CHAPTER 13

Against or to those who readily tell their own affairs
When a man has seemed to us to have talked with simplicity about his own affairs, how is it that at last we are ourselves also induced to discover to him our own secrets and we think this to be candid behavior? In the first place, because it seems unfair for a man to have listened to the affairs of his neighbour, and not to communicate to him also in turn our own affairs: next, because we think that we shall not present to them the appearance of candid men when we are silent about our own affairs. Indeed men are often accustomed to say, "I have told you all my affairs, will you tell me nothing of your own? where is this done?" Besides, we have also this opinion that we can safely trust him who has already told us his own affairs; for the notion rises in our mind that this man could never divulge our affairs because he would be cautious that we also should not divulge his. In this way also the incautious are caught by the soldiers at Rome. A soldier sits by you in a common dress and begins to speak ill of Caesar; then you, as if you had received a pledge of his fidelity by his having begun the abuse, utter yourself also what you think, and then you are carried off in chains.

Something of this kind happens to us generally. Now as this man has confidently intrusted his affairs to me, shall I also do so to any man whom I meet? For when I have heard, I keep silence, if I am of such a disposition; but he goes forth and tells all men what he has heard. Then if I hear what has been done, if I be a man like him, I resolve to be revenged, I divulge what he has told me; I both disturb others and am disturbed myself. But if I remember that one man does not injure another, and that every man's acts injure and profit him, I secure this, that I do not anything like him, but still I suffer what I do suffer through my own silly talk.

"True: but it is unfair when you have heard the secrets of your neighbour for you in turn to communicate nothing to him." Did I ask you for your secrets, my man? did you communicate your affairs on certain terms, that you should in return hear mine also? If you are a babbler and think that all who meet you are friends, do you wish me also to be like you? But why, if you did well in entrusting your affairs to me, and it is not well for me to intrust mine to you, do you wish me to be so rash? It is just the same as if I had a cask which is water-tight, and you one with a hole in it, and you should come and deposit with me your wine that I might put it into my cask, and then should complain that I also did not intrust my wine to you, for you have a cask with a hole in it. How then is there any equality here? You intrusted your affairs to a man who is faithful and modest, to a man who thinks that his own actions alone are injurious and useful, and that nothing external is. Would you have me intrust mine to you, a man who has dishonoured his own faculty of will, and who wishes to gain some small bit of money or some office or promotion in the court, even if you should be going to murder your own children, like Medea? Where is this equality? But show yourself to me to be faithful, modest, and steady: show me that you have friendly opinions; show that your cask has no hole in it; and you will see how I shall not wait for you to trust me with your affairs, but I myself shall come to you and ask you to hear mine. For who does not choose to make use of a good vessel? Who does not value a benevolent and faithful adviser? who will not willingly receive a man who is ready to bear a share, as we may say, of the difficulty of his circumstances, and by this very act to ease the burden, by taking a part of it.

"True: but I trust you; you do not trust me." In the first place, not even do you trust me, but you are a babbler, and for this reason you cannot hold anything; for indeed, if it is true that you trust me, trust your affairs to me only; but now, whenever you see a man at leisure, you seat yourself by him and say: "Brother, I have no friend more benevolent than you nor dearer; I request you to listen to my affairs." And you do this even to those who are not known to you at all. But if you really trust me, it is plain that you trust me because I am faithful and modest, not because I have told my affairs to you. Allow me, then, to have the same opinion about you. Show me that, if one man tells his affairs to another, he who tells them is faithful and modest. For if this were so, I would go about and tell my affairs to every man, if that would make me faithful and modest. But the thing is not so, and it requires no common opinions. If, then, you see a man who is busy about things not dependent on his will and subjecting his will to them, you must know that this man has ten thousand persons to compel and hinder him. He has no need of pitch or the wheel to compel him to declare what he knows: but a little girl's nod, if it should so happen, will move him, the blandishment of one who belongs to Caesar's court, desire of a magistracy or of an inheritance, and things without end of that sort. You must remember, then, among general principles that secret discourses require fidelity and corresponding opinions. But where can we now find these easily? Or if you cannot answer that question, let some one point out to me a man who can say: "I care only about the things which are my own, the things which are not subject to hindrance, the things which are by nature free." This I hold to be the nature of the good: but let all other things be as they are allowed; I do not concern myself.