From Online Gutenberg Text – Girls: Faults and Ideals, J.R. Miller
“Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” PSA. xix, 12. “The King’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.”–PSA. xiv. 13.
Christ has something to say to every man, woman, and child, in every relation, on every day, in every experience of life.
It is not something for Sundays, and for sick-rooms, death-beds, and funerals: it is just as much for the school-room, the play-ground, the store, the kitchen, the street.
Wherever you may chance to be, if you listen you will hear a voice
behind you, whispering, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” Christ has
something to say each day, at every point of experience, to every one of us.
I want to help the girls and young women, if I can, to hear a little
of what Christ has to say to them.
It is good for us to see ourselves as others see us. Hence, I have asked a number of Christian young men to give me answers to certain questions, and from these I have quoted in this familiar talk.
I take two of these questions, viz.;
1. “What are some of the most common faults in young women of your
2. “What are some of the essential elements of character in your ideal
of true young womanhood?”
We shall think then of common faults and of ideals. The first text I
have chosen is a prayer for the cleansing of faults. The second is a
description of the life that pleases God.
“Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” Is there one of us who does not,
from deepest heart pray this prayer? I pity that man or that woman who
does not long to be cured of faults, whatever they are, however painful
or costly their removal may be.
Some one says,–and the words are worthy of being written in
gold,–“Count yourself richer that day you discover a new fault in
yourself,–not richer because it is there, but richer because it is no
longer a hidden fault; and if you have not found all your faults, pray
to have them revealed to you, even if the revelation must come in a way
that hurts your pride.”
Mr. Ruskin has this word also for young women:
“Make sure that however good you may be, you learn your faults; that however dull you may be, you can find out what they are; and that however slight they may be, you had better make some patient effort to get rid of them….
Therefore see that no day passes in which you do not make yourself a somewhat better creature; and in order to do that find out first what you are now….
If you do not dare to do this, find out why you do not dare, and try to get strength of heart enough to look yourself fairly in the face, in mind as well as in body….
Always have two mirrors on your toilet table, and see that with proper care you dress both the mind and body before them daily.”
These words show us the importance of the prayer: “Cleanse thou me from
We all have our faults, which mar the beauty of our lives in the eyes of others.
Every noble soul desires to grow out of all faults, to have them corrected. The smallest fault mars the beauty of the character; and one who seeks to possess only “whatsoever things are lovely” will be eager to be rid of whatever is faulty.
Ofttimes, however, we do not know our own faults: we are unconscious of them. We cannot see ourselves as others see us.
The friend does us a true kindness who tells us of the things in our character, habits, manners, which appear as blemishes, although many people have too much vanity to be told of their faults.
They resent it as a personal insult when one points out any blemish in them.
But this is most foolish short-sightedness. To learn of a fault is an opportunity to add a new line of beauty to the life. Our prayer each day should be that God would show us our secret faults, whatever messenger he may send to point them out, and then give us grace to correct them.
The young men who have replied to my question concerning the faults of young women have done so in most kindly spirit, for to a noble soul it is always an unwelcome task to find fault; it is much easier to name the beautiful things in those we love than the blemishes.
Several writers have referred to the matter of dress.
One says “Too much time is given by many young ladies to dressing. They scarcely think of anything else.”
Another names, “The love of dress, the inordinate desire to excel their companions in this particular,” as among the common faults in young women, adding that it has led many of them to ruin.
Another says they like to make themselves attractive by conspicuous colors, and suggests that if they would spend less time in shopping and more in some elevating occupation, for example in making home brighter for brothers and parents, it would be better.
“Following fashion to an extreme that is unbecoming and often extravagant; too great attention to outward adornment at the expense of
inner adornment,” another marks as a too prominent fault.
We remember that St. Peter has a word about dressing: “Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quite spirit.”
Every young woman should dress well, that is, neatly, tastefully, modestly, whether she be rich or poor.
Conspicuous dressing is vulgar. True refinement avoids anything showy and flashy: it never dresses better than it can afford, and yet it is always well dressed, even in simple muslin or plain calico.
Another fault mentioned is the lack of moral earnestness.
“Frivolity, arising from want of purpose in life,” one names, “even the most sacred duties and relations being marred by this frivolousness. The best years of life are wasted in small talk and still smaller reading, tears and sighs being wasted over a novelist’s creations, while God’s creatures die for want of a word of sympathy.”
Another names, “Frivolity, want of definiteness of purpose.” Still another says: “The giving of so little time to serious reflection and for preparation for the responsible duties of life.
In other words, frivolity of manner, shallowness of thought, and, as a consequence, insipidity of speech are strongly marked faults in some young ladies.”
This writer pleads for deeper, more intense earnestness.
“Young women will reach a high excellence of moral character only as they prepare themselves for life by self-discipline and culture.”
Another puts it down as “A want of firm decision in character and action,” and says that too often, in times “when they ought to stand like a rock, they yield and fall;” and adds: “The young ladies of our land have power to mold the lives of the young men for good or for evil.”
There is a caution in these words which every young woman should heed.
Life is not play, for it has its solemn responsibilities, its sacred duties; and eternity lies beyond this little span.
I call you to earnestness, moral earnestness. Determine to make the most and the best of your life. Get an education to fit you for life’s duties, even though it must be gotten in the little fragments of time that you can redeem from busy days.
Life is too short to crowd everything into it. Something must always be left out. Better leave out many of your amusements and recreations, than grow up into womanhood ignorant and with undisciplined intellectual powers. Train your mind to think. Set your ideal before you,–rich, beautiful womanhood,–and bend all your energy to reach it.
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