by Daniel A. Lord, The Questions They Always Ask
How can you always do the right thing and yet not seem to be a prude?
A prude suggests, by the very sound of the word, a person with lips puckered in disapproval. He or she, we may be sure, looks at the world from down a long, slightly-blue nose. A holier-than-thou look in his eyes makes the rest of mankind cringe. He isn’t necessarily good; but he is aggressively critical of the evil he finds in others.
On the other hand, a really good person is a most charming one to know. Often he is marked by a strong instinct to mind his own business. He lives happily with God and his own soul; he wishes that everyone knew the joy and strength of virtue. But he does not go around tapping people on the shoulder and asking, like a voice from the tomb, “Brother, are you saved?”
He prays for sinners, but he smiles at them in friendliness. He never stretches out a finger to point accusingly, but he is more than willing to reach out a hand to help.
He never raises his voice to scold. When he has a suggestion to make, his voice is gentle and kind and tempered with affection.
A saint is a delightful person. A prude is a “pain in the neck.”
So you can always be good and yet have people like you if you go about it in the right way. You can be holy as a saint and still cheerful as a seraph. You can keep the Ten Commandments and perhaps keep them better if you keep your sense of humor.
In a phrase, make it your life’s rule not to go around condemning vice but to go about making virtue delightful and attractive.
The plain fact is that people vastly admire a good man or woman. They recognize instinctively and from their own bitter experience the high courage needed to be consistently good. And they admire virtue because virtue is essentially admirable.
Somewhere girls got the crazy idea that to be popular you have to be fast and loose. Nothing of the sort. The most genuinely popular girls are often those who grant no favors carelessly, and who demand a high respect from the men they honor – and honor is the word – with their company.
The young man who can always say, “Thanks; no; I don’t drink,” is not pressed or harassed. It’s the fellow who takes a drink today and not the next day that bothers people with his apparent inconsistency.
If his friends know he doesn’t drink, he can take his ginger ale in peace. If he is known to be absolutely abstemious, he may be very welcome in a group that drinks. He is perhaps the one who sees the others safely home.
Make virtue attractive, and make yourself attractive along with it.
Good people have a sort of obligation to be smart, attractive, clever, if possible well dressed. It’s a shameful treason to leave these naturally prepossessing qualities to the evil of the world, so that goodness and dullness become associated in the worldling’s mind. It is virtue that must be attractive.
Vice needs all the artificial adornments possible to hide its ugly, slovenly, stupid, shameful form. Naturally people do not like a prude with pursed lips, a knitted brow, and a voice just about to croak, “Stop that this minute!” That person is caricaturing virtue and making goodness despicable.
But one can be good with a smile, say no with a cheerful shake of the head, sing clearly and happily a clean and melodic song, and dance with feet that never lose their right to tread the way to the Communion rail.
Saints, canonized and far from the altar, always have something of the eternal winsomeness of Christ and Mary.
How can you handle a situation when things grow rough and evil and dangerous?
The best way to handle any situation is not to let it arise.
Let’s say the young couple are going out for the evening. They have nothing planned. They are just going to wander around. She has thought of nothing interesting or amusing to talk about. He is merely drifting. It is almost inevitable that trouble will come.
Because they have nothing amusing or interesting to do, they will probably stumble upon something vulgar or evil. Because she has planned no pleasant subject for their talk, they may wander off into the gutters and alleys of speech.
But let’s say that he has planned a delightful and entertaining evening.
Fine! Trouble is not likely in such a case. She has trained herself to talk well and to listen better. Excellent! Their conversation will not veer into the garbage heaps.
Now, that same rule is true of all social life. If one has a party and provides, let’s say, cocktails and nothing else, the something else brought up by the party itself will probably be trouble.
On the other hand, when any programme, however informal, has been set for the evening, no one has a chance to get into mischief. The party is not derailed.
But let’s say that trouble does start. What, then? A real social leader, one sure of himself or herself, can soon deflect it.
The first blue story has been told. He or she cuts in with a really amusing and decent story. The third person may hesitate to throw the conversation back into the dirt.
The party grows rough. The leader has a delightful or amusing game that is decent an well as entertaining. He takes over and swings the party his way.
Often music is the easiest way to deflect dirt. Lucky the person who, from a piano bench, has learned to dominate the course of an evening’s fun.
Smart the hostess who has a good gramophone with a supply of records that make possible dancing and entertainment. The last way in the world to stop evil may be a threatening frown, an air of austere disapproval, a how-dare-you-sir attitude that tends to provoke the evil to further essays into dirt and destruction.
The skilled social person learns to ignore a dirty joke as he would cover over the caterpillar that the cook carelessly left in the salad. He can swing a group from dull dirt to amusing, clean fun. He has a substitute ready to offer, whether it be a song, a joke, a game, a stunt, a clever remark.
But all this takes practice, and that requires thinking and planning, Unfortunately too many good people only wish they could control evil; they aren’t willing enough to do the thinking, the planning, and the work necessary for leadership in any line.
“Youth is at the same time the most beautiful and the most dangerous period of life; it can be the most blessed, or the most fatal of seasons. It is the time of poetry and romance, of dreams and visions, of aspirations and ambitions, of the noblest impulses and the grandest resolves. But it is also the season of inexperience and immaturity, of impulsiveness and impetuosity, of conceit, of hasty ideas, undigested plans and precipitate action. By one heroic decision a young person can lay the foundations of future greatness; and by one misstep a youth can start headlong and irresistibly to utter and irretrievable ruin.”-Rev. Fulgence G. Meyer, 1920’s
A method of Morning and Night Prayers that I use…
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