“The Borrowed Mirror” by Benjamin DeCasseres


1845-1945, Benjamin DeCasseres / Tuesday, March 30th, 2021
The following essay was published in Cosmopolitan Magazine March 1907, Vol. XLII No. 5, p. 479.

The Borrowed Mirror

Benjamin De Casseres

“What will other people think?” is the most cowardly phrase in use in society.

Only weak men stand in fear of the censure of the neighborhood.

Whatever is great in life brings down censure upon the head of the doer.

A man who lives, moves, and has his being in other people’s opinions has not risen to the level of animal intelligence. The dog and horse are at least sincere and natural in all their acts.

Why not dress your life before your own mirror?

Look for your reflection in your own mind. There is a secret judge of all your acts within you. Conscience is your private opinion of yourself.

Why borrow a thing when you possess it yourself? What does it matter what others think of your actions? What do you think of them?

Some men crouch, crawl, and skulk all their lives. They are cowed by a whisper; their purpose is shaken by a look. They run like sheep before somebody’s opinion, though they would return blow for blow if they were attacked on the highway.

They are larded, greased, and curled wax figures. Whenever they move you know that Public Opinion has pulled a wire somewhere. When they speak you know what they will say. They are not men enough to offend.

The ogre, Public Opinion, slays more originality and individuality than all the barbarous superstitious codes put together. It is the modern Moloch before which we all meekly bend.

That shameful hypocrisy which permeates society everywhere is born of the fear of other people’s opinions. Sincerity and plain speaking are at a premium everywhere. We lie from morning until night, and pretend to things we abhor.

Turn once upon that lazy braggart, Public Opinion, and see it scamper away.

It is our latest idol, the modern social Juggernaut.