THOUGHT is the first step in all activity, i.e., we cannot do anything without first thinking about it, either voluntarily or involuntarily; and all thought is under our control, for we control involuntary thought by directing the habits, inclinations, temperament, etc., which in turn direct the action. Having cultivated more or less determination to strive earnestly for better things, it is easy enough with most of us to command our voluntary thoughts, and therefore to avoid doing the things that are commonly looked upon as wrong; but it is the much more important involuntary thoughts that need attention; for we are judged by the acts that we do in emergencies,—spontaneously, on the spur of the moment, when there is no time to think out a program. That which one does under stress of unexpected conditions is taken by people generally to be a display of his real character; as, when one is under some unusual influence or strain that seems to take him out of what commonly passes for his true self, it is popularly said to be "the real man showing himself."

Whenever the subject of judging another—the necessity of manifesting a spirit of broad charity at all times, in short, of loving our neighbor—comes up for discussion, we may argue—and sincerely, too—for the loftiest idealism, and perhaps cause our listeners to think, "What a good man he is to think of others so kindly!" But imagine the effect on one of these onlookers if he should hear us reply angrily to an impatient exclamation from an overworked and harassed street car conductor, or abuse a telephone operator! What would he think if he heard us burst out in criticism of public or private individuals on account of some suddenly manifested injustice? Thus it is that all the effect of our carefully expressed idealism is swept away by our failure to practise what we preach. That old school precept, "Actions speak louder than words," rises up to confound us.

No well-balanced individual, much less a Christian Scientist, would countenance a supine, cowardly inaction or retreat when one is confronted by a great wrong. There is, however, a vast difference between a just resentment against a glaring injustice (and in this case we should be careful that our indignation is against the condition that makes the injustice possible, rather than against the person that may happen to be the instrument) and the petty offspring of impatience. We need constantly to keep in thought that a dignified, firm, yet loving, attitude is the only one that will ever effectively accomplish the removal of trouble. And it is the control of our involuntary thoughts that will finally enable us to do this. Should any one ask how we can control our involuntary thoughts and acts, the answer is, By cultivating the habit. It is just as simple to acquire this habit, if we only will strive to do it, as it is to acquire involuntarily the habit of sitting in a certain part of a street car, or of walking on a certain side of the street, or of wearing an article of wearing apparel in a certain way, or of using a certain form of speech. It is easy enough for us to change our pronunciation of the word "lamentable" from lament'able to lam'entable, when we learn that the former is incorrect, and we do it by striving to accentuate it correctly whenever we use it; thus the correct pronunciation becomes the habit, and we follow it involuntarily. So, too, if we make it the rule never to speak or think ill of another, we shall find, when emergencies confront us, that, slowly but surely, we have been acquiring the habit of involuntarily thinking correctly about people. By making good our voluntary purpose, good will become the habit.

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July 25, 1908

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