Timidity Without Justification
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
With such conceptions of our human personality justification for timidity would seem to be impossible. We have seen all along, moreover, that the confusion of the fear-feeling with the action of instinct and of reason leads to a perfectly false justification of fear. The moment we perceive that so-called normal fear is an addition to instinct or reason, an addition never necessary and always harmful, that moment we must discover that the justification of fear as normal because it tends to self-preservation, is totally false. No fear does anything for man which either instinct or reason may not do without it. You can never justify fear for the reason that it is unnecessary and is harmful at the best. When you banish fear, you get rid of a nervous strain which instinct and reason never induce.
While, however, there is no justification of the fear-feeling which will bear examination, plenty of legitimate excuses for fear are easily brought forward. Its occasions, and so, its excuses, seem to be legion. These, indeed, furnish the ground for fear's justifications as they are usually put forth. That they do not justify, I have endeavored to show. That fears are backed by all sorts of occasions which develop excuses, is evident and conceded.
But there is no good excuse for timidity, bashfulness, sensitiveness, and the like. The occasions in these cases are not wild beasts, fierce humans, dreadful storms, uncontrollable natural forces. The occasions now will not be found in the world outside of the self — at least, in any forms which may justify the fears. Except as just hinted, all occasion for timidity and kindred characteristics in the adult life lie wholly within the individual who manifests them. This is the truth, and the timid person must face it as it is.
Now, I do not seek to bolster a theory regardless of facts, nor am I indifferent to the sufferings of people who are timid. Their trouble, it is true, must be met and conquered by personal effort, but there is something for other people to do in the matter as well. The bold and fortunate may not ignore their share in the remedy on the ground that every man's fears are his own. The remedy lies partly with the timid, but partly also with other classes. And that remedy involves an immense task, no less a task than the cure of man's innate and brutal love of fear in his fellows.