I walked with my friend to the newsstand the other night. He bought a paper and thanked the newsie politely. The newsie didn't even acknowledge him.
"A sullen fellow, isn't he?" I commented.
"Oh, he's that way every night," shrugged my friend.
"Then why do you continue to be so polite to him?" I asked.
"Why not?" inquired my friend. "Why should I let him decide how I'm going to act?"
As I thought about his incident, it occurred to me that the important word my friend used was "act." My friend acts, while most of us react to people. He has a sense of inner balance most of us lack. He knows who he is, what he stands for, and how he should behave. He refuses to return incivility for incivility, because he controls his own conduct.
We must become masters of our own actions and attitudes. To let another person determine whether we will be rude or gracious, elated or depressed, is to give up control of ourselves. The only true possession is self-possession.
-Sydney J. Harris