An Important Letter From Father To Son
From Steering the Boy to a Happy Marriage, 1949
This letter is very important, perhaps the most important I will ever write, and having been a stenographer, secretary, etc. I have written many. But this is from me to you—from father to son—my only son—and seemingly certain the only son I will ever have. If it should be that you have a son some day you will understand—the love of a father for his son.
So far, you have done very well and I am proud of you, and feel certain you will continue to be a credit to yourself, to your fine mother and sisters and to me. But fate, perhaps of my own making, has decreed that we are separated for a time and at this particular period of your life when I so much want to help you find the true guide for living.
I have in my pocket a slip of paper, already yellowed with age, on which I wrote the following: “Nov. 17, 1919 1:10 PM (Name) Took (mother) to hospital 1 :00 AM, 11, 17 19.” You are therefore 19 years 5 months old now, an age at which a boy needs the helpful guidance of his father.
Now that I am well and able, much more so than ever, I feel keenly my responsibility to you. Oh what I would give if I could have had guidance like this from my father when I was your age? My father died when I was only four and one-half years old—I don’t even remember him. Consequently I had no one to do this for me.
When I say that I don’t wish to reflect unkindly on my very good mother and sisters. They did more than their full duty to me.
If I had had such a letter, or personal instruction, and had faithfully followed it, it would have saved me untold misery and finally deep despair, to say nothing of the suffering and unhappiness that I caused many others. But if that had been the case perhaps you would never have been born, or at least you would have different parents—but I am getting into deep water here and had better throw out the life line.
So let’s take the situation as we find it, not as we would like to have it—always a good rule to start with on a job of work. But before joyfully entering the fray and accepting the challenge, and before I forget to mention it, I want to say that one of the many reasons why I so much wanted to see you at Easter was that I wanted to help you in the matter of your rupture.
I remember keenly how much concern mine gave me when I was near your age. You have arrived at or are approaching the period when sex begins to engage the thoughts of most young people. The right way to handle this natural condition is to make it an imperative MUST rule of conduct to obey the sixth commandment of God: “Thou shalt not com-mit adultery.”
This means to keep yourself morally clean in all respects just as the Boy Scout oath requires and which you have taken many times. There will be times when you are in the company of careless or weak companions when they will attempt to ridicule you into violating this commandment, and there even might occur a tempter in the way of a bad girl or woman of loose morals.
Or you might get the idea to yield to impurity in secret and think no one will know. But heed my plea and stand steadfast, no matter what the cost, and you will be glad you did.
When the right girl comes along, if marriage should be your portion, you will know it, and the fact that you have kept yourself clean will be a big aid in itself in meeting the right girls among whom the right one might turn up.
Remember—make it a MUST rule and no compromise in any circumstances. One cannot get away from one’s conscience—it will follow one to the ends of the earth, and that “still small voice” will be there just the same.
One of the fine results from a strict observance of this excellent commandment is that it keeps one from dissipating his energy and time on sinful things, and keeps the mind alert for attention to other things which really contribute to one’s welfare and happiness.
You have a good knowledge of the Bible and must have noted how often reference is made to the wickedness of impurity, lust, etc. and how often they have caused the downfall of individuals and nations.
Another thing to bear in mind is to avoid the things and places where temptation is likely to occur, such as smutty magazines, indecent photographs, motion pictures playing up sex, (generally in a subtle, enticing manner), association with the wrong kind of girls.
A young man cannot associate with evil very long before the devil en-traps him. Don’t try to see how close you can come and think you will not weaken. That is why Christ taught all to pray: “Lead us not into temptation.” The smart thing is to keep as far away from it as possible. So much for that.
All the other commandments are important too and should be kept faithfully. The means recommended by the Church for right living and the natural consequence—right preparation for the life hereafter,—are:
1. Keep the commandments;
- Receive the sacraments;
3. Perform good works;
It is well to bear these in mind and practice them. This will give you the assurance that God is your ally and therefore you cannot fail to win the day. And when the time comes for you to pass out of life you will face death with that peace springing from the conviction of life everlasting, of which St. Paul said: “That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love him.”
On the matter of the life hereafter, which, of course, is not far ahead for every soul, that grand inspired messenger of Christ, John L. Stoddard, out of the richness of a lifetime of observation, experience and research, states his ultimate conclusion in the following beautiful, conviction-compelling manner:
“A time will come,—may come at any moment,—when this ephemeral existence, with its business occupations, wealth and pleasures, must be left. Some callously declare that they shall then expire like the beasts, and pass at once to nothingness.
But, in the face of man’s unsatisfied desires and potentialities, of his instinctive longing for the reign of perfect justice, and of the positive words of Christ in reference to a future judgment, how do they know that they will pass thus into annihilation, untried, unrecompensed, unpunished? They do not know it. They cannot know it. The fact that they desire it does not make it true.
“And if they do not find annihilation at death’s portal, but on the contrary confront their Maker and their Judge there, well, what then? One thing is sure; of all that they desired here,—rank riches, pleasures, personal beauty, power, fame,—they can take nothing with them. All that will go with them into the future life will be,—not what they have, but what they are.
To all men, therefore, it must seem possible, to most men probable, and to Christians certain, that this life is not all ; that this world’s sorrow, suffering and bereavement are not the meaningless precursors of annihilation; that all the great achievements of the human mind will not end uselessly upon a lifeless orb; that earth’s injustices will not rest unavenged; that worthy, pious and self-sacrificing deeds will not go unrewarded; and, above all, that Heaven is not a mere mirage, nor God a myth, nor immortality an idle dream.”
The following from the Bible seems fitting here: “and fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul ; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (St. Matt. 10:28).
I cannot live your life for you, and I would not if I could. That is every person’s privilege and duty. But there is no reason why you should not profit by my experience. It is the smart thing to do. And you will thereby go farther and accomplish more than I have.
This letter is nearing conclusion, and I am only going to mention the following to help impress you with my earnestness and the truth of what I have stated herein.
I am writing this at a time when I haven’t a dollar of my own, and am temporarily living on the charity of a good sister. The point I would make is that I have this firm belief, even in these circumstances.
How much easier it will be when I have at my disposal an abundant income, which I feel supremely confident I will have soon, because, by the grace of God, I have the stuff to earn it: “Give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.”
I still have a long ways to go. Also, going back to the last paragraph, it is not so easy to do what I am doing, considering that over a long period I had an ample income; at times substantial. It requires much self-discipline and patience, two virtues which I do not recall ever being charged with. (Perhaps this is how I have to get them.)
I hope you will feel inclined to keep and cherish this letter, and to read it every now and then. If it should be that you are present when I pass on, it would give me the greatest pleasure if you could tell me that you have faithfully followed the advice here given to the best of your ability. I will, of course, supplement this in person, from time to time when we meet.
I am drafting this letter on a beautiful, balmy spring afternoon, sitting on a bench in the Public Library Park at Massachusetts Ave. and K Street in the nation’s capital. It is wonderful to be alive and able and willing to do one’s best work, in which there is always the greatest pleasure. You will find life that way pretty much if you adopt the program I have recommended to you. By this I am giving you the best I have; angels can do no more.
John Henry Newman said: “Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.”
This is a good thing to remember in many situations. And now, goodbye for a little while, and may God bless you and give you understanding and strength. This morning I received your very good letter. Those grades are excellent and I am more than pleased. Will write in a few days.
Yours very truly, Dad
“Who shall blame a child whose soul turns eagerly to the noise and distraction of worldliness, if his parents have failed to show him that love and peace and beauty are found only in God?” – Mary Reed Newland
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