People Who Disappoint Us

J.R. Miller

There are a goodly many of them. They begin hopefully, with bright promise but the radiant morning darkens into cloud and gloom at evening time. They have fine gifts and splendid capacities, and we expect great things from them but they make little of their lives in the end.

In a northern country, one day thirty years ago, a farmer's wife was looking in the woods for a cow that had strayed. She stopped at a spring to get a drink of water. She slipped and stumbled against a small, loose rock, which fell and rolled down to her feet. To her amazement, it was gold, a twenty-pound nugget of nearly pure gold. The result was that within a few months there was a town of five thousand inhabitants at that place. A quarry of pure marble was discovered near by, and the town was built of this. But, after all, no more gold worth mentioning was found, and now the town of marble buildings is empty and deserted.

This is the story of many lives. There are children who are unusually bright in school. They learn with great ease, and rapidly surpass the other members of their classes, taking all the prizes and winning all the honors. Everybody prophesies a distinguished future for these young prodigies. They will be great orators, like Demosthenes; or artists, like Raphael; or singers, like Adelina Patti. But after a brief time of phenomenal precocity, they sink into the ranks of the undistinguished youngsters, and are never heard of any more.

There are young men who make brilliant records for themselves in academy and college and university, graduating with highest honors, and of whom friends expect great things. They have fine abilities, and it would seem that they would continue their career of brilliant success through life. But in many cases they are never heard of after graduation day. They make nothing worth while of their lives.

It is the same in the business world. There are men who make conspicuous beginnings, giving promise of great ability as financiers, or as manufacturers, or as merchants but who soon run their course and then fall into the ranks of the obscure and unknown.

We see the same in the professions. A young lawyer or physician begins with great diligence and has encouraging success for a time but he grows discouraged and loses interest and loses heart, slacking his diligence, giving up his studies, and failing to make his life count for much that is worth while. He becomes a failure.

There are many ways in life in which people disappoint us. Sometimes it is in marriage. The wedded pair set off ideally happy. They are patient, loving, devoted to each other, eager each to give up and make sacrifices for the sake of the other. But by and by their love seems to lose its zest and warmth.

The other day, in one such case, the young husband was heard by a visitor to speak to his gentle wife in surprisingly harsh language and tone. It soon became evident, too, that this was only the husband's usual way of speaking to his wife. This was less, too, than five years after the wedding day, when this same young man was thought to be an exceptionally kindly, thoughtful and gentle husband.

We are often disappointed in people with whom we become acquainted, and who at the beginning appear to be unusually excellent in every way. They are polite and refined. They are thoughtful and kindly. They are generous and trustworthy. They are faithful in all their duties. They are sweet-spirited and obliging.

But in a little while the lovely things in their disposition and conduct begin to disappear. They lose their refined manners and show signs of rudeness and ill-breeding. They are irritable, impatient, discontented. Gross things in their nature, unsuspected before, now appear. They lose interest in their work and do it negligently. And instead of growing into strong, beautiful characters, they fail of the hopes cherished for them, and rise to nothing worth while.

There are people also who disappoint their friends in their friendships. At first they are profuse and extravagant in their professions of devotion. They would do anything, deny themselves in any way for the sake of the friends they have adopted, or those who have done much for them. But they soon grow weary of being such a friend. Their affection cools and dies out, and in a little while the dream has faded, leaving nothing but dream stuff remaining.

These are only illustrations of what we see about us continually in every department of life. The subject is referred to in order to impress the lesson of the opposite. It is not enough to begin well. Success will come only to him who, starting right continues in the right way unto the end. We cannot merely play at living, and attain anything noble.

We ought not to disappoint those who love us, and expect good things if not great things of us. The fact that others are looking for noble things in us and from us, ought to inspire us to do our best. We should live so as to win the approbation of men, and still more the approbation of our Master. To disappoint him is saddest of all.