My Mom would have turned 94 today. I was recently going through some old files and ran across this “Advice to Andrew Jackson by his Mother”. I can’t tell you how long ago I got it from my mom. And I have not read it in a long time. But something brought it to the fore this month, so I decided to read it and then repeat it here. It has some good advice.
“Andrew if I should not see you again, I wish you to remember and treasure up some things I have already said to you. In this world you will have to make your own way. To do that you must have friends. You can make friends by being honest and you can keep them by being steadfast. You must keep in mind that friends worth having will in the long run expect as much from you as they give to you. To forget an obligation or to be ungrateful for a kindness is a base crime – not merely a fault or a sin but an actual crime. Men guilty of it sooner or later must suffer the penalty. In personal conduct be always polite but never obsequious (fawning, too eager to help or obey – dw). None will respect you more than you respect yourself. Avoid quarrels as long as you can without yielding to imposition. But sustain your manhood always. Never bring a suit in law for assault and battery or for defamation. The law affords no remedy for such outrages that can satisfy the feelings of a true man. Never wound the feelings of others. Never brook wanton outrage upon your own feelings. If ever you have to vindicate your feelings or defend your honor, do it calmly. If angry at first, wait until your wrath cools before you proceed.”
This advice is over 200 years old. And I know that Andrew Jackson did not follow it to the letter. He was well known for his temper – and he had a lot of quarrels with his enemies.
But I think there is some really sound advice in here about working with others. Andrew Jackson’s mom has a different way of saying being a good friend. She says “friends worth having will in the long run expect as much from you”. In other words, you should expect to be kind to others – go into relationships planning on giving to the other. Do we all go into a relationship with a giving attitude rather than a receiving attitude?
The fact that she calls “forget an obligation or to be ungrateful” a “crime – not merely a fault or a sin” is interesting. It seems to me we are so less grateful these days. Do we thank the store clerk who helped us? Are we in the habit of sending thank you notes? Do we follow through on a task we said we would do? When someone gives us a compliment or praise, do we earnestly listen to them and thank them? Or do we try to minimize it?
My mom was a great role model in many ways. I think it is critical that I try to remember her example. This was a great reminder today. Happy Birthday, Mom.