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Gordon Gilke

Vital Advice From a Pastor Back in 1934: Control Your Life; Don’t Worry


A discovery from an unexpected precedence gives us some advice that will ease our everyday life.

Within the odd species of the religious but Apocrypha books, philosophical but secular, innovative but vintage, lies the written work of James Gordon Gilkey, entitled You can Master Life.

Written in 1934 by a Christian pastor, this book is a compendium of truths which exhumes religion in order to bestow us a few illuminated pieces of advice, as simple as learning how to breathe. It’s the type of reading material that reminds us of techniques we know how to use deep down, but which we frequently forget. In short, it is a tool-book.

Although at times its contents border with North-American positivism, the following list allows us to identify with the text, to visualise our own anguish and, as a result, find calm. The table was designed to differentiate justified and unjustified worries:

1. Worries about disasters which, as later events proved, never happened. About 40% of my anxieties.

2. Worries about decisions I had made in the past, decisions about which I could now of course do nothing. About 30% of my anxieties.

3. Worries about possible sickness and a possible nervous breakdown, neither of which materialized. About 12% of my worries.

4. Worries about my children and my friends, worries arising from the fact I forgot these people have an ordinary amount of common sense. About 10% of my worries.

5. Worries that have a real foundation. Possibly 8% of the total.

Afterwards, Gilkey writes:

What, of this man, is the first step in the conquest of anxiety? It is to limit his worrying to the few perils in his fifth group. This simple act will eliminate 92% of his fears. Or, to figure the matter differently, it will leave him free from worry 92% of the time.

In order to connect his advice, in the following chapter the pastor offers an observation which will no doubt influence many readers and help them along their path. If we have something absolutely precious to care for it is our energy; our wellbeing is dependent on how we manage it.

Only as we yield to the inexorable, only as we accept the situations which we find ourselves powerless to change, can we free ourselves from fatal inward tensions, and acquire that inward quietness amid which we can seek — and usually find — ways by which our limitations can be made at least partially endurable.

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