Faults or Defects?
THE CONTRIBUTORS’ CLUB.
FAULTS or defects,—which are most trying in those nearest to us ? Theoretically we may incline to say the former, but, judging by experience, I, for one, have decided that it is much harder to put up with defects than with faults of character in one’s family and friends. (It will be seen that I am not one of those who cannot or will not see anything wanting in those they love. Minify, excuse, forgive their faults, I can, but with the best will in the world to do so, I am not able to shut my eyes to them.) The common judgment differs from mine, I think : the persons most generally liked in a community are the men and women of qualities rather negative than positive, good-natured people, whose ideas and opinions are not so important and dear that they are disposed to make a stand for them, whose individual characteristics are not so marked that others run against them unpleasantly.
It is a great mistake to undervalue true amiability, but it is possible to place it relatively too high in the scale of virtues. It is so useful a virtue that it is sure of general appreciation. Yet commend me to the warm heart that wraps me round with affection and creates a glow within me, even though to-morrow I may feel the blaze of some quickly kindled, quickly consumed fire of resentment. Let my brother or my friend give me something positively precious to have and to hold, something of himself, out of his own character, to strengthen, cheer, or comfort me on my way in life, and I will pardon and bear with much from him. But suppose him lacking in the qualities that stir my confidence, admiration, and affection, — what is it to me that I see no special fault in him to complain of ? He does not offend me, but neither does he win me ; I remain amiably disposed but cold to him. Even with ordinary acquaintance the case is the same. It is positive qualities that call out my interest in the people I meet in the world. I may find some of their personal traits displeasing; I may disapprove heartily of many of their ideas and sentiments ; but if I am to care anything about them, they must have ideas and sentiments of their own, of some sort, and an individual character to distinguish one from the other. When I talk with a person on this or that subject, I don’t mind stumbling upon some opinion which I think all wrong, or a prejudice I have to stop and take account of. What throws me into despair is to find he has never taken any interest whatever in the matter in hand. It is pleasant to agree, and sometimes very interesting to disagree, on questions of taste or sentiment with your companion for the time being, but what a blank sensation comes over you at the discovery that said companion simply has no sympathy or no taste to express, never havingtroubled his or her head about the matters on which you have thought and felt so deeply.