How does thy like thyself?

A wonderful book!

A wonderful book!

I never read the book, The Secret Garden, as a child. I stumbled across the movie a few years back and fell in love with it, watching it over and over; seeing something new each time, but recently, I read the book and was amazed by its profound wisdom.

The main character of the story is a very unhappy, lonely, wealthy, little girl named Mary. She is repeatedly referred to as “sour”. She likes no one, and assumes (correctly) that no one likes her either. As she begins to change, her maid Martha asks her,  “How does thy like thyself?” Mary thinks about this for a moment and answers, “Not at all, really. But I never thought of that before.”

When I’ve been the most unhappy with those around me, if I’d had the presence of mind to ask myself what I was thinking and feeling about myself in that moment, it wouldn’t have been good. Whenever I am feeling harsh judgement, criticism, hautiness, contempt, or am comparing myself to someone else, all I really reveal is how I feel about myself. If the feelings are inside of me, they are mine. Even when I think I’m feeling/thinking them about another, they are my feelings.

Equally true, when I’m seeing the qualities of love, patience, harmony, generosity, kind-heartedness in another, they are also mine.

“In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered….In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done, then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.

One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts,  just mere thoughts, are as are powerful as electric batteries, as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in, you may never get over it as long as you live.

So long as Mistress Mary’s mind was full of disagreeable thoughts about her dislikes and sour opinions of people and her determination not to be pleased by or interested in anything, she was a yellow-faced, sickly, bored and wretched child.

When her mind gradually filled itself with robins, and moorland cottages crowded with children, with queer crabbed old gardeners and common little Yorkshire housemaids, with springtime and with secret gardens coming alive day, by day, and also with a moor boy and his ‘creatures’, there was no room left for the disagreeable thoughts which affected her liver and her digestion and made her yellow and tired.

pp 293-4, The last chapter of the Secret Garden, published in 1911

16 thoughts on “How does thy like thyself?

  1. Oh boy! I was looking for a good book to read. 🙂 I’ll re-read The Secret Garden. Love re-reading books at different times in my life. Re-visiting an old friend and discovering new things. I just got out of a faculty mtg where the principal wants us to read a “young adult” book. I know what I’m going to read! 🙂

  2. Dear Mary, I love this book! It’s been years since I read it. Thank you for helping me remember it’s magical messages about hope, acceptance and inner beauty.

  3. This has been my favorite book since I was a child, enjoyed the movie as an adult and think Its about time to re read the book for perhaps the 20 th time in my 75 years. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. A magical message, I haven’t read the book, but I’ll put it on my read list. Have a wonder-filled day.

  5. a lovely post and so true, but it’s just so hard sometimes to see beyond the box of negativity we can enclose ourselves within.

  6. Going to my library page right after this and request The Secret Garden – maybe I’ll read it out loud with my grandson. What a powerful image of negative thinking like inviting a scarlet fever germ entrance. – oh my gosh, just now, on the classical music station playing in the background, I heard the announcer mention some actor playing in The Secret Garden on this day in whatever year – I wasn’t really paying attention but I heard those magic words, The Secret Garden. Is that a mere ‘coincidence’? Love it!

  7. Mary – A wonderful reminder to look inside ourselves when we’re thinking “disagreeable thoughts”. I love this book and especially the edition you showed illustrated by Tasha Tudor. I’m going to have to pull it off the shelf and reread it soon. It sounds as if it holds a message I need to read now!

  8. There are at least two movie renditions of my childhood favorite book, an old old one and a more recent version. I like both. When I was orphaned at 13, it meant even more. Good reminders that we are what we think!

  9. Had a bit of a tiff with a family member this past weekend. I was feeling snarky the rest of the day, and given to much introspection. all of a sudden I realized that the things I was assuming HE was thinking were actually things I thought about myself.

    A year ago, I wouldn’t have even considered that. You are sure helping my evolvement, Mary!

  10. Thank you Mary. I thought I had all of Tasha Turdor books, but I missed this one. I have always loved her illustrations and I love the story. I’ll get it right now on Amazon. Thank you.

  11. I love this book. It’s one of my mom’s favorites and she used to read it to us before bedtime. The movie is priceless as well as the message that it gave us all. Thanks for the great reminder!

  12. I re-read The Secret Garden on my Kindle last night. I enjoyed it as a ten yr old and enjoyed it even more 65 years later. Thank you for that.

  13. There is a absolutely fantastic audio book (in our local library at least) of The Secret Garden – on audiotapes (when I first checked it out), perhaps Recorded Books? Narrator (name escapes me) has a wonderful voice and does a superb job. I’d never read the book as a child – even my husband enjoyed it on a long car trip years ago.

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