We Are Afraid… – When Man Listens

We Are Afraid… – When Man Listens by Cecil Rose for The Oxford Group

Outside the home the same story is carried on. At school the child is too often afraid to tell his real difficulties to the teacher. He is afraid of being laughed at or punished. In the office men and women work together without getting to know each other. Jealousy, fear, incompatibility split them into cliques or leave one and another standing alone. In the factory the ‘boss’ is a remote and unknown being who only descends into the lives of the workpeople when something is wrong.

These are the raw materials of a divided world.

People who do not know each other and have little inkling of each other’s difficulties or aims cannot create a united world. They are certain to misinterpret each other. Sooner or later they will quarrel.

The most frequent reason for our isolation is fear. It is fear which makes us hide.

We are afraid of many things. We fear the loss of reputation. We think that if other people saw what we are really like they would laugh at our mistakes and despise us for our failures. So we cover up our mistakes and failures with silence or self-excuse. We pose as confident, when we are nothing of the kind. The face we present to the world is really a mask.

We are afraid in business. We are expecting the other man to steal a march on us. So we work in the dark. We are not going to give him the chance to get in first. We disguise our intentions. And thus we help to create the atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust in which the world lives.

We are afraid of being found out and compelled to let go some of the practices or some of our relationships. If our family only knew–if our business associates or employers only knew–there would have to be a change. We do not want to change. We should hate to change. And so those little reticences and petty deceptions begin and grow until we are living two lives–the one other people see and the one we hope they do not see!

Frankness, trust, understanding, free and happy cooperation cannot exist between people who are hiding from each other.

We greatly need to come out into the open–to take off the mask and drop the pose, and to be our real selves, honest about our mistakes and sins, frank about our thoughts and intentions, willing to let other people know us. Isolated, secretive living is bad for the world and bad for us. It not only builds barriers between us and those we live with, but it shuts us in on ourselves and breeds the loneliness, morbidity, repression, and distorted outlook from which a great deal of our mental and spiritual sickness comes.

When a man does come out into the open in all his relationships with others, the effect is revolutionary. A journalist apologizes to the assembled pressmen of another country for the bitterness of his articles, and at once a door is opened to new understanding between two nations. A statesman admits in an international council that his country’s policy has been mistaken and offers reconsideration of the issue, and immediately a breath of fresh air blows through world affairs. The representative of a large firm puts all his cards on the table before his competitors, and a threatened price war is called off. A father who has tried many ways of getting his daughter to be frank comes off his pedestal and begins telling her of some of his own difficulties. The prompt and unhesitating response is a flood of confidences and the beginning of a new relationship. Two brothers have long been careful only to let each other see selected portions of their lives. They discover that in this life-long game of hide-and-seek, they have actually been fighting a lonely battle against the same temptations; now they tell each other of their victories and defeats.

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