Henri Frédéric Amiel

Switzerland
27 Sep 1821 // 11 May 1881
Philosopher / Poet / Critic

Control your Opinion

Opinion has its value and even its power: to have it against us is painful when we are among friends, and harmful in the case of the outer world. We should neither flatter opinion nor court it; but it is better, if we can help it, not to throw it on to a false scent. The first error is a meanness; the second an imprudence. We should be ashamed of the one; we may regret the other. Look to yourself; you are much given to this last fault, and it has already done you great harm. Be ready to bend your pride; abase yourself even so far as to show yourself ready and clever like others. This world of skillful egotisms and active ambitions, this world of men, in which one must deceive by smiles, conduct, and silence as much as by actual words, a world revolting to the proud and upright soul, it is our business to learn to live in it! Success is required in it: succeed. Only force is recognized there: be strong.
Opinion seeks to impose her law upon all, instead of setting her at defiance, it would be better to struggle with her and conquer.... I understand the indignation of contempt, and the wish to crush, roused irresistibly by all that creeps, all that is tortuous, oblique, ignoble.... But I cannot maintain such a mood, which is a mood of vengeance, for long. This world is a world of men, and these men are our brothers. We must not banish from us the divine breath, we must love. Evil must be conquered by good; and before all things one must keep a pure conscience. Prudence may be preached from this point of view too. "Be ye simple as the dove and prudent as the serpent," are the words of Jesus. Be careful of your reputation, not through vanity, but that you may not harm your life's work, and out of love for truth. There is still something of self-seeking in the refined disinterestedness which will not justify itself, that it may feel itself superior to opinion. It requires ability, to make what we seem agree with what we are, and humility, to feel that we are no great things.

Henri Amiel, in 'Intime Journal'
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