Lucy H.M. Soulsby.

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giving mere pity. We all like to be pitied, but in our heart we are more
grateful to the friend who puts fresh spring into us, by what perhaps
seems hard common sense. Those are the friends whose memory comes back to
us when circumstances, or years, or distance, have drifted us far apart.

The friend who fed the weaker part of us never gets from us the same
genuine affection with real stuff in it. How much easier it is to
sympathize with our friends' unreasonable vexation - to join in their
uncharitable speeches, or in laughing at something we ought not to laugh
at, than to brace them

"to welcome each rebuff
That turns earth's smoothness rough,
each sting that bids nor sit nor stand, but go!"

We find it very hard, almost impossible, to live always up to our own
best self, and we may be quite sure our friends do too, whether they talk
about it or not, and our duty, as a friend, is to see their best self and
help them to be it. Very often the mere fact of knowing that our friend
sees our nobler nature, and believes in it, heartens us to keep faith in
it and to go on striving after it. "Edward Irving unconsciously elevated
every man he talked with into the ideal man he ought to have been; and
went about the world making men noble by believing them to be so."

It rests with each of us to draw out the better part in others; we all
know people with whom we are at our best, and we have failed in our Duty
to our Neighbour if we do not make others feel this with us. "Each soul is
in some other's presence quite discrowned;" let the reverse be true where
we are.

It is a terrible thought that we have perhaps made others less noble, less
pure, less conscientious, than they would have been. We can never repair
the harm we do to one who loses faith in our goodness, - he inevitably
loses some part of his faith in goodness itself. "Much of our lives is
spent in marring our own influence," says George Eliot, "and turning
others' belief in us into a widely concluding unbelief, which they call
knowledge of the world, but which is really disappointment in you or me."

Nobody, who has not watched or felt it, knows the laming of all spiritual
energy, the hardening, the blighting of all noble impulse which comes from
this sort of knowledge of the world; and who can say that he has never
(more or less) been thus guilty? - it is more truly blood-guiltiness than
anything else, for it helps to murder souls.

Perhaps the greatest of the innumerable blessings which friendship confers
on the character, lies in this fostering of moral thoughtfulness produced
by its responsibilities: "I know not a more serious thing than the
responsibility incurred by all human affection. Only think of this:
whoever loves you is growing like you; neither you nor he can hinder it,
save at the cost of alienation. Oh, if you are grateful for but one
creature's love, rise to the height of so pure a blessing - drag them not
down by the very embrace with which they cling to you, but through their
gentleness ensure their consecration."[6]

It needs a noble nature to be capable of friendship, or rather a nature
which has carefully trained itself by discipline and self-denial, so as to
develop all the possibilities of nobleness which were latent in it.

God gives each of us a nature with "pulses of nobleness," and it rests
with us whether this shall grow, or be choked by the commonplace part of
us. To be noble does not come without trouble. Good things are hard, and
"noble growths are slow."[7]

He who would be noble must go through life like Hercules and the old
heroes, working hard for others; not troubling about personal comfort and
amusement, but practised in going without when he _could_ have, - for the
sake of better things.

To be noble means having your impulses under control, and this most
especially where your affections are concerned.

Do you want to help others to go right in life? I need not ask, for every
generous nature would care to do that, even if she did not care much about
her own soul.

Now, you will not do much by direct effort, but you will do an immense
deal by conquering your own besetting sin. In the "Hallowing of Work,"
Bishop Paget says, "Increased skill and experience and ability are great
gifts in working for others, but they do not _compare_ with the power
gained by conquering one fault of our own."

Friendship can be the most beautiful thing in the world: it can be the
silliest thing in the world. It can be the most lowering: it can be the
most ennobling. Nothing excites so much laughter and hard speaking in the
world as "schoolgirl friendships;" as often as not they are found among
older people, but schoolgirls have given a name to this particular kind of
folly, so it behooves schoolgirls to keep clear of it, and to deprive the
name of its point.

But can you help being sentimental if you are made like that? Some are of
good wholesome stuff, with an innate distaste for everything of the kind,
while to some it is their besetting sin.

You can at least take precautions; for instance, do not day-dream about
your friend, - brooding over the thought of her weakens your fibre more
than being with her.

Make a rule of life for yourself about your intercourse; walk and talk
with her more than with others, but at the same time sandwich those walks
and talks by going with other friends, - it is a great pity to narrow your
circle of possible friends by being absorbed in one person.

Do not write sentimental letters, and, finally, do not sit in your
friend's pocket and say "Darling." (If you wish to know how it sounds,
read "A Bad Habit," by Mrs. Ewing.)

I must confess that I believe in what is so often jeered at as "kindred
souls." Love is not measured by time; often we are truer friends through
some half-hour's talk, in which we saw another's real self, than through
years of ordinary meeting. But this is so different from the folly I speak
of, that I need not dwell on it; except to say that you will be spared
many disappointments if you are content with the fact that such moments of
sympathy have been, and do not look to have a permanent friendship on that
basis. When people draw the veil aside for a minute they generally put it
back closer than ever, and do not like to be reminded of the
self-revelation.

In the foolish friendships that make so much unhappiness, half the folly
lies in expecting the other person to be always at high-water mark, and in
being fretful and reproachful when she is not.

But to return to "schoolgirl friendships." When you go out into society
you may perhaps want to make private jokes among your friends, or to talk
privately to them instead of helping in general conversation, and you may
feel "I have nothing much to contribute to the general stock; why
shouldn't I enjoy myself? it's very hard I should be so severely
criticized for bad manners if I do." But if you look into any such matter,
you are sure to find that bad manners are bad Christianity. There is a
want of self-restraint in this schoolgirlishness; and you ought not to be
able to pick out a pair of great friends in general society, not merely
because, if you could, it would show them to be absurd and underbred, but
because it would mean that others were made to feel "left out." Have you
ever had some violent friendship - or laughed at it in others - which meant
running in and out of each other's houses at all hours - being
inseparable - quoting your friend, till your brothers exclaimed at her very
name - and making all your family feel that they ranked nowhere in
comparison with her? In this matter of home and friends conflicting, I
quite see the point of view of some: "My family don't give me the sympathy
and help that my friend does - they always tease or scold if I come to them
in a difficulty, and yet they are vexed and jealous when I find a friend
who can and will help."

I do not say, Cut yourself off from your friend, - she is sent by God to
help you; but, Remember to feel for your Mother; - see how natural and
loving her jealousy is, and spare it by constant tact - instead of being a
martyr, feel that it is _she_, and not _you_, who is ill-used. And in all
ways, never let outside affections interfere with home ones. It is the
great difference between them, that outside, self-chosen affections burn
all the stronger for repression and self-restraint; while home ones burn
stronger for each act of attention to them and expression of them; _e.g._
postponing a visit to a friend for a walk with a brother will make both
loves stronger, and _vice versâ_, - and your friendship will last all the
longer because you consume your own smoke. Dr. Carpenter says that signs
of love wear out the feeling; - every now and then they strengthen it, but
their frequency shows weakness. Friendships are God-given ties when they
are real, but inseparable ones are mostly only follies; - anyhow, family
ties are the most God-given of all, and friendship should help us to
fulfil family claims better, instead of making us neglect them. The best
test of whether your love for an outside person is of the right kind, is,
does it make you pleasanter at home? Mr. Lowell mentions an epitaph in the
neighbourhood of Boston, which recorded the name and date of a wife and
mother, adding simply, "She was so pleasant."

We realize that we ought to make the world better than we find it, but we
do not realize how much more we should succeed in doing so if we made it
brighter, - a task which is in everybody's power. We are all ready to bear
pain for others, but we overlook the little ways in which we might give
pleasure. "Always say a kind word if you can," says Helps, "if only that
it may come in perhaps with a singular opportuneness, entering some
mournful man's darkened room, like a beautiful firefly, whose happy
circumvolutions he cannot but watch, forgetting his many troubles."

And there is one tiny little suggestion I would make to you, so small it
will not fit on to any of my larger headings. Do not make fun of your
friend's little mishaps, little stupidities, losing her luggage, having
said the wrong thing, or having a black on her face when she especially
wished to look well! Your remark may be witty, but it does not really
amuse the victim. I know it is very good for people to be chaffed, and I
do not wish them to lose this wholesome bracing. And yet we have a special
clinging to some tactful friends who never let us feel foolish.

Another test you should apply to Friendship is, does it lead to idle
words? Every one likes talking about their neighbours, and dress, and
amusement, but we need to be careful that kindliness and nice-mindedness
are not sacrificed, and that all our interests are not on that level. Many
think that a woman's interest can rise no higher, and many girls and many
women give colour to what you and I think a slander on us! We all like
these things, but we all like higher things too, and we need to encourage
the higher part of us because it so soon dies away. You know better than I
do how much of your own talk may be silly chatter - or worse - flippant or
wrong talk, which you would stop if an older person were by. I have heard
High Schools strongly objected to because they made the girls so full of
gossip, about what this or that teacher said, or what some girl did, till
their people hated the very name of school. If school friends talk much
school gossip, they must weaken their minds and feel at a loss when out
of their school set. It is very "provincial" to have no conversation
except the small gossip which would bore a stranger, and yet I fear many
friends confine themselves to a kind of talk which unfits them for general
society. You prohibit "talking shop," by which you sometimes mean subjects
which are interesting to all intelligent people, and yet you talk
gossiping "shop" about the mere accidents of school life. But, unless you
interweave thoughtful interests and sensible topics of conversation with
your friendship, it cannot last. There must be the tie of a common higher
interest - it may be a common work, or intellectual sympathy, or, best of
all, oneness in the highest things - but without this a mere personal fancy
will not stand the monotony, much less the rubs and jars, of close
intimacy. A friendship, where the personal affection is the deepest
feeling, is not a deep love, or of a high kind; - we must in the widest
sense love "honour more." "Love is a primary affection in those who love
little: a secondary one in those who love much" (Coleridge).

A stool must have three legs if it is to support you, and two friends want
a third interest to unite them, or the friendship will die away in
unreasonable claims and jealousies; since "claimativeness" is the evil
genius which haunts friendship, unless common sense and wholesome
interests are at hand to help. It is difficult, but necessary, to learn
that affection is not a matter of will, except in family ties; that our
friends love us in exact proportion as we appear to them lovable, that
"the less you claim, the more you will have," as the Duke of Wellington
said of authority. A very little humility would wonderfully lessen our
demands upon our friends' affections, and a very little wisdom would
preserve us from trying to win them by reproaches. How many coolnesses
would be avoided could we learn to see that friendship, like all other
relations of life, has more duties than rights. Nothing so certainly kills
love as reproaches; I do not believe any affection will stand it. Our hurt
feelings may seem to us tenderness and depth of feeling, but they are
selfish: - "fine feelings seldom result in fine conduct." If our love were
perfectly selfless, we should be glad of all pleasure for our friend;
failure in his allegiance to us would not change us, nothing would do that
except failure in his allegiance to his better self. We should love our
friends not for what they are to us, but for what they are in themselves.
Of course, it may be said that fickleness to us is a flaw in his better
self, but if we stop to think how many tiresome ways we probably have, we
shall be lenient to the friends who show consciousness of them.

It is a natural instinct with all of us to claim love; those who seem
most richly blessed with it probably have some one from whom they desire
more than they receive; every one has to learn, sooner or later, that "an
unnavigable ocean washes between all human souls," -

"We live together years and years,
And leave unsounded still
Each other's depths of hopes and fears,
Each other's depths of ill.

"We live together day by day,
And some chance look or tone
Lights up with instantaneous ray
An inner world unknown."

We all have to learn, sooner or later, that nothing less than Divine Love
can satisfy us, but because our natural longings are so often denied, some
say they are wrong and should be crushed out. It is wrong to give way to
them, to yield to the tendency which is so strong with some, to let all
their interests be personal, - to care for places and natural beauty and
subjects only because they are associated with people, - to let life be
dull to us unless our personal affections are in play. Women ought to make
it a point of conscience to learn to care for things impersonally. We are
too apt to be like Recha in "Nathan," when she only looked at the palm
trees because the Templar was standing under them; when her mind
recovered its balance, she could see the palm trees themselves.

"Nun werd' ich auch die Palmen wieder sehen
Nicht ihn bloss untern Palmen."

If God sends us the trial of loneliness, it may be that He has a special
work for us, which needs a long and lonely vigil beside our armour. He may
be depriving us of earthly comfort to draw us closer to Himself, that we
may learn from Him to be true Sons of Consolation.

"When God cuts off the shoots of our own interests," it has been well
said, "it is that we may graft on our hearts the interests of others."

Nothing but knowing what loneliness is can teach us to feel for it in
others. Nine-tenths of the world do suffer from it at some time or other;
you may not now, but you will some day; and, if you are spared it,
nine-tenths of the sorrows of life will be a sealed book to you. "I prayed
the Lord," says George Fox, "that he would baptize my heart into a sense
of the conditions and needs of all men."

But our Lord, Who Himself suffered under the trial of loneliness, sends
all of us friends whom we do not deserve. We can trust to Him to give us
the friends we need, just when we need them, and just as long as we need
them, as surely as we trust Him for daily bread. He may be keeping His
best to the last; nay, the best may never come to us in this life at all;
but it is as true now as when St. Anselm said it, eight hundred years
ago: -

"In Thee desires which are deferred are not diminished, but rather
increased; no noble part, though unfulfilled on earth, is suffered to
perish in the soul which lives in Thee, but is deepened and hollowed out
by suffering and yearning and want, that it may become capable of a larger
fulfilment hereafter."

The hunger of the heart is as natural, and therefore as much implanted by
God, as the hunger of the body. Neither must be gratified unlawfully; but
when God sends food to either we should accept it thankfully, without
either asceticism or greediness, and use the strength it gives us as a
means of service. Does not the essence of the wrong sort of love consist
in our looking on the affection we receive, or crave for, as a self-ending
pleasure, instead of as a gift which is only sent to us to make us
happier, and stronger to serve others?

We do not need to be always self-questioning as to how far we are using
our happiness for others. We do not count our mouthfuls of food, we feed
our bodies without thinking of it, and so we should do to our hearts; but
we are often not healthy-minded enough to go right unconsciously, though
some happy souls there are -

"Glad hearts, without reproach or blot,
Who do God's work, and know it not."

The Fall brings us under the curse; the tree of knowledge of good and
evil has entailed upon us the necessity of self-knowledge; and if we find
our hearts out of joint, and craving for more love than we get, we should
examine ourselves as to whether we use the love we do get, like the
runner's torch handed on from one to the other; whether the glow of our
happiness warms us to pass on light and heat to others, or whether we
absorb it all ourselves.

And if we know that we are selfish in the matter, - what then? We cannot
make ourselves unselfish by a wish; we cannot win love at will. But,
though we cannot gain love, we can give it; we can learn to love so well,
that we are satisfied by the happiness of those we love, even though we
have nothing to do with that happiness.

"How hard a thing it is to look into happiness with another man's eyes!"
but it can be done. People do sometimes live, "quenching their human
thirst in others' joys."

Although our craving for sympathy is wrong if it be allowed to lame our
energies, yet in itself we cannot say it is wrong. "To become saints,"
says F.W. Robertson, "we must not cease to be men and women. And if there
be any part of our nature which is essentially human, it is the craving
for sympathy. The Perfect One gave sympathy and wanted it. 'Could ye not
watch with Me one hour?' 'Will ye also go away?' Found it, surely, even
though His brethren believed not on Him; found it in St. John and Martha,
and Mary and Lazarus:" -

"David had his Jonathan, and Christ His John."

Some people are quite conscious that they do not "get on" with others; and
they are tempted to be morbidly irritable and exacting, or else to shut
themselves up and say, "It's no use, no one wants me." If no one wants
you, it is your fault; for if you were always ready to be unselfish and
thoughtful for others in small ways, you would be wanted. You need not
fret because you are not amusing to talk to, and think that therefore you
cannot win affection. As a rule, people do not want you to talk; they want
you to listen. Now, any one can be a good listener, for that requires
moral, and not intellectual qualifications. Sympathy to guess somebody's
favourite subject, and to be really interested in it, will always make
that somebody think you pleasant; but the interest must be real: if you
only give it for what you can get, you will get nothing.

The right person always is sent just when needed. I do not believe in
people missing each other - though it may very well be that we are not fit
to be trusted with the affection we should like, and that God knows we
should rest in it if we had it, and never turn to Him, and so He keeps it
from us till we are ready for it. The longer we live the more we are
struck by the apparent chance which threw us with the right people.

There is a Turkish proverb which says, "Every only child has a sister
somewhere," and F.D. Maurice, in his beautiful paper on the "Faëry Queen,"
declares his belief that all who are meant to be friends and to help each
other will find each other at the right time, just as Spenser's knights,
though wandering in trackless forests, always encountered each other when
help was wanted.

And if all this is true of ordinary friendship - if it calls for so much
high principle and self-denial and prayer - what of love, "the perfection
of friendship"? It is usually either ignored or joked about. The jokes are
edged tools always in bad taste and often dangerous, but it is a pity the
subject should be ignored. When it becomes a personal question the girl is
sure to be too excited or irritable to take advice, so that there is
something to be said for that discussion of "love in the abstract," which
Sydney Smith overheard at a Scotch ball. It is surely better, in forming
her standard and opinion on this most important of all points, that a girl
should have the help of her mother and older friends. Girls do not go to
their mothers as they might, because they wait till they are sore and
conscious and resentful. Most girls would rather be married, and quite
right too, - in no other state of life will they find such thorough
discipline and chastening! - it is the only life which makes a true and
perfect woman. But if they wish it, let them not be so untidy, so fidgety,
so domineering, that no man in his senses would put up with them! And if
she be a "leisured girl" with no duty calling her from home (or very
possibly many duties calling her to remain at home), let her think, not
twice, but many times, before a wish for independence and Bohemianism
(which she translates into "Art") leads her into grooves of life where she
is very unlikely to meet the sort of man who can give her the home and the
surroundings to which she is accustomed. Harriet Byron's despair and
ecstasy about Sir Charles have passed away, but girls still dream of
heroes (not always so heroic as Sir Charles). Their dreams cannot fail to
be coloured by the novels they read and the poetry they dwell on; do they
always realize the responsibility of keeping good company? Read
love-stories, by all means, but let them be noble ones, such as show you,
Molly Gibson, Mary Colet, Romola, Di Vernon, Margaret Hale, Shirley, Anne
Elliot, The Angel in the House, The Gardener's Daughter, The Miller's
Daughter, Sweet Susan Winstanley, and Beatrice. It is impossible to dwell
on the mere passionate emotion of second-rate novels and sensuous poetry,
without wiping some possibility of nobleness out of your own life. Every
influence which you allow to pass through your mind colours it, but most
of all, those which appeal to your feelings. You take pains to strengthen
your minds, but you let your feelings come up as wheat or tares according
to chance; and yet the unruly wills and affections of women need more
discipline than their minds.

Perhaps the individual girl feels commonplace and of small account. Why
should she restrain her love of fun, her Tomboyism, her tendency to
flirtation? She is no heroine! But, let her be as commonplace as possible,
she will represent Woman to the man who is in love with her, as surely as
Beatrice represented it to Dante.

Every woman, married or single, alters the opinion of some man about
women. Even a careless man judges a girl in a way that she, with her head
full of nonsense, probably never dreams of; - he has a standard for her,
though he has none for himself.

It is small wonder that chivalrous devotion should decrease when women lay


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