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Be Good To Yourself

The Right To Be Disagreeable

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If business men and women were to throw off self-control in their offices and places of business as many of them do in their homes, and say the same mean, contemptible, unguarded things to their customers that they say to the members of their own families, their business would soon go to pieces.

No good business person would risk their reputation, or the welfare of their business in such a way. They know better than that. They know that it would be fatal. When they are away from home they think too much of their reputation to risk it for the sake of gratifying their spleen, and they are always on their guard, for their pride is touched.

They think too much of themselves. Their egotism, or vanity, prevents them from making a fool of themselves, and so they practice self-restraint wherever their reputation is at stake; but at home they do not care. They know that their wife or husband and children will try to protect them, and they do not hesitate to show the brute in them.

There are thousands of men who are polite, tactful, and diplomatic toward their customers and in everything which bears upon their business, who seem to lock their good manners up in their offices at night; men who are known as Dr. Jekylls in all their business or professional relations; but who assume the character of Mr. Hyde as soon as they enter their own homes, where they feel at liberty to ride roughshod over everybody's feelings.

They do not seem to think that the wife, or any other member of the family, gets tired, has nerves, or troubles of any kind. They exercise self-restraint all day, but the moment they get home they seem to vent their bad humor on everybody even on the dog or the cat.

Is it not a strange thing that so many people think that home is not a place for the exercise of self-control, but take it for granted that there they can abuse everybody without restraint?

Why should a man who is polite and politic in business and in his club, who can control himself elsewhere, use his home as a kicking post, a place to get rid of his bad blood, — a place which of all others, ought to be the most sacred, most peaceful, and the sweetest place in the world to him?

Many a thoughtless parent in the morning leaves a depressing influence upon some member of the family, the shadow of which hangs over the life all day. It does not matter that it is a thoughtless, heedless word flung out in impatience, its thrust is just as painful. Tongue thrusts are infinitely more painful than blows from the hand.

On his return, there is company at home, he is just as suave and tactful as in his place of business. He defers to his wife's judgment, and is very kind to the servants and children, because his reputation is at stake. He cannot afford to take chances with that. Outside people might spread his hoggish qualities, gossip about his meanness, and injure or humiliate him, while the members of his household would feel under a certain obligation to take everything in silence, to protect his name.

As soon as the guests go, however, this type of man grunts and growls, snarls and nags and finds fault, until he works everyone within sound of his voice into a state of nervous irritability. Then he finds fault with them for not being more amiable.

The head of the house is not always the only offender in this respect. Wives and children often seem to think that the home is the place where they can indulge in fits of hot temper and say all manner of mean, disagreeable, and despicable things. They think that they have a right to spend a whole evening, or perhaps several days, pouting over some fancied injury or over some trifle.

I have been in homes where a domestic storm was raging furiously, but the moment the doorbell rang and a caller came the storm subsided instantly and there was a complete revolution in the manner and the conversation of the inmates.

It is strange that so many people act as if the members of their immediate family have no special rights which they are bound to respect. They cannot imagine why they should not converse or whistle, scold, find fault or make any kind of a noise, just because somebody else wants to read or think. Self-restraint is a rare virtue in many homes.

There are many households where all the laws of courtesy, and even of ordinary decency, are set at defiance; where the boys go downstairs in the morning and about the house half-dressed, without the slightest feeling of delicacy. The girls are often just as careless as their brothers. They go around the house in all sorts of costumes, soiled and untidy, and often to the table, especially in the morning, in a disgraceful condition. They think it is alright because only their brothers and parents are present.

In many homes the father and boys think nothing of sitting around the house in their shirt-sleeves, or of going to the table in the same manner, and often they indulge in profanity and use language they would be greatly ashamed of if anybody outside of their home should happened to hear. All safeguards, all self-respect and consideration for others are thrown down in many homes and everybody is thought to be at liberty to be just as slovenly, cross, crabbed, and disagreeable as they please.

There is no one thing more fatal to that dignity of bearing, that refinement, that personal grace which commands respect, than this habit of dropping all standards of ordinary good behavior and conduct in the home. It fosters a vulgarity which is very demoralizing to all the laws of character-building and right living. This easy-going, slipshod manner of living, as practiced in many homes, tends to the loss of self-respect and respect for one another.

How can you expect the respect of the members of your family, or of those who work for you, when you do not show any sort of respect or deference or kindness, or consideration for them, and when you act as though anything at all was good enough for them?

It often occurs that a man marries a beautiful, bright, cheerful girl who is always bubbling over with animal spirits, and in a short time everybody notices a complete change in her character, brought about by the perpetual suppression of her husband, who is severe in his criticisms and unreasonable in his demands.

The wife is surrounded with this atmosphere of sharp criticism or severity until she entirely loses her naturalness and spontaneity, and self-expression becomes impossible. The result is an artificial, flavorless character.

It is easy to say that a wife or employee should stand up for her rights, that she should resent harsh criticisms and perpetual nagging, fault-finding, and severity of judgment; but natural timidity, modesty, weakness of disposition, or dread of discord often makes this impossible. Then, the better-bred person is always placed at a disadvantage.

The coarse brute has the advantage. The finer the character, the more sensitive the nature. The sense of propriety which comes from high breeding and nobility of nature places the victim at a great disadvantage. There may be a sense of disgust, and a feeling of resentment, but these finer natures often cease after a while to resist or protest, and meekly submit to the injustice, however brutal, until the power to resist and stand up for one's rights is almost obliterated.

One cannot be a lady or a gentleman some of the time and a bear the rest of the time without making unguarded slips. What we do habitually we tend to do all the time. Company manners are very dangerous things. Those who practice them are always betraying themselves.

They are like good clothes that are worn only occasionally, — the wearer never becomes sufficiently used to the seldom-worn garments to feel easy and comfortable in them, and is all the time betraying the fact. Like clothes, which must be worn often enough for the wearer to become unconscious of them, good manners must become so habitual that we shall practice them spontaneously and unconsciously

Many a man who is very deferential to society women treats the girls or poor women who happen to be dependent upon him for a living very shabbily. In society always on the alert to show the slightest service to the ladies, he is absolutely indifferent to the comfort and feelings of a stenographer or other woman in his employ.

Those who are bound to him by the necessity of earning their living, do not call out his nobler sentiments. He regards them as just help, nothing more, They may be infinitely finer-grained than himself, but he rides roughshod over their sensitive feelings, domineering, criticizing, mercilessly scolding, even using profane language.

Such a man would be terribly shocked if those to whom he is so deferential in society knew how he treated the women in his employ. They would not believe it possible—if they could be in his office, store, or factory for a day—that the man who displays these coarse brute qualities could ever be the polished gentleman they met the evening before.

Think of a woman, perhaps with a gentle, delicate training, a woman of culture and rare refinement, and who has seen better days, but whose changed circumstances compel her to earn a living for her little ones, enduring the ill-humor, submitting to the insulting remarks, the coarse and cruel treatment of such a man! How little he realizes that his own sister or his own wife may possibly be placed in a similar situation!

There is nothing more contemptible than taking advantage of a woman in one's employ simply because she cannot help herself. To treat her like a dog or a nobody, simply because one happens to have a little more money than she, or because one happens to be a little more fortunate, is dastardly and contemptible.

People ought to be rated by their quality. Many a refined, cultured, sweet, beautiful girl, for a few dollars a week, works for a coarse, cruel man who pays not the slightest heed to her sensitive feelings, never hesitates to wound her, to say disagreeable and most contemptible things to her, and often uses the most abusive, profane language.

A girl who thinks of marrying a man who employs girls or women should find out how he treats them; what his bearing is, whether that of a gentleman or of a brute. If he is not kind and considerate to those who are defenseless, he certainly will make a brute of a husband. Just as truly as night brings out the stars, so, in the intimacy of married life, the wear and tear of business, the irritability, the vexations, the disappointments in business or professional life, bring out the real man.

He cannot long cover up his horns and hoofs if he possesses them. Before the young woman decides upon a husband, she should try to know the man as his employees, as those who are brought into close daily contact with him, know him. That is the way to choose a husband.

What right have you to abuse an employee, just because your dinner did not happen to agree with you, or because you dissipated the night before and feel cross and crabbed? Why should you humiliate, insult, or make innocent people suffer for your shortcomings?

You should remember that others have rights just as inalienable and just and sacred as yours, and you have no more right to lash an employee with your tongue, or to abuse them just because you happen to be in an unfortunate mood, than you have to strike them. The mere accident of your being an employer and they an employee does not give you any license to abuse or insult them.

They have just as much right on this earth as you and more, if they behave better. Many an employer who struts around in fine clothes and makes a great noise in the world, and who abuses their employees, is infinitely inferior to many of those who work for them.

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