IN these days when quaint ministering agencies — cleverly commercialized, perhaps, but nevertheless helpful — are springing up on all sides, there seems to the writer to be distinctly a place for the Confidantist. The word is obviously coined to mean one who makes a business of receiving confidences. Confidante would not answer as the dictionary has it. Read the elegant words of Dryden, considerately appended to the definition by way of illustration: —
Than to become my confidante and friend;
As such I keep no secret from your sight.
Exactly! “Confidante and friend.” But your Confidantist might or might not be your friend. It is the noun-suffix “ ist,” denoting one who practices, that saves the day.
First, the need of the Confidantist. It must have been apparent to all that every man — and woman — must, at some time, confide in some one. Suppose the case of an unhappy husband who is depressed by a friction between himself and his wife, and who, after brooding long over it, feels he must tell of it. To whom shall he go ? His doctor will hardly do. His minister will come nearer; but perhaps he has none, being, let us imagine, a backslider and a bit shy of the clergy. Pride or actual fear of advice may deter him from confiding in his friends. But suppose, too, there is a Confidantist in the next block. The gentleman can relieve his mind for a nominal charge, and no one wall be the wiser, except possibly himself. Expression may mend his sense of proportion, and show him wffiat a molehill after all was his mountain.
The duties of the Confidantist would be simple and few. First, and perhaps last, he would need to listen sympathetically. Whether or not he should actually offer advice, particularly unpleasant advice, would depend on his discretion. Some of his “ patients ” — if the word is permitted — would not want it. Advice might be legitimately included in his field, however, and so render him tremendously influential. Strangers stranded in the city might seek to escape their loneliness simply by talking to him, and in such case, of course, he would need to take, at least, a small part in the conversation.
It may be objected that the so-called heart-to-heart columns of the newspapers and periodicals fill the need of the Confidantist; but while they prove it, are they not often inadequate to fill it? To an extent, of course, writing relieves a man’s mind, but it cannot be compared to talking. Most of us talk more easily than we write. Moreover, unless a man wants advice or an answer to a question, he does not write to these columns at all, and his case remains unhelped. But, supposing he does want advice. The spoken word counts for more than cold, unfeeling type. The personality of the Confidantist would be his capital; that and his ability to listen sympathetically. The personality of the patient would also be of importance. Many printed replies to questions would be very different if the editor could meet his correspondent. But, as has already been hinted, many would visit a Confidantist merely to confide in him, and in their cases writing would be of no help.
Who cannot think for himself of beneficent results following the Confidantist ? One alone would justify his existence: the harmless disposal of ideas, which, to express it inelegantly, have been kept too long. We all know that some thoughts, if unexpressed, become dangerous to the thinker. We say they work in. Or if they work out at the wrong time, they may take form in action harmful to others. In either case, some one is bound to suffer. If such thoughts had been confided to a Confidantist at the logical moment, that is, when they were ripe for expression, they would have passed off naturally and painlessly.
The very fact that a fee would be charged (which should be based on a sliding scale, whereby the longer and drearier a patient’s story the higher the charge) would induce many conscientious people who might otherwise suffer in silence to share their burdens with another. They would not scruple at distressing the listener if they were paying him for the privilege. Again, many would tell the Confidantist what they would tell no one else on earth, because they could be sure their confidences would never be repeated.
But another result not to be despised would be that we should possibly be pro tected from being confided in quite so often. The writer happens to follow a pursuit which seems particularly calculated to expose him to the confidences of total strangers. If there were enough Confidantists, he might reasonably expect to be spared. He therefore humbly offers the suggestion, hoping that some one may begin the profession of “confid entializing.” Although his experiences have led him to suppose he might be a success in this line himself, he lacks the pioneer spirit to lead forth.
Hasten the day when we may behold such signs as this in golden letters :—
A. B. SMITH
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