If you shouldn’t do it—don’t!
There are two sentences from two plays that suggest a subject. The first is the tearful utterance of a boy who had seen a terrible tragedy result from a series of angry, senseless circumstances. “I wish—” he said, “I wish it was yesterday.” 1 The second is a similar sentence spoken by a person who had pressed a point too far, and received an answer she would rather not have heard: “I wish it were five minutes ago,” she said.” 2 “I wish it were yesterday.” “I wish it were five minutes ago.” “I wish I hadn’t gone there.” “I wish I hadn’t done it.” “I wish I hadn’t said it.” We wish we had lived so that we wouldn’t have so much reason to wish we had done differently. This is the looking back in life that too often makes us wish we had farther foresight. There are accidents and honest mistakes, miscalculations and unforeseen events. But there are also sometimes blind and stubborn mistakes, angry mistakes, and sometimes deliberately dishonest mistakes that ignore principles and morals and the keeping of commandments. And while we may not know exactly how we shall feel when we do something we know we shouldn’t do, or say something we shouldn’t say, we do know for a certainty that there will be sorrow, regret, anxiety, uneasiness, and that we shall pay a penalty equal to, or greater than, any so-called satisfaction received. We do know the law of causes and consequences, and down deep within us, we do have a warning sense, an inner awareness against every cheap or shoddy, or dishonest or immoral, or cruel or unkind act or utterance. “I wish it were yesterday.” “I wish it were five minutes ago.” “I wish I hadn’t said it.” “I wish I hadn’t done it.” “Would you be exempt from uneasiness? [then] do nothing you know or even suspect is wrong. Would you enjoy the purest pleasure? [then] do everything in your power which you [honestly] believe is right.” 3 And so we would plead with those who are young, and with others also: If you shouldn’t do it, don’t.
West Side Story.
Checkmate (The Star System).
Rules of Life, published in The New Dictionary of Thoughts.
One of the most fruitless, irritating wastes in the world is arguing—the contentious, endless kind of arguing that is akin to quarreling, and causes feuding in families and among friends, and leaves resentful feeling in homes, in hearts, in businesses and professions, and in all kinds of gatherings in public and private places, and in all relationships of life—and with so little that it ever seems to settle! Oh, how filled the world is with arguments—arguments over theories and opinions; arguments over contracts and commitments; over services performed, prices charged, quality not given, work not done well, satisfaction not received—arguments between husbands and wives, between parents and children; in homes and on the highways—arguments!—arguments! There are some who would rather lose a friend than lose an argument—or so it seems. And what’s it all about, anyway, since arguing doesn’t change truth or facts? But it does foster the spirit of contention. “I wonder,” said David Grayson, “if ever you change human beings with arguments alone: either by peppering them with little sharp facts or by blowing them up with great guns of truth. You scare ’em, but do you change ’em? I wonder if ever you make any real difference in human beings without understanding them and loving them. For when you argue with a man (how much more with a woman), you are somehow trying to pull him down and make him less (and yourself more); but when you try to understand him, … how eager is he then to know the truth you have; and you add to him … you make him more than he was before; and … you yourself become more.” 1 Speak your truth quietly. There’s much to be said for the still, small voice, the quiet conviction. Yet so often we go on arguing, and arriving at the opposite of what we really want.
David Grayson, Adventures in Understanding: I Adventure Incognito, Ch. II.