Mr. Maxwell was a great architect in a well-known city. Due to his unprecedented success, he made many enemies. Among those who resented his well-earned prosperity was Mr. John, who made it his business to put down anyone who lifted his head above the average crowd of successful people.
John failed in every business he tried, but being crooked by nature, he became highly successful at undoing men of achievement. Telling lies and blackmailing were his favorite games. Many people knew about the network of evil John cast over the city’s prosperous people, but none dared to curb him.
As soon as John heard of Mr. Maxwell’s phenomenal success, he prepared to do mischief. First, he invented a lie about Mr. Maxwell, saying that he was dishonest and had used cheap materials to build a frail building while pocketing huge profits.
Well-dressed henchmen circulated this lie among Mr. Maxwell’s business associates and clients. At first people ignored this lie, but after a while, they began to talk about it until the gossip finally came to be considered as truth.
Next, John arranged for Mr. Maxwell to design and erect a building. While it was being built, John bribed the masons to put very cheap material in the walls and to fill them with watered sand. The walls looked fine outwardly, but were ready to crumble if given a good push.
John invited many prominent architects and guests to a dinner at the home built by Mr. Maxwell and spoke about the wonderful solid walls in this home. After dinner, to show the strength of the house, John dashed his full weight against one of the walls. The frail wall collapsed, revealing the sandy contents.
Maxwell was dumbfounded. Although he sensed foul play on the part of John, he was speechless with shame.
News of Mr. Maxwell’s so-called dishonesty ran riot. He faced many lawsuits, and his success and fame vanished. Silently he bore this affront, and being a student of Truth, he refused to leave the city until he was vindicated.
By strenuous effort, Mr. Maxwell challenged all the owners to examine the homes he had built. Every house was found to be well built and sound. People began to believe in Mr. Maxwell again, saying: “Well, he slipped only once; we hope he will never again build a house with frail walls.”
No matter how often Mr. Maxwell explained that he never built such a house, the facts were so overwhelmingly against him that no one believed him.
Many years later, Mr. Maxwell was coming down the elevator in a hotel, and whom do you think he met? Yes, that old scoundrel, Mr. John, who turned his head, pretending not see Mr. Maxwell. But Mr. Maxwell, with a divine smile on his face, patted Mr. John on the back and said: “Hello, old fellow, how are you? I am glad to see you.”
In dismay, John looked at Mr. Maxwell’s face and wondered if he was ridiculing him. But there was nothing but golden sincerity in Maxwell’s face.
Leaving the elevator, John walked fast, trying to get away from Maxwell. He quickly turned around to buy a newspaper from a stand. Catching up to him, Maxwell paid for the newspaper before John had a chance.
Then Maxwell firmly held conscience-stricken John by the arm and said: “Come along, old fellow. I will drive you home.” John, under the spell of Maxwell’s all-conquering magnetic love, found himself following him. As Maxwell drove, he comfortingly said:
“Well, old top, can’t you forget the little misunderstanding we had long ago? I have long since forgotten it, and I am really glad to see you. Now let’s be friends. We are both children of God and we don’t want to go to our graves with hatred in our souls. Really, John, will you accept my sincere friendship, and will you forgive me if I ever angered you?”
When the car arrived at his house, John was speechless and his eyes filled with tears. Without looking at Maxwell or saying anything, he walked toward his home.
Six months passed. One day while Maxwell was sitting in his parlor meditating, the doorbell rang. And who was there but John with extreme penitence on his face. He cried aloud at the sight of Maxwell, hugged him again and again and sobbed: “Dearest friend, Maxwell, I saw in your face your loving heart, and I was amazed at how genuinely you loved me, even though I almost ruined your business.
“Since that day on the elevator, I have passed many sleepless nights and I have beheld your loving face staring at me, pleading: ‘Will you accept my friendship?’
“Now I have come to tell you that I am trying to be worthy of your friendship. I invited all your old friends and associates to dinner at my home and confessed how I had framed you by bribing the masons who built the frail house. And now will you accept my unworthy friendship?”
Maxwell and John hugged each other and were great friends ever afterward. Maxwell regained the high esteem of his friends and John was considered a brave man for confessing his guilt.
This story proves that love can change and reform a man, while hatred and revenge will succeed only in making him your bitterest enemy.
From Praecepta Lessons, 1938