An obstinate man does not hold opinions, but they hold him; for when he is once possessed of
an error, it is like a devil, only cast out with great difficulty. Whatsoever he lays hold on, like
a drowning man, he never loosens, though it but help to sink him the sooner. Narrowness of
mind is the cause of obstinacy. We do not easily believe what is beyond our sight. There are
few, very few, who will own themselves in a mistake. Obstinacy is a barrier to all
improvement. Whoever perversely resolves to adhere to plans or opinions be they right or be
they wrong, because such plans and opinions have been already adopted by him, raises an
impenetrable bar to conviction and information. To be open to conviction, speaks a wise
mind, and amiable character. Human nature is so frail and so ignorant, so liable to
misconception, that none but the most incorrigibly vain can pertinaciously determine to
abide by self-suggested sentiments, unsanctioned by the experience or the judgment of
others, as only the most incurably foolish can be satisfied with the extent of their knowledge.
The wiser we are, the more we are aware of our ignorance. Whoever resolves not to alter his
measures, shuts himself out from all possibility of improvement, and must die, as hi lives,
ignorant, or at best but imperfectly informed.
In morals, perhaps, obstinacy may be more plausibly excused, and, under the misnomer of
firmness, be practiced as a virtue. But the line between obstinacy and firmness is strong and
decisive. The smallest share of common sense will suffice to detect it, and there is little doubt
that few people pass this boundary without being conscious of the fault.
It will probably be found that those qualities which come under the head of foibles, rather
than of vices, render people most intolerable as companions and coadjutors. For example, it
may be observed that those persons have a more worn, jaded, and dispirited look than any
others, who have to live with people who make difficulties on every occasion, great or small.
It is astonishing to see how this practice of making difficulties grows into a confirmed habit
of mind, and what disheartenment it occasions. The savor of life is taken out of it when you
know that nothing you propose or do, or suggest, hope for, or endeavor, will meet with any
response but an enumeration of difficulties that lie in the path you wish to travel. The
difficulty-monger is to be met with not only in domestic and social life, but also in business. It
not unfrequently occurs in business relations that the chief will never by any chance, without
many objections and much bringing forward of possible difficulties, approve of anything that
is brought to him by his subordinates. They at last cease to take pains, knowing that no
amount of pains will prevent their work being dealt with in a spirit of ingenious
objectiveness. At last they say to themselves, "The better the thing we present, the more
opportunity he will have for developing his unpleasant task of objectiveness, and his
imaginative power of inventing difficulties."
Of all disagreeable people, the obstinate are the worst. Society is often dragged down to low
standards by two or three who propose, in every case, to fight everything and every idea of
which they are not the instigators. When a new idea is brought to such persons, instead of
drawing out of it what good they can, they seek to get the bad, ever ready to heap a mountain
of difficulties upon it.
But there are situations in which the proper opinions and mode of conduct are not evident.
In such cases we must maturely reflect ere we decide; we must seek for the opinions of those
wiser and better acquainted with the subject than ourselves; we must candidly hear all that
can be said on both sides; then, and only then, can we in such cases hope to determine wisely;
but the decision, once so deliberately adopted, we must firmly sustain, and never yield but to
the most unbiased conviction of our former error.
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy