What to Do with Our Unequal Chance
J. R. Miller
Some people feel that they do not have a fair chance in the world. They look at others who seem to have more advantages and fewer hindrances, and they conclude that the allotments of providence are not just and equal. Some young people let their minds run in this unwholesome channel. They have to work hard and live in the plainest way, without luxury, not enjoying opportunities for pleasure and for education that they long for.
They see other young people in easy circumstances, lacking nothing, with no hardships to endure, called to no self-denial, living in ease, with every opportunity for study, travel, and recreation. It is not easy for them to avoid a feeling of envy in such circumstances. Nor is it easy to accept the limitations of one's condition complacently, without any feeling of being unfairly treated.
Yet the problem to be worked out by those who appear not to have an equal chance, is to accept their place with its disadvantages and its inequalities, and to live just as sweetly and cheerfully as if they were in the most luxurious circumstances. The danger always is that we may be hurt by life in some way. Yet nothing can really hurt us—so long as we keep love and peace in our hearts. No hardship of any kind can do us actual harm us—if we meet it victoriously. But when we allow ourselves to chafe and fret because things are hard, or to complain because things seem unfair, or to grow bitter because we do not have a fair chance—that moment life is hurting us.
The worst mistake anyone can make, in such a case, is to brood over what seems to be unfairness in his lot in life, indulging the feeling that he has not been justly dealt with. The result is that his heart grows bitter and hard, that he begins to pity himself and to look upon others more highly favored with envy, which soon grows into hatred. Nothing but harm can come out of such a feeling. It does not reduce the inequalities in any degree. It does not make it easier to get on. On the other hand, it spoils the life, turning its sweetness into bitterness. It also lessens the heart's enthusiasm and diminishes its power to live nobly.
The only worthy way to meet such a condition, is with courage and purpose to master disadvantages. One who does this disarms life of all its power to do him harm, and makes even the hardships and disadvantages elements in his success. A hindrance conquered, makes us stronger. When one accepts his place in life and makes it a school, he is going to get out of it lessons which will fit him for worthy and noble living. Handicaps become uplifts and occasions for fine attainment and achievement, when they are faced with courage and determination.
There is a good philosophy here for him who is wise enough to carry it out in his life. It is well known that the men who have risen to the loftiest heights of excellence, and have done the most for their race—have not come as a rule from the ranks of those who have been reared in luxury—but from among those who began in lowly ways, with few advantages and many hindrances. The very struggles they had to make to overcome the obstacles, lifted their feet higher on the stair. The efforts it cost them to get an education, made men of them. Thus they easily found compensation for the hard things in their lot in their early days.
The least worthy thing any young fellow can do with an unequal chance, is to allow himself to be disheartened by it and give up. Nothing really noble or valuable is ever got easily. One does not find gold lying about on the streets. One does not get any place of honor in the world without great struggle. We have to dig our way through rocks, to get to earth's treasure-houses. We always have to work hard to achieve anything worth achieving.
An unequal chance, as it seems to human eyes, oftentimes proves to be the very pearl of chances. It wakes up in men's souls sleeping possibilities of energy which never would have been awakened in the experiences of ease. We are not put in this world merely to have a good time, to enjoy ourselves, to eat and drink and dress well, and move about in paths of pleasantness. We are here to grow into the nobleness and strength of godly character. He who misses this, though he lives in luxury all his days, has missed all that is really worthwhile in life.
Young people should always remember, too, that in their school of life, they must do their own toiling; nobody can do it for them. There are some who like to dream of fortunate surprises by which they shall find themselves lifted to positions of ease and prosperity, without struggle or effort of their own. It is not often that such surprises come, nor is it always really "fortunate" when they do come.
A few years ago, a young man struggling with peculiarly hard conditions, became suddenly the possessor of a large sum of money. Instead, however, of being a good thing for him, the money proved the end of whatever hope there was of the young man's making anything of his life. He dropped the work which was in a fair way to train him into manliness and usefulness, and entered upon a course of ease and extravagance which in a brief time left him penniless and with all the high ideals of his early days of struggle, shattered.
The best thing one can do with hard conditions is to depend upon Christ, to take up his own burdens courageously and bear them. Then in carrying them, he will grow into noble Christian manhood.