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continual irritation. Men in general may think it a graceful and engaging thing, that a woman should have no will or opinion of her own, but few husbands, except such as we alluded to above, as having themselves a love of detail, will bear being applied to for advice or assistance in every petty case of domestic management where decision is required; and no wife ought to demand it, since in doing so she throws upon her husband her share of cares and duties in addition to his own. Nor will it be long ere she feels the re-action upon herself, in the impatience he will probably not control, and in his growing sense of her incapacity, which will gradually reduce her to a mere cipher in her own house. She has not even the right to complain if her judgment and feelings are not consulted in cases of serious importance to their common interests or the destiny of her children. She herself chose the part of a child, weak, irresolute, and in want of guidance; she has, therefore, no claim to be treated with the respect due to mature judgment and strength of character.
In the management of children, which is, for many years at least, left entirely to the mother, decision and firmness are indispensable. They are necessary, in the first place, in order to form and adhere to a rational and systematic plan of education. Indecision implies frequent change, and nothing is so bad for children whether morally or physically. They become the victims of experiment, because their mother is influenced by every new opinion she hears, and is destitute of that confidence in her own judgment which would make her act upon the plan she has deliberately sen as the best. In cases of accident or illness, where medical assistance is not immediately at hand, indecision may too often prove fatal. Nor is it less pernicious in the moral training of children; they are quick to perceive and take advantage of it, and the authority thus lost is never regained. The mother should also remember, that whatever shakes her influence over her child, whatever diminishes his reverence for her, proportionably lessens his affection, and by thus loosening one of the strongest ties which shall hereafter bind him to virtue, lays the foundation of certain misery to both.
One of the objections to cultivating decision of character in women, arises, as we have said, from the notion that it is opposed to feminine gentleness and modesty of deportment. Nothing can be more mistaken. The imperious manner, and the ton tranchant with which some women justly offend us, are no more the necessary accompaniments of decision, than bluntness and discourtesy are the attributes of candour. We are inclined, indeed, to believe, that this loud and decided manner is often the mask of an undecided mind; as the shallow brook brawls and foams round
each stone by which its current is turned aside, whilst the deep river bears away in silence the obstacles that vainly strive to impede its course. The utmost firmness of purpose, where we are sure of being in the right, is compatible with perfect gentleness of manner and language, and with pliancy of temper in all indifferent things. Obstinacy is always wilful, whatever the object, from mere tenaciousness of its own views, but decision has regard to the purpose and to the relative importance of the points considered; it may be exercised peremptorily on apparent trifles which tend to important consequences, and be altogether laid aside in matters seemingly of greater moment, but which, involving no question of duty or principle, may be yielded to the wishes of others. The obstinate are often arrogant; the decided only self-confident, where confidence is indispensable. It is mistaking the nature of humility to suppose it, necessarily, to belong to weakness and irresolution.
At all events, whether decision is pronounced becoming or not to a woman, considering her in the artistic point of view (if we may so express it), as a thing intended to look well, or be a convenient tool in the hands of others, it is certain that in another view, not quite so common, yet which few venture formally to reject,—in the view which presents her as a moral and responsible being,—a woman must exercise decision, form opinions, and act upon them, without leaning on the judgment of others, or transferring to them the responsibility which belongs only to herself. It is contemptible to attempt classing a moral quality with external things of appearance and propriety, and degrading to submit to a classification which should exclude from the list of qualities becoming a woman that on which rests her existence as a moral being, i.e., deliberate and responsible action.
A mere glance at the inevitable difficulties that crowd the path of life makes us feel the necessity of decision to all who are destined to encounter them. Deprived of it " a human being," says Foster, "with powers at best but feeble, and surrounded by innumerable things tending to perplex, to divert, or to oppress their operation, is indeed a pitiable atom, the sport of diverse and casual impulses. It is a poor and disgraceful thing not to be able to reply with some degree of certainty to the simple questions, What will you be? What will you do?'"*
NECESSITY OF DECISION.
Let us now go on to consider what constitutes decision of character, and the best means of attaining it. Foster, from whose admirable essay on this subject we have derived many of our observations, resolves the elements of this quality into the following:-1. Constitutional strength, or that vigour which
*Foster's Essay on Decision of Character.
results from a union of physical and intellectual causes, unimpaired in its moral action by the debilitating influence of bodily suffering and weakness. 2. Confidence in our own judgment. 3. Energy of will. 4. Moral courage. 5. The harmony of the mind with itself. Of these, the first only does not depend upon ourselves; its absence is no doubt one of the principal reasons of women's inferiority to men in decision and firmness; but although it cannot be acquired, its deficiency may be counteracted in the same manner that self-control can conquer any other lowering influence of physical infirmity. Accordingly, weak and delicate women have been known to show decision and firmness in circumstances that might have appalled the strongest men.
2. The confidence in our own judgment above mentioned, is not the presumptuous confidence of the ignorant, or the unreasoning pertinacity of the obstinate, who adhere to an opinion simply because it is theirs. It is that confidence in the result of our reasoning, which every one must have who can be said to have formed an opinion at all; whose mind is not merely like the chameleon, receiving its hue from the objects around it, and changing with every change in them. When we have obtained all the information within our reach on the subject under consideration, and have gone through with due caution all the steps required to form an accurate opinion, it would not be modesty but folly to refuse to act on the conclusions we have arrived at. If circumstances, or our own incompetency have limited our means of forming a sound judgment, then indeed the probability of error must make us diffident, and in such a case decision is warranted only by a necessity for immediate action. If we are obliged to decide without delay, we must, after having formed the best judgment in our power, act upon it at once and unhesitatingly without losing time in further deliberation, which can lead to no better result, since it can add nothing to our previous means of judgment, and which, by causing delay, may entail consequences even worse than those likely to arise from our partial ignorance. He who would weigh every possible chance, and provide certainly against every contingency, is almost as unfit to conduct any design as he who rushes forward headlong, careless of all obstacles. In a word, the confidence in our own judgment which decision requires, is not confidence that our judgment is absolutely true and just, but that it is the best we can arrive at under the circumstances, and therefore not to be set aside except on conviction of its unsoundness. The only office of modesty in this case is to allow full weight to the opinions of others, who have more knowledge and a greater grasp of the question to be decided than we have ourselves.
*See Chap. IV., Sec. ii.
3. Moral courage is another essential element of decision of character. It is vain for the judgment to decide if fear comes in between the decision and action. As physical courage is that quality which leads a man to brave danger and all its consequences of bodily suffering, so moral courage is the action of the moral sentiments and motives in making us encounter evils which cannot be avoided or shrunk from without entailing that worst form of moral suffering-the loss of self-esteem. One man will endure pain and conceal terror to escape the blame or contempt of bystanders, while another will brave that contempt, and defy the loudest storm of human hatred to satisfy the "still small voice" within, and preserve unblemished the integrity of his soul. Both are actuated by moral courage, though in different degrees, for it was the moral motive in each-in the first of a low nature, in the latter of the most sublime-which triumphed over lower feelings or instincts. The physical courage most common amongst men is the result of constitutional vigour and insensibility to danger, heightened by the fierceness which belongs to their nature when roused; but it is a mere animal instinct like the courage of the lion or the bull-dog, and deserves admiration only when sustained and ennobled by moral courage, which is the attribute of the reasoning being alone.
These very different kinds of bravery are not always found combined. The man possessed of moral courage may not have that insensibility to danger which is often the result of mere thoughtlessness; but while fully alive to the extent of the peril to be incurred, he knows how to face it with calm and steady determination. He has counted the cost, and abides unshrinkingly by the consequences he has foreseen and resolved to meet. On the other hand, many a man who has charged with fearless intrepidity on the battle-field, sinks into dispirited weakness when his instinctive fierceness is no longer roused by opposition and excitement; he is powerless to endure when no longer able to resist, thereby proving that the moral energy and fortitude which belong essentially to the higher species of courage form no part of his coarser nature.
The circumstances that call forth decision of character have always more or less of difficulty, and therefore require a proportional amount of moral courage. Objects or principles have to be carried out against more or less of opposition from within, or from without from others, or from our own inclinations; and to overcome this opposition, the mind must be accustomed not to shrink from the consequences of its determination. It must be able to bear ridicule, or reproach, or responsibility; otherwise, at the first obstacle, abandons its chosen course, and its decision
remains a mere act of the understanding, without influence on the will.
Moral courage then is the exercise of self-control under peculiar circumstances, subduing the emotions which, if indulged, might endanger the authority of reason or conscience. If we have not courage to maintain unpopular opinions which we have once adopted on careful and deliberate examination, or if we change or modify them according to the tone of the society we live in, we shall not only soon cease to have any fixed opinions at all, but we risk the loss of all dignity and uprightness of mind, which must follow the continual sacrifice or repression of what we believe to be truth, for the sake of popularity, or from the dread of censure.
Where the decision we are called upon to make involves a moral principle, it is still more important than no want of moral courage should induce us to forsake it; since in this case we not only give up our judgment, but the principle on which it was founded. Suppose, for instance, we have decided, that, on principles of justice or Christian duty, it is right that we should enter upon some difficult course of action, if we afterwards abandon that decision from fear of the unpopularity or other personal inconveniences it may entail, we sacrifice at the same time our sense of justice and of duty. Should this be frequently repeated, it will produce a fatal habit of evading or temporising with the claims of conscience, which must end in contemptible weakness and inconsistency of character.
We cannot refrain here from making once more the oft-repeated observation on the connection between our mental and moral faculties, and the impossibility of separating them in their cultivation. It is the mental power of thinking clearly, of reasoning correctly, which gives weight to the moral force of decision; for if we have merely jumped at a conclusion, or formed it upon vague and inaccurate data, then decision is mere precipitancy, and what we call moral courage might better be named rashness. It follows that the more we cultivate those intellectual faculties, the more value we give to our moral energies.
4. Energy depends in great measure on constitutional qualities of mind and body, on that vigour which results, as we have before remarked, from a union of moral and physical causes. But where this is wanting, conscientiousness, self-command, and habit will supply its place in a great degree. If we are habitually alive to the obligation of acting upon our conviction of what is right and just, if we are accustomed to control the inclinations that oppose our sense of duty, and if we have moral courage to silence the fears which assail the naturally timid mind, we shall pursue with a firm purpose the line of conduct we have