What to Believe: An Ethical Creed by W. L. Sheldon

What to Believe: An Ethical Creed by W. L. Sheldon

What to Believe: An Ethical Creed by W. L. Sheldon https://pixabay.com/photos/quiet-moments-tall-trees-1717271/

What to Believe: An Ethical Creed by W. L. Sheldon, Photo credit: Stevej98, Pixabay.com

What does True Nobility mean to You?

A few weeks back I came across this age-old wisdom by W. L. Sheldon (Walter Lorenzo Sheldon), “Remember that there is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.” The quote came from part of an address, “What to Believe: An Ethical Creed” by W. L. Sheldon, dated April 1897. Although it was penned more than a century ago, it is still as applicable today. Wayne Dyer further echoed this when he said, “…true nobility is not about being better than someone else, it’s about being better than we used to be.”

Below is an excerpt from the full address:

What to Believe: An Ethical Creed by W. L. Sheldon


Think that life is worth living, no matter how hard it is to live.

Think that life is worth having, although it may not come up to just your expectations.

Think that it is worth while to be doing something, even if there is not much you can do. You can always be doing something for somebody else, even if there is nothing which you can do for yourself.

Think that your life is in danger and that it rests with you to save it. If you do not take care, you will miss the purpose of life and make a failure of it.

Think that your home is in danger. Be on the lookout. Every act of yours helps to mar it or beautify it. The character of your home depends upon you.

Think that your city is in danger and that it rests with you to save it from all the demoralizing tendencies which threaten it.

Think that your country is in danger, that it may perish for want of true citizens. Be a citizen yourself, with all that the word implies, and then your country will be safe.

Think that the whole human race is in danger and that what you do and make of yourself will help to save it. You are responsible for the Brotherhood of Man to which you belong.

Think that if you do not make the fight for the Good, nobody else will. If you do not save your country, your home, your own life, nobody else can.

Think that nature is trying to drag you down, that the forces of evil are against you, and that you must conquer nature. You can if you will.

Think that if you want to have a soul you must earn it. You cannot have it for the asking.

Think that if you want to keep what soul you’ve got, you must fight for it. Be on your guard, or the best self within yourself will be lost before you know it.


Think that life from the beginning to the end is a struggle, a glorious struggle. The effort to win the conflict and show yourself a man is what gives life its purpose. Remember the saying of Darwin: After all, a man can do his duty.



Believe that it is all going to come out right, even when it seems to be coming out all wrong.

Believe that the strongest thing in the universe is the Strong Will.

Believe that the will is only strong when on the right side.

Believe that the strongest will is the will that first knows how to give in and obey.

Believe that you can make your life all over again and that it is worth your while to try it.

Believe that the grandest thing in the universe is doing what you do not want to do—just because it is right.

Believe that the next grandest thing in the universe is not doing what you want to do, because what you want to do would be wrong.

Believe that the strongest man in the world is the man who can keep his good resolutions.

Believe that it is worth while working for a Cause, the success of which will not be realized while you are alive.

Believe that there is something else, somehow, somewhere, fighting for you when you take the right side.

Believe that there is something else, somehow, somewhere, fighting against you when you take the wrong side—not once, but always.

Believe in war—not war against men, but against a bad thing.

Believe that other people have troubles as well as you—and that usually their troubles are a good deal heavier than yours.

Believe that when things are going against you is the time to apply in your conduct and feelings the principles you may have been preaching to others.

Believe in yourself—that there is something sacred in your being, a higher self, and that you can live up to the level of that higher self if you make the effort.

Believe in justice—that it must conquer, and that its triumph is of more importance than that just you should be prosperous and happy.

Believe in law—that there is something sacred about it, whether it be the law of Conscience or the law of the State.

Believe in your fellow-man—that there is a man within the man which you are to respect even when you cannot respect the outer man.

Believe in mankind—in the value of those universal experiences recorded in the institution of law and government.

Believe that the law and government can always be improved, and that the Book of Human Experience has not yet been closed.

Believe in your beliefs—believe in them with all your might—but believe in the honesty of other men who may not agree with your beliefs.

Believe that your beliefs will conquer, whatever happens; because truth somehow must conquer.

Believe that your beliefs will never conquer, no matter what happens, unless you stand up for them.


Believe in the value of other men’s experience and thereby save half your life from being a failure by endeavoring to show that you know more than everybody else.



Remember that happiness, when it comes at all, usually comes to those who do not go in search of it.

Remember that in the struggle of life it is always possible to turn one kind of defeat into another kind of victory. Try it and see!

Remember that if you cannot realize the ends of your being in one way, you can in another. Realize something! You will have to render an account somehow.

Remember that there is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.

Remember that you show what you are by the way you talk about people.

Remember that, as you grow older, nature’s tendencies are laying their grip upon you. Nature may be on your side when you are young, but against you later on.

Remember that you can get the better of tendencies if you fight hard enough, although you can never get the better of nature’s laws.

Remember not to talk too much about yourself.

Remember that having fine sentiments is a poor substitute for being a man. Thoughts are gifts; but your life and your acts speak for you.

Remember to judge people by what they do, not by their sentiments—especially yourself.

Remember that you may have you best friends among those who disagree with you. Men can disagree with their heads and agree in their hearts.

Remember that the easiest person in the world to deceive is yourself. You can make yourself believe almost anything about yourself if you try it.

Remember that the self of the selves is never deceived. It keeps a record of what you are, and it puts down everything. An act can never be undone. It has to stay.

Remember that the true way to conquer prejudice is to live it down. Do not talk about it with others; do not talk about it to yourself.

Remember that resentment against prejudice can injure the soul almost as much as cherishing a prejudice.

Remember that prejudice hurts the one who cherishes it much more than the one against whom it is aimed.

Remember that to give up the struggle when it is in part over, because you cannot get the chance you want, may show that you deserved no chance at all. Take what chance you can get and fight it through.

Remember that to keep chafing because fortune favors others more than you, is the way to get even less out of fortune. Be a man!

Remember that great yearnings and noble ambitions usually die away just about the time they are most wanted. Act on them now.


Remember that it is brave to be in the minority. That is where the strong usually are. Weak natures like to hide behind a majority.



Never talk lightly of your occupation. Either abandon it or else treat it with dignity.

In talking with others never allude to the favors you have done for them if you can avoid it. It is bad taste and bad ethics.

Never talk lightly about love-making. It is a slur on the being you may sometime love, or on the one who is near and dear to you now. Let the subject be as sacred to you as your religion.

When you pronounce judgment never forget that the “other side” may have something to say. Either give them a chance to say it or else hold your peace!

Never forget that you have next-door neighbors. Have mercy on their feelings.

Never speak to another contemptuously of his religion. It hurts; and you gain nothing by it yourself.

When you are subject to a habit which in itself may be right but which is injurious to yourself or others because you cannot control it, then never indulge it—never, absolutely never.

Never play with fire. You can never remove the scar of a burn. Take care!

Never ask a man what are his religious beliefs. That is something sacredly private—a matter between himself and the Invisible.

Never let anything which is sacred to you become commonplace by talking too much about it.

Never show melancholy in order to make yourself picturesque. You are not the only unhappy person in the world.

Never forget that you can be talking to others about certain virtues and be all unconscious that you are not practicing them yourself.

Never try to make yourself out a martyr. Too many others are doing the same thing. It makes martyrdom a trifle common.

Never seek to put other people under obligation to you by doing them favors. It is selfishness in the guise of generosity.

Never try to make yourself out an exceptional case, as if you were exceptionally injured by the world or deserved exceptional treatment at the hands of others.


Never forget the saying of Emerson: In the nature of the soul is the compensation for the inequalities of condition.



Don’t always be wondering why the table of nature is not set just to your liking. You are making yourself of too much consequence.

When anything goes wrong don’t look for the blame in other people. Assume that the blame is in yourself and in most cases you will have assumed exactly right.

Don’t always be brooding over your wrongs. Refined natures brood more over the wrongs of others. You think too much about yourself.

Don’t judge about the nature of things from what happens to you. Use common sense.

If you are superior to other people, don’t tell other people of it; don’t know it yourself. The more you do the more you make yourself inferior.

Don’t talk too much about other people’s etiquette. That is a way of showing it is something you may have only recently acquired yourself. Real etiquette is a thing of the heart.

Don’t talk to other people of your troubles; but at the same time encourage other people to talk of theirs to you. When this rule is everywhere acted upon we shall have heaven.

Don’t suppose that you show culture by what you know. You show it by what you are.

Don’t make anyone feel self-conscious in your presence. It indicates that you are excessively self-conscious yourself. Be unconscious of yourself and that will make people unconscious of themselves when with you.

Don’t expect too much from other people, but encourage other people to expect a great deal from you—and be sure that you fulfill their expectations.

Don’t make too much of your bodily ailments. It makes you tiresome to yourself.

Don’t suppose that success comes by talent. It comes by plodding. Talent makes the best showing in early life. But the ability to plod makes the showing later on.

Don’t think too much about “manner” in judging other people. It shows that you lack depth or that you cannot appreciate true character.

Don’t be too careless about “manner” in yourself. It may show that you are not refined at heart. Be severe on yourself and lenient on others, because you cannot know other people’s hearts and you can know your own.

Don’t be cynical. It indicates that you are very young or that you have never become mature.

Don’t vent on one man the irritation caused by the mistake of another. Don’t vent on others the irritation caused by your own mistakes. Don’t vent your irritation on anybody.


Don’t apply these “don’ts” to other people. Apply them to yourself or else don’t apply them at all.

Read the full address.

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