A number of persons were sitting in a room talking over a matter. During the conversation one man made a charge against another, comparing him half contemptuously with a man whose conduct had been quite unbecoming. The charge was like a dagger in the man's heart. He knew it was both untrue and unjust. He was conscious of the uprightness of his conduct. He had always held the other man in high esteem, and to be thus publicly wounded by him was almost unbearable. He made no defense, but he went out of that room with an aching heart, humiliated and wronged. His friend had put a great cloud over his sun. Years have passed, but the darkness of that cloud has not yet all passed away. When he thinks of the injustice, there is still a pang in his heart. He does not feel bitter toward the other; he has forgiven; but the close tie has been broken. He has never since been able to confide in the one who did him such an injury.
A faithful minister had labored for years for souls. He had been successful; he had been a blessing to many. One day a certain person spoke of him half jestingly in a manner that aroused the suspicions of some others who were present. These suspicions grew until they became whispers, and the whispers grew till they became open charges. The minister could not prove them to be false. They hindered his labors. They bowed down his head with sorrow. Some one had put a cloud over his sun and over his name, and for years the dark shadow of it rested upon his life.
How easy it is to put a cloud over some one's sun, to make some life dark that might have been bright! It may seem only a little thing, but sometimes a little cloud can make a dark shadow. We may not see either the cloud or the shadow, but the heart that is darkened both sees and feels. How many times parents, by unkind words or actions, becloud their children's sky! One way in which parents do this is by telling the faults of their children to visitors, in the presence of the children. There is scarcely anything more disheartening to a child than this. He feels humiliated and hurt. He feels, and justly feels, that he has been mistreated. It sinks down into his soul and rankles there. It discourages him, and if it is often repeated he comes not to care if he is at fault. Constant reproof and faultfinding make a child's life gloomy and sad. That is not the way to cure faults; it is the way to make them worse.
I once knew a young saint who had a rich experience of salvation. A certain relative who opposed her religion began finding fault with her and kept doing so at every opportunity. The result was that that young life was beclouded and a deep melancholy settled down over her. Her cheerfulness gave way to sadness and moroseness. The song of joy, once so often upon her lips, was stilled. Some one had put a cloud over her sun, and her life was never what it otherwise might have been.
Children may darken the hearts and lives of their parents. How many times is the mother-heart or father-heart grieved by the conduct of the children! It may be that they are only thoughtless, or they may be disobedient and wilful. Young people, cherish your parents, try to make their lives as bright as you can. They have many cares. These are enough for them to bear without your adding a single one. When you have grown older and they have gone out of your life, you may look back with a pang of regret at the times when you caused their hearts to ache. Brighten their lives while you may; then when you look into the open grave where Father or Mother is being laid to rest, your conscience will not smite you.
We are told that "no man liveth unto himself." There is a circle of influence about our lives that affects every other life that we touch. We brighten or darken the lives about us. We lighten or make heavier the burdens of others. Every unkind word or look makes a shadow on some life. Every slighting remark, every sarcastic fling, every contemptuous smile, puts a cloud over somebody's sun. Lack of appreciation has darkened many a life. How much better it would be to take away the clouds, to banish the gloom! You can do this just as easily as you can bring clouds. It is just as easy to speak kind words as to speak unkind ones, and you will feel much better over it yourself. You can encourage and help, you can speak words of appreciation. When people please you, let them know it. When people do well, or even when they try to do well and fail, you can show that you appreciate their efforts. You can be cheerful and courteous and kind. That will make sunshine for others. There are enough clouds in life at best in this world of sorrow. Be a sunshine-bearer. Drop a little good cheer into every life you touch. No matter what you are by nature, you can form the habit of being cheerful and encouraging. Even when you have heavy burdens yourself, you can be encouraging and helpful to others.
Do not let your troubles be mirrored on your face. One's face can smile and his words can be cheery if his own heart does ache. I am not writing a mere theory. I know what pain and gloom and heaviness are. I know what burdens are. During the first few months of my illness every one knew how I felt. My face told the story without words. I finally saw that that would not do, and deliberately set to work to get the gloom out of my face and out of my words. You who read what I write know something of my success. You can do the same.