Elimination Of Self
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The spirit of self-reliance might be falsely considered a spirit of self-sufficiency and self-conceit. But it is far removed from these contemptible counterfeits of power. The self-reliant man has accurate knowledge of his powers and abilities and never strains these powers too far. He knows just how far he may safely go, and he always keeps within the limits of prudence, reason and, I may add, decency and good sense. The vain-glorious fool that puts so high an estimate upon his capabilities and talks so loudly of his bravery and courage, is always an arrant coward and generally a sneak and a liar. He is no more to be compared to the truly self-reliant man than a pigmy to a six-foot grenadier. A Bantam rooster, strutting and crewing in the presence of an enormous Shang-Hai, marks the essential difference between self-esteem and self-respect. The former is the greatest possible source of weakness, the latter a source of strength.
No, the self-reliant man practices a complete elimination of self to the high purposes and aims of life.
When in the smoke and heat of battle, his thought is of success and glory and benefit to mankind, and not upon self. He rises early and sits up late and counts no cost of effort dear, if he may gain the prize that he has set before him. Medicine, law, surgery, theology, art, become his meat and drink, and self sinks out of sight in his utter devotion to the ideal which recedes as he advances. He "scorns delight" and lives laborious days that he may climb higher and higher up the rock-ribbed mountain of his holy ambition. He pours out his life unsparingly for the good of other men and cracks the shell of self for an extended flight into regions of ethereal loveliness. He is a man of power, but power devoted to an earnest and legitimate pursuit that swallows self in its attainment. Heroic devotion to noble purposes is a part of the air he breathes and the food he eats. His happiness, his affections, all that he has and is, is centered in his life-work. He is thoroughly and completely unselfish, high-spirited and noble-hearted. He lives in the very atmosphere of self-denial ; for it is along that road that he has come to his brilliant success. In his life :
'Love took up the harp of life, and smote on all the chords with might, smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, passed in music out of sight