George Wharton James.

Quit Your Worrying! online

. (page 2 of 12)
Online LibraryGeorge Wharton JamesQuit Your Worrying! → online text (page 2 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

chatting merrily with the handler of the lever, sat a black-eyed,
pretty-faced Latin type of brunette. That _he_ was happy was evidenced
by his good-natured laugh and the huge smile that covered his face
from ear to ear as he responded to her sallies. Just then a young
Italian came on the car, directly to the front, and seemed nettled to
see the young lady talking so freely with the motorman. He saluted her
with a frown upon his face, but evidently with familiarity. The change
in the girl's demeanor was instantaneous. Evidently she did not wish
to offend the newcomer, nor did she wish to break with the motorman.
All were ill at ease, distraught, vexed, worried. She tried to bring
the newcomer into the conversation, which he refused. The motorman
eyed him with hostility now and again, as he dared to neglect his
duty, but smiled uneasily in the face of the girl when she addressed
him with an attempt at freedom.

Bye and bye the youth took the empty seat by the side of the girl,
and endeavored to draw her into conversation to the exclusion of the
motorman. She responded, twisting her body and face towards him,
so that her sweet and ingratiating smiles could not be seen by the
motorman. Then, she reversed the process and gave a few fleeting
smiles to the grim-looking motorman. It was as clear a case of

How happy could I be with either,
Were t'other dear charmer away,

as one could well see.

Just then the car came to a transfer point. The girl had a transfer
and left, smiling sweetly, but separately, in turn, to the motorman
and her young Italian friend. The latter watched her go. Then a new
look came over his face, which I wondered at. It was soon explained.
The transfer point was also a division point for this car. The
motorman and conductor were changed, and the moment the new crew came,
our motorman jumped from his own car, ran to the one the brunette had
taken, and swung himself on, as it crossed at right angles over
the track we were to take. Rising to his feet the youth watched the
passing car, with keenest interest until it was out of sight, clearly
revealing the jealousy, worry, and unrest he felt.

In another chapter I have dealt more fully with the subject of
the worries of jealousy. They are demons of unrest and distress,
destroying the very vitals with their incessant gnawing.

Too great emphasis cannot be placed upon the physical ills that come
from worry. The body unconsciously reflects our mental states. A
fretful and worrying mother should never be allowed to suckle her
child, for she directly injures it by the poison secreted in her milk
by the disturbances caused in her body by the worry of her mind.
Among the many wonderfully good things said in his lifetime Henry Ward
Beecher never said a wiser and truer thing than that "it is not the
revolution which destroys the machinery, but the friction." Worry is
the friction that shatters the machine. Work, to the healthy body and
serene mind, is a joy, a blessing, a health-giving exercise, but to
the worried is a burden, a curse and a destroyer.

Go where you will, when you will, how you will, and you will find most
people worrying to a greater or lesser extent. Indeed so full has our
Western world become of worry that a harsh and complaining note is far
more prevalent than we are willing to believe, which is expressed in
a rude motto to be found hung on many an office, bedroom, library,
study, and laboratory wall which reads:

_Life is one Damn
Thing after Another_

[Note: this is outlined in a block.]

Those gifted with a sense of humor laugh at the motto; the very
serious frown at it and reprobate its apparent profanity, those who
see no humor in anything regard it with gloom, the careless with
assumed indifference, but in the minds of all, more or less latent or
subconscious, there is a recognition that there is "an awful lot of
truth in it."

Hence it will be seen that worry is by no means confined to the poor.
The well-to-do, the prosperous, and the rich, indeed, have far more to
worry about than the poor, and for one victim who suffers keenly from
worry among the poor, ten can be found among the rich who are its
abject victims.

It is worry that paints the lines of care on foreheads and cheeks that
should be smooth and beautiful; worry bows the shoulders, brings out
scowls and frowns where smiles and sweet greetings should exist. Worry
is the twister, the dwarfer, the poisoner, the murderer of joy, of
peace, of work, of happiness; the strangler, the burglar of life; the
phantom, the vampire, the ghost that scares, terrifies, fills with
dread. Yet he is a liar and a scoundrel, a villain and a coward, who
will turn and flee if fearlessly and courageously met and defied.
Instead of pampering and petting him, humoring and conciliating him,
meet him on his own ground. Defy him to do his worst. Flaunt him,
laugh at his threats, sneer and scoff at his pretensions, bid him do
his worst. Better be dead than under the dominion of such a tyrant.
And, my word for it, as soon as you take that attitude, he will flee
from you, nay, he will disappear as the mists fade away in the heat of
the noonday sum.

Worry, however, is not only an effect. It is also a cause. Worry
causes worry. It breeds more rapidly than do flies. The more one
worries the more he learns to worry. Begin to worry over one thing
and soon you are worrying about twenty. And the infernal curse is not
content with breeding worries of its own kind. It is as if it were a
parent gifted with the power of breeding a score, a hundred different
kinds of progeny at one birth, each more hideous, repulsive, and
fearful than the other. There is no palliation, temporization, or
parleying possible with such a monster. Death is the only way to be
released from him, and it is your death or his. His death is a duty
God requires at your hands. Why, then, waste time? Start now and kill
the foul fiend as quickly as you can.



How insulting! What a ridiculous statement! How ignorant of our
achievements! I can well imagine some of my readers saying when they
see this chapter heading. _This_, an age of worry! Why this is the age
of progress, of advancement, of uplift, of the onward march of a great
and wonderful civilization.

Is it?

Certainly it is! See what we have done in electricity, look at the
telephone, telegraph, wireless and now the wireless telephone. See
our advancement in mechanics, - the automobile, the new locomotives,
vessels, etc. See our conquest of the air - dirigibles, aeroplanes,
hydroplanes and the like.

Yes! I see, and what of it? _We_ have done, _our_ advancement,
_our_ conquest, etc., etc. Yes! I see _we_ have not lessened _our_
arrogance, _our_ empty-headed pride, _our_ boasting. _We_ - Why "_we_"?

What have you and I had to do with the new inventions in electricity
or mechanics or the conquest of the air?

Not one single, solitary thing! The progress of the world has
been made through the efforts of a few solitary, exceptional, rare
individuals, not by the combined efforts of us all. You and I are
as common, unprogressive, uninventive, indifferent mediocrities as
we - the common people - always were. We have not contributed one iota
to all this progress, and I often question whether mud; of it comes
to us more fraught with good than evil. We claim the results without
engaging in the work. We use the 'phone and worry because Central
doesn't get us our connections immediately, when we haven't the
faintest conception of how the connection is gained, or why we are
delayed. We ride on the fast train, but chafe and worry ourselves and
everybody about us to a frazzle because we are stopped on a siding by
a semaphore of a block station which we never have observed, and would
not understand if we did. We reap but have not sowed, gather but have
not strewed, and that is ever injurious and never beneficial. Our
conceit is flattered and enlarged, our importance magnified, our
"dignity" - God save the mark! - made more impressive, and as a result,
we are more the target for the inconsequential worries of life. We
worry if we are not flattered, if our importance is not recognized
even by strangers, and our dignity not honored - in other words we
worry that we are not _kow-towed_ to, deferred to, respectfully
greeted on every hand and made to feel that civilization, progress
and advancement are materially furthered and enhanced by our mere

Every individual with such an outlook on life is a prolific
distributer of worry germs; he, she, is a pest and a nuisance,
more disturbing to the real peace of the community than a victim
of smallpox, and one who should be isolated in a pest-house. But,
unfortunately, our myopic vision sees only the wealth, the luxury, the
spending capacity of such an individual, and that ends it - we bow down
and worship before the golden calf.

If I had the time in these pages to discuss the history of worry, I am
assured I could show clearly to the student of history that worry is
always the product of prosperity; that while a nation is hard at work
at its making, and every citizen is engaged in arduous labor of one
kind or another for the upbuilding of his own or the national power,
worry is scarcely known. The builders of our American civilization
were too busy conquering the wilderness of New England, the prairies
of the Middle West, the savannahs and lush growths of the South, the
arid deserts of the West to have much time for worry. Such men and
women were gifted with energy, the power of initiative and executive
ability, they were forceful, daring, courageous and active, and _in
their very working_ had neither time nor thought for worry.

But just as soon as a reasonable amount of success attended their
efforts, and they had amassed wealth their children began and
continued to worry. Not occupied with work that demands our unceasing
energy, we find ourselves occupied with trifles, worrying over our
health, our investments, our luxuries, our lap-dogs and our frivolous
occupations. Imagine the old-time pioneers of the forest, plain,
prairie and desert worrying about sitting in a draught, or taking cold
if they got wet, or wondering whether they could eat what would be set
before them at the next meal. They were out in the open, compelled to
take whatever weather came to them, rain or shine, hot or cold, sleet
or snow, and ready when the sunset hour came, to eat with relish and
appetite sauce, the rude and plain victuals placed upon the table.

Compare the lives of that class of men with the later generation of
"capitalists." I know one who used to live at Sherry's in New York.
His apartments were as luxurious as those of a monarch; he was
not happy, however, for worry rode him from morning to night. He
absolutely spent an hour or more each day consulting the menu, or
discussing with the steward what he could have to place upon his menu,
and died long before his time, cursed with his wealth, its resultant
idleness and the trifling worries that always come to such men. Had he
been reduced to poverty, compelled to go out and work on a farm, eat
oatmeal mush or starve for breakfast, bacon and greens for dinner,
and cold pork and potatoes or starve for supper, he would be alive and
happy to-day.

Take the fussy, nervous, irritable, worrying men and women of life,
who poke their noses into other people's affairs, retail all the
scandal, and hand on all the slander and gossip of empty and,
therefore, evil minds. They are invariably well to do and without any
work or responsibilities. They go gadding about restless and feverish
because of the empty vacuity of their lives, a prey to worry because
they have nothing else to do. If I were to put down and faithfully
report the conversations I have with such people; the fool worries
they are really distressed with; the labor, time and energy they spend
on following chimeras, will o' the wisps, mirages that beckon to them
and promise a little mental occupation, - and over which they cannot
help but worry, one could scarcely believe it.

As Dr. Walton forcefully says in his admirable booklet:

The present, then, is the age, and our contemporaries are the
people, that bring into prominence the little worries, that
cause the tempest in the teapot, that bring about the worship
of the intangible, and the magnification of the unessential.
If we had lived in another epoch we might have dreamt of the
eternal happiness of saving our neck, but in this one we fret
because our collar does not fit it, and because the button
that holds the collar has rolled under the bureau.[A]

[Footnote A: _Calm Yourself_. By George Lincoln Walton, M.D.,
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, Mass.]

I am not so foolish as to imagine for one moment that I can correct
the worrying tendency of the age, but I do want to be free from worry
myself, to show others that it is unnecessary and needless, and also,
that it is possible to live a life free from its demoralizing and
altogether injurious influences.



Nervous prostration is generally understood to mean weakness of the
nerves. It invariably comes to those who have extra strong nerves,
but who do not know how to use them properly, as well as those whose
nervous system is naturally weak and easily disorganized. Nervous
prostration is a disease of overwork, mainly mental overwork, and in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, comes from worry. Worry is
the most senseless and insane form of mental work. It is as if a
bicycle-rider were so riding against time that, the moment after he
got off his machine to sit down to a meal he sprang up again, and
while eating were to work his arms and legs as if he were riding.
It is the slave-driver that stands over the slave and compels him to
continue his work, even though he is so exhausted that hands, arms and
legs cease to obey, and he falls asleep at his task.

The folly, as well as the pain and distress of this cruel
slave-driving is that we hold the whip over ourselves, have trained
ourselves to do it, and have done it so long that now we seem unable
to stop. In another chapter there is fully described (in Dorothy
Canfield's vivid words) the squirrel-cage whirligig of modern society
life. Modern business life is not much better. Men compel themselves
to the endless task of amassing money without knowing _why_ they amass
it. They make money, that they may enlarge their factories, to make
more ploughs, to get more money, to enlarge their factories, to make
more ploughs, to get more money, to enlarge more factories, to make
more ploughs, and so on, _ad infinitum_. Where is the sense of it.
Such conduct has well been termed money-madness. It is an obsession, a
disease, a form of hypnotism, a mental malady.

The tendency of the age is to drive. We drive our own children to
school; there they are driven for hours by one study after another;
even when they come home they bring lessons with them - the lovers of
study and over-conscientious because they want to do them, and the
laggards because they must, if they are to keep up with their classes.
If the parents of such children are not careful, they (the children)
soon learn to worry; they are behind-hand with their lessons; they
didn't get the highest mark yesterday; the class is going ahead of
them, etc., etc., until mental collapse comes.

For worrying is the worst kind of mental overwork. As Dr. Edward
Livingston Hunt, of Columbia University, New York, said in a paper
read by him early in 1912, before the Public Health Education
Committee of the Medical Society of the County of New York:

There is a form of overwork, exceedingly common and
exceedingly disastrous - one which equally accompanies great
intellectual labors and minor tasks. I allude to worry. When
we medical men speak of the workings of the brain we make
use of a term both expressive and characteristic. It is to
cerebrate. To cerebrate means to think, to reason, and to
reach conclusions; it means to concentrate and to work hard.
To think, then, is to cerebrate. To worry is to cerebrate

Worry is overwork of the most disastrous kind; it means to
drive the mental machinery at an unreasonable and dangerous
rate. Worry gives the brain no rest, but rather keeps the
delicate cells in constant and continuous action. Work is
wear; worry is tear. Overwork, mental strain, and worry lead
to a diminution of nerve force and to a prostration of the
vital forces and causes a degeneracy of the blood vessels of
the brain.

Exhaustion, another name for fatigue, may show itself either
in the form of physical collapse, so that the patient lacks
resistance, and, becoming anemic and run down, falls a prey
to any and every little ailment, or in the form of mental
collapse. An exhausted brain then gives way to depression, to
fears, and to anxiety.

The vast majority of nervous breakdowns are avoidable; they
are the result of our own excesses and of the disregard we
show toward the ordinary laws of health and hygiene; they are
the results of the tremendous demands which are made upon us
by modern life; they are the result of the strenuous life.

From this analysis, made by an expert, it is evident that worry and
nervous prostration are but two points on the same circle. Nervous
prostration causes worry, and worry causes nervous prostration. Those
who overwork their bodies and minds - who drive themselves either with
the cares of business, the amassing of wealth, yielding to the demands
of society, the cravings of ambition, or the pursuit of pleasure, are
alike certain to suffer the results of mental overwork.

And here let me interject what to me has become a fundamental
principle upon which invariably I rely. It will be recalled what I
have said elsewhere of _selfish_ and _unselfish_ occupations. It is
the selfish occupations that produce nerve-exhaustion. Those that
are unselfish seldom result in the disturbance of the harmony or
equilibrium of our nature - whether we regard it as physical, mental,
or spiritual. This may seem to be a trancendental statement - perhaps
it is. But I am confidently assured of its essential truth. That man
or woman who is truly engaged in an unselfish work - a work that is for
the good of others - has a right to look for, to expect and to receive
from the great All Source of strength, power and serenity all that
is needed to keep the body, mind and soul in harmony, consequently in
perfect health and free from worry.

Hence the apparent paradox that, if you would care for yourself you
must disregard yourself in your loving care for others.

One great reason why worry produces nervous prostration is that it
induces insomnia.

Worry and sleeplessness are twin sisters. As one has well said:
"Refreshing sleep and vexing thoughts are deadly foes." Health and
happiness often disappear from those who fail to sleep, for sleep,
indeed, is "tired Nature's sweet restorer," as Young in his _Night
Thoughts_ termed it. Shakspere never wrote anything truer when he

Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great Nature's second course,
Chief nourisher of life's feast.

Or, where he spoke of it as

Sleep that sometimes shuts up sorrow's eye,
Steals me awhile from mine own company.

Even the Bible makes sleep one of the special blessings of God, for we
are told that "He giveth His beloved sleep." The sacred book contains
many references to sleeplessness and its causes.

Undoubtedly most potent among these causes is worry. The worrier
retires to his bed at the usual hour, but his brain is busy - it is
working overtime. What is it doing? Is it thinking over things
that are to be done, and planning for the future? If so, there is a
legitimate excuse, for as soon as the plan is laid, rest will come,
and he will sleep. Is he thinking over the mistakes of the past and
sensibly and wisely taking counsel from them? If so, he will speedily
come to a decision, and then sleep will bring grateful oblivion. Is
he thinking joyful thoughts? These will bring a natural feeling of
harmony with all things, and that is conducive to speedy sleep? Is
he thinking of how he may help others? That is equally soothing to
nerves, brain and body, and brings the refreshment of forgetfulness.

But no! the worrier has another method. He thinks the same thoughts
over and over again, without the slightest attempt to get anywhere. He
has thrashed them out before, so often that he can tell exactly what
each thought will lead to. His ideas go around in a circle like
the horse tied to the wheel. He is on a treadmill ever ascending,
tramping, up, up, up and up, and still up, but the wheel falls
down each time as far as he steps up, and after hours and hours of
unceasing, wracking, distressful mental labor, he has done absolutely
nothing, has not progressed one inch, is still in the clutch of the
same vicious treadmill. Brain weary, nerve weary, is there any wonder
that he rolls and tosses, throws over his pillow, kicks off the
clothes, groans, almost cries aloud in his agony of longing for rest.
Poor victim of worry and sleeplessness, how I long to help you get
rid of your evil habit and save others from falling into it. For both
worry and sleeplessness are habits, easily gained, and once gained
very hard to get rid of, yet both unnecessary, needless, and foolish.
The worry that produces sleeplessness is merciless; so merciless and
relentless that no fierce torture of a Black-hander can be described
that is worse in its long continuing and evil results. Lives are
wrecked, brains shattered, happiness destroyed by this monstrous evil,
and many a man and woman fastens it upon himself, herself,
through indulging in anxious thought, or by yielding to that equal
devil-dragon of self-pity.

David the psalmist graphically tells of his own case:

I am weary with my groaning;
Every night make I my bed to swim;
I water my couch with my tears,
Mine eye wasteth away because of grief. _Ps. VI_. 6:7.

At another time he cries

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words
of my groaning?
Oh my God, I cry in the day time, but thou answereth not;
And in the night season, I am not silent. _Ps. XXII_. 1:2.

Yet God heard him not until his groaning and self-pity were cast
aside, until he rested in God, trusted in Him. Then came rest, as he
graphically expresses it:

I laid me down and slept;
I awaked; for Jehovah sustaineth me. _Ps. III. 5_.

In peace will I both lay me down and sleep:
For thou, Jehovah, alone maketh me dwell in safety. _Ps. IV. 8._

I will bless Jehovah, who hath given me counsel;
Yea, my heart instructeth me in the night seasons. _Ps. XVI. 7._

See the result of this confidence in God.

I have set Jehovah always before me:
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth:
My flesh also shall dwell in safety. _Ps. XVI. 8:9._

And where the heart is glad, and one rejoiceth in the sense of peace
and safety, sweet sleep lays its soothing hand upon the work-worn
brain and body, tired with the labors of the day, and brings rest,
repose, recuperation.



Our civilization is called a _Christian_ civilization. We are the
_Christian_ nations. Yet, as I have shown in Chapters I and II,
ours is the worrying civilization. That worry is dishonoring to our
civilization, and especially to our professions as Christians is
self-evident. Let us then look briefly in the book we call our Holy
Bible, our Guide of Life, our Director to Salvation, and see what the
sacred writers have to say upon this subject. If they commend it, we
may assume that it will be safe to worry. If they rebuke or reprobate
it we may be equally assured that we have no right to indulge in it.

St. Paul seemed to have a very clear idea of worry when he said:

Be careful - [full of care] - for nothing, but in everything by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests
known unto God. _Philippians_ 4:6.

How inclusive this is - full of care, anxiety, fretfulness, worry about
_nothing_, but in _everything_ presenting your case to God. And then
comes the promise:

And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryGeorge Wharton JamesQuit Your Worrying! → online text (page 2 of 12)