression, which simmers down to a chronic interior grumble; or it may be that the repression has caused such steadily increasing contraction that an eruption is impossible. In this case, life grows heavier and heavier, burdened with the shackles of one’s own dislikes.
If we can only recognize two truths in our relations with others, and let these truths become to us a matter of course, the worst difficulties are removed. Indeed, with these two simple bits of rationality well in hand, we may safely expect to walk amicably side by side with our dearest foe.