Adapting One’s Self to Circumstances

Very few men and women can adapt themselves to all circumstances. They may adapt themselves to some circumstances, but not to all. Lazy, shiftless people have the poorest faculty to do this; enterprising, successful men and women can do it readily, for it is one of the conditions for success. They are obliged to make the best of things, bitter though the experience may be, and so they must accept the situation day by day. To sit down and lament and lose heart under any circumstances is to give up the race of life.

There lies before me a Maine woman’s description of her pioneer life in the valley of the Penobscot. She says:-

“Trees were big ones in those days, and husband could not pile them alone, and we had no neighbours with whom we could exchange works, so he used to help me in the morning about the house, and then we went out into the clearing. Husband would get one end of a log well up on the pile and then I used to put a handspike under that and hold it until he could pry up the other end. I made all the cloth we had; made a year’s sweetening from maple syrup. I knit mittens, socks, shirts, and drawers, and even made cloth caps and my own bonnet.”

She was happy, with all the privations of her pioneer life, but she might have been otherwise, and she might have made her husband wretched, too; She had a capital opportunity to accomplish both. Many women would have been miserable in the circumstances, for the want of this excellent faculty of adapting themselves to circumstances. She possessed this quality in a high degree, and her humble home in the woods had as much real enjoyment in it as was ever found in a palace, and probably more.

But the mass of young people, and older ones as well, are not living pioneer lives. They dwell were society is settled, its manners and customs fixed. And yet they have as much need of the quality under discussion as pioneers in order that social life may be enjoyed at its best. There is no day when its possession will not result in good. In the most common walks of life as well as in the most select, its use is constantly demanded. For example, a Christian woman was in affluent circumstances. Her husband was able to provide her with all the servants she desired, and with all the comforts and even the elegances of a city home. But unexpectedly and suddenly he lost his property, and his business, too. “I can support the family by keeping boarders,” suggested the lady. Her husband imposed objections to that, as it might impair her health. “I have no doubt that it will do me good,” she replied laughing. “Well, you take a philosophic view of the matter, I must confess,” continued her husband; “You do not seem to be very much troubled with your new experience.” “Why should I be troubled?” responded the wife. “I have no doubt that it will turn out for the best in the end; that is the way things do when we endeavour to make them turn out for the best.” Such a disposition is a fortune to a man or woman; it is really success itself, at least on one line.

There is much disappointment, chagrin, and failure among men for the want of this ability to accept the situation. We see it in the common walks of life, among all classes and conditions of men. A few adapt themselves to circumstances, while the many are out of sorts with their surroundings and accomplish nothing because they cannot have everything to their liking. “It is a great blessing to possess what one wishes,” said one to an ancient philosopher, who replied, “It is a greater blessing still, not to desire what one does not possess.”

John Newton once said, “If two angels were sent down from heaven, one to conduct an empire, and the other to sweep a street, they would feel no inclination to change employments.” That is, the higher and purer the nature, the more readily do men adapt themselves to circumstances and rest satisfied. Angelic natures do it best. So that the human quality in question is not small or mean, but high and noble.

Youth needs it as much as age, yea more; for in youth both male and female are doing things for all time, and even for eternity. The earlier the disposition to be content with the allotments of Providence is established, the better will it be for all the future, here and hereafter. In the home and schoolroom, on the playground and in social life, its beneficial influence will be enjoyed. Addison said that “it destroys all inordinate ambition, and every tendency to corruption with regard to the community to which we are placed. It gives sweetness to the conversation, and serenity to all the thoughts. It is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world; and if in the present life his happiness arises from the subduing of all his desires, it will arise in the next from the gratification of them.”

– taken from Gaining Favor with God and Man