Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts. – Charles Dickens
What does that mean?
This is a slightly shortened quote from Our Mutual Friend, Book 2, Chapter 8. However, the missing portions are not necessary for the purposes of discussing this quote, in my opinion.
This quote talks about some of the finest characteristics of the human animal. A heart that never hardens, despite the hate and anger directed at it. A temper that never tires, despite being tried regularly, often by the same people directing hate and anger at it. A touch that never hurts, but provides comfort and help, even to the people who have been antagonistic.
If you could have these traits, I believe not only would your life improve, but so would the lives of those who your life touches. I also believe attempting to achieve this condition is a worthy goal.
Why is character important?
Here we aren’t talking character, as a person from a book (Dickens being a famous author), but character as defined at thefreedictionary.com : “A description of a person’s attributes, traits, or abilities” – and more specifically “Moral or ethical strength.”
Here, we are interested in the moral and ethical strengths as shown by the traits and attributes of a person. How is their heart? How is their temper? How is their touch? Each of these describes an aspect of a person’s character.
Some people are known for their outstanding character, others for a rather mixed bag when it comes to character, and the rest for their lack of character. You can look to Hollywood or Washington D.C. for a complete spread from the best to the worst with all the permutations in-between.
This is the point where I remind people that character, like so many other value judgments, are based on what a society values. What we value today and what the ancient Aztecs valued are markedly different. Similarly, what they considered good character would differ from what we consider good character. But as we aren’t in the 1500’s, we’ll stick with what most of the world considers to be good and proper in today’s world.
Where can I apply this in my life?
How does one have a heart that never hardens? To me, that is pretty much the definition of forgiveness. To reach this conclusion, I reversed the quote and asked “What would I need to do to harden my heart?” Never forgive and never forget was an immediate and clear answer.
How would you answer the question? Did you come up with another method to harden your heart? Whatever you came up with, I would recommend doing the opposite. Forgive and forget is what I try to do. What is appropriate for your opposite method? You might want to write it down and keep it somewhere where you can review it from time to time and make adjustments as you gain experience.
How does one have a temper that never tires? To me that is a fair definition of compassion. Again, the opposite question: “How does one have a most volatile temper?” The easiest way is to be completely devoid of compassion, and take everything that happens as a personal affront, or even an attack.
How would you answer the question? Did you come up with a different method to have a volatile temper? Again, I would recommend doing the opposite of what makes for a bad temper. For me, compassion is how I calm my temper. What do you think would be best for you? Again, writing it down for future reference and modification might be a good idea.
Finally, how does one have a touch that never hurts? I would expand this to both how one touches the lives of others, as well as a physical touch (ie not hitting). To me, this pointed to hope. The opposite question would be: “How can one hurt all we touch?” While there may be many specific methods, the root of them all, to me, is hopelessness. Without hope, why bother to restrain yourself? Lashing out at anybody and everybody will just come naturally.
How would you answer the question? Did you have a different answer to hurting others? Once again, doing the opposite would be my recommendation. For me, hope, both for them and for myself, helps me maintain a positive viewpoint. This makes it much easier to be a positive influence when touching others, both in spirit or in flesh (the touching, that is). Again, writing down some ideas for future reference might be a good idea.
Now that we have figured out how to have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires and a touch that never hurts, one might ask why these are of any benefit. A reasonable question, and one you can answer for yourself. It is especially appropriate that Dickens is the author of the quote, as we will use the Dickens method to answer the question “Why?”
Think back on all the times when you were on the “wrong” side of the quote in these three aspects. Can you feel the pain, hurt, shame and anguish you caused others? And do you feel those now, within yourself, knowing what you have done? That’s the Ghost of Christmas Past visiting. The Ghost of Christmas Present would like you to review all that you have done and seen, and consider how different people have acted with more skill in their actions and words. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come would like to take you on a trip where you do not address your present course, and see how your heart, your temper, and your touch have changed the lives of those around you for the worse.
The answer to the question “Why?” is simple – to avoid the future you may end up causing. As Scrooge came to understand, one is never too old to change their ways, nor is it ever too late to begin making amends. You might not be able to change the past, but you can change the future. What future do you want for your friends and family?
From: Twitter, @yomutra
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/charlesdic121168.html
Photo by dno1967b