I have long been a collector of sentences or phrases of great meaning and weight. You probably like them, too! So, today, let me pass along one of the greatest you will ever hear. It is so true that if you would always remember it, it could change your life. James Allen wrote about it in his essay: “As A Man Thinketh.” And here it is:
“Circumstance does not make the man: it reveals him to himself.”
Quoting from the essay, “Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are. Their whims, fancies, and ambitions are thwarted at every step, but their innermost thoughts and desires are fed with their food, be it foul or clean. The ‘divinity that shapes our ends’ is in ourselves; it is our very self. Man is manacled only by himself; thought and action are the jailers of Fate – they imprison, being base; they are also the angels of Freedom – they liberate, being noble. Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only answered and gratified when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.
“In the light of this truth, what, then, is the meaning of fighting against circumstances? It means a man is continually revolting against an effect without, while he is nourishing and preserving its cause in his heart. That causer may take the form of a conscious vice or an unconscious weakness; but whatever it is, it stubbornly retards the efforts of its possessor, and thus calls aloud for remedy.”
Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves.
Therefore they remain bound. Even the man whose sole objective is to acquire wealth must be prepared to make great personal sacrifices before he can accomplish this objective. How much more so he would realize a strong and well-poised life?
Intelligence and indulgence are the two extremes of wretchedness. They are both equally unnatural and the result of mental disorder. A man is not rightly conditioned until he is a happy, healthy, and prosperous being. Happiness, health, and prosperity are the result of a harmonious adjustment with the outer, of the man with his surroundings.
A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life.
As he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his conditions and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts. He stops to kick against circumstances and begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.
Law, not confusion, is the dominating principle in the universe; justice, not injustice, is the soul and substance of life.”
Now, here’s that great line again in case you want to memorize it: “Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.”