Faults and Ideals of
by J. R. Miller
"Cleanse me from my secret faults." Psalm 19:12
"The King's daughter is all glorious within: her
clothing is of wrought gold." Psalm 14:13
The religion of 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 only something for Sundays, and for prayer-meetings, 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 in it." The Bible is the Word of God—our
Father's will concerning his children; and it has something to say each day,
at every point of experience, to everyone 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
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, namely,
1. "What are some of the most common faults in young
women of your acquaintance?"
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 for the cleansing of faults.
The second is a description of the life that pleases God.
1. "What are some of the most common FAULTS in young
women of your acquaintance?" "Cleanse me from my 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.
Someone 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: "However
good you may be—you still have faults! However dull you may be—you can find
out what they are. 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 person; 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 dressing 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 me from my secret faults." 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 "whatever 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. That 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
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.
1. 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 fine 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 showy colors, and suggests that if
they would spend less time in shopping, and more in some elevating
occupation, such as making home brighter for brothers and parents, it would
"Following fashion to an extreme which is unfitting 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 Peter has a word about dressing: "Don't be concerned about the outward
beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful
clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the
unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."
1 Peter 3:3-4
Every young woman should dress well, that is, neatly,
tastefully, modestly, whether she is rich or poor. Showy 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.
2. Another fault mentioned is
"frivolousness". "Frivolity, arising from lack 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
useless reading; tears and sighs being wasted over foolish novels, while
many people are crushed, for lack of a word of sympathy." Another names,
"Frivolity, lack 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, intenser
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 lack 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!
3. Some of these letters speak of the common
"talk" of girls as being largely idle
gossip; criticisms of absent people; unkind words about people whom the
ladies would meet with warm professions of friendship and fervent kisses if
they were to come in a minute later.
Dear girls, I plead for sincerity in speech. "Do
not yield to the passion for miserable gossip, which is so common. Talk
about things, not people. Do not malign or backbite your absent
friend. What is friendship worth, if the moment the person is out of sight
the tongue which has professed affection—becomes a poisoned fang; and the
lips which gave their warm kiss—utter the word of ridicule, or sneer, or
aspersion? Better be dumb than have the gift of speech to be used in the
miserable idle words, insincerities, and backbitings too common in modern
society. Surely something better can be found to talk about; if not,
utter silence is more heaven-like. A feebleminded girl who cannot
talk at all—is better far than a chattering girl who can talk of
nothing good or useful.
4. One mentions "lack of
reverence for sacred things" as a sad fault in some young women.
He has seen them whispering in the church and Sunday school, during sermon
and lesson, even during prayer, and has marked other acts of irreverence. It
is to be hoped that this fault is indeed rare, unless it be in very young
girls, who know no better. But as the fault has been pointed out by one who
has been sorely pained by it, will not the girls and young women think of it
a moment? A girl's religion should be full of joy and gladness. It should
make her happy, fill her lips with song; but it should make her so reverent
that, in the presence of her God, in prayer, in worship, in the study of the
Bible—her heart shall be silent with the silence of adoration. Dear girls,
remember that in any religious service, you are standing or bowing before
God, and let nothing for one instant tempt you to whisper, to smile, to do
anything that would grieve the Holy Spirit.
5. Others speak of "a lack of
respect for their parents" as a fault of young women. "How
often is the kind advice a father and mother set aside, just because it goes
against some whim of their own! A desire on the part of a young lady to live
in the fashion, to be well-dressed at all hours and ready for callers--how
much toil and sacrifice often fall to a good mother from such an ambition!"
The writer gives other illustrations of the same spirit in some girls. It is
hoped that there are but few who see their own face in this mirror!
Not long since I stood by the coffin and grave of a young
girl whom I had known for a dozen years. She received a fine education,
having finished a course in one of the best colleges of the land. What did
she do with her education? Did she sit down as a lady of elegant leisure?
Did she think her trained powers were too fine to be used in any common
work? Did she look down from her lofty height upon her mother as
old-fashioned, out of date? No! she came home from college at the end of her
course, and at once went into her home to lift the burden and care from the
shoulders of the loving, patient mother who had toiled for her so long in
order that she might receive her education and training. When the beautiful
girl was dead, the mother told me with loving gladness how Gertrude
had lifted one by one, every burden from her during those years, until, at
last, the child's own hands carried all the household care and
responsibility. She did not think her richly-furnished life, too fine to be
used in plain household duties, She remembered all her mother's self-denials
in her behalf in earlier days, and rejoiced that now she might, in some
measure, reward her. I have spoken of this one young woman's loving regard
for her mother, and of the way she showed it, in the hope that it may
inspire in many another young girl's heart a spirit of noble helpfulness
toward a tired mother.
6. One writer notes as a fault in some young women, that
they are "careless of their reputations".
"They are not careful enough as to their associates and companions. Some of
them are seen with young men who are known to be of questionable moral
character. On the streets they talk loudly, so as unconsciously to attract
attention to themselves. They act so that young men of the looser sort will
stare at them, and even dare to speak to them." In these and other ways,
certain young women, this writer says, imperil their own good name, and, I
may add, imperil their souls.
When will young girls learn that modesty and shrinking
from public gaze, are the invariable marks of true beauty in womanhood; and
that anything which is contrary to these is a mark of vulgarity and
ill-breeding? Guard your reputation as the jewel of your life. Many a young
woman with pure life has lived under shadows all her later years, because of
some careless--only careless, not wrong--act in youth which had the
appearance of evil.
7. In one letter received from a thoughtful young man,
mention is made of a "disregard of health," as a common fault in young
women. Another mentions but one fault, "the lack of cheerful earnestness."
Another specifies, "thoughtlessness, heedlessness, a disregard of the
feelings of others," Another thinks some young women "so weak and dependent
that they incur the risk of becoming a living embodiment of the wicked
proverb, "that they are good for nothing." On the other hand, however, one
writer deplores just the reverse of this, the tendency in young women to be
independent, self-reliant, appearing not to need protection and shelter.
Doubtless there is truth in both those criticisms: there
are some young women who are so dainty, so delicate—that they can be of
little use in this world. When misfortune comes to such and they are thrown
out of the cozy nest, they are in a most pitiable condition indeed. They can
do nothing to provide for themselves. Then there are others who so pride
themselves on their independence, that one of the sweetest charms of
womanhood is lost--the charm of gentle reliance.
I have suggested enough faults for one lesson--perhaps as
many as you can carry in your mind, certainly as many as you can correct,
although I have not exhausted the list that I find in my correspondence. As
I said at the beginning, these faults are pointed out, not in the spirit of
criticism, but in the spirit of kindness, of truest interest, and with
desire to help. Many of them may seem very trivial faults, but small
specks which stain the whiteness of a fair robe. "Little things make
perfection." You cannot afford to keep the least discovered fault in your
character or conduct, for little blemishes are the beginnings of
greater ones that by and by, will destroy all the beauty of life.
Will you not, then, pray this prayer: "Cleanse me from my
secret faults"? Do not try to hide your faults--hiding them does not cure
them. Every true woman wants to grow into perfect moral and spiritual
beauty. In order to do this, she wants to know wherein she fails—what
blemishes others see in her—what blemishes God sees in her.
Then, as quickly as she discovers the faults, she wants to have them
removed. The old artist Apelles had for his motto: "No day without a line."
Will you not take this motto for yours, and seek every day to get the
victory over some little blemish, to get some fault corrected, to get in
your life a little more of the beauty of perfect womanhood? Cleanse me, O
Lord, from my secret faults! Now I turn your thoughts away from faults
2. "What are some of the essential elements of character
in your IDEAL of true young womanhood? Here also I can give only
very few of the answers received.
1. Nearly everyone emphasizes the element of
"gentleness". One says: "I like to see a
young lady kind and agreeable to all, yet dignified." "Gentle in speech,
voice, and manner; full of love for her home, yet firm and decided in her
convictions," says another. One sums up his ideal in these particulars: "An
unspotted character, a cheerful disposition, a generous, untiring heart, and
a brave will." Nearly all put strength with gentleness, in
some form. "All the firmness that does not exclude delicacy, and all the
softness that does not imply weakness. Loving, helpful, and trusting, she
must be able to soothe anxiety by her presence; charm and allay irritability
by her sweetness of temper." Another writes: "A beauty of spirit in which
love, gentleness, and kindness are mingled. Patience and meekness,
fortitude, a well-governed temper, sympathy, and tenderness," Says another:
"Kind, courteous, humble, and affectionate to old and young, rich and poor."
One young man writes: "Loving and kind, a Christian in heart and arts; a
character based on Christ and his teachings." Then follows this noble
tribute: "My own mother has lived and proved this ideal for me."
Of this tenor are all the letters. Without gentleness
no woman can be truly beautiful. Cruelty in a man is a sad
disfigurement, but in a woman it is the marring of all her loveliness!
2. "Purity" is
another element which, in many of the letters, is emphasized. I need not
quote the words. I need only remind you that purity must have its home in
the heart, if it is to be the glory of the life. "Blessed are the pure in
heart," is the Master's beatitude.
3. "Faithfulness" is
named by many as another essential element in true womanhood. One answers: "Courage
to take a positive stand on all moral questions. Industry which
consists in something more than playing a few fine pieces on the piano."
Here two elements of faithfulness are indicated--faithfulness in one's place
in all one's work, and moral faithfulness in following conscience.
Other letters suggest practically the same essential quality.
It is impossible to over-emphasize this element. The time
has gone by forever when woman, in Christian lands, can be regarded as a
mere ornament, and can be shut out of active life. She is not a doll or a
toy! She has her duties and responsibilities. She is not
born merely to be married as soon as possible, and from girlhood to consider
her wedding as the goal of her life. Thousands of young women will never be
married, and yet their life need not be a failure, though their fingers are
never circled by a wedding-ring. Women have immortal souls. Their heaven
does not depend upon being linked with a husband, as the Mormons teach.
Marriage is a good thing for a woman—if she marries well. I honor
marriage as one of the holiest and most sacred of God's ordinances.
But, here is the truth which I want to impress, that a
young woman should not begin her life with the thought that she must get a
husband. Oh, the sad desecration of womanhood that such a purpose in life
produces! Every young girl should set for her great central aim in life—to
be a woman—a true, noble, pure, holy woman, to always seek the highest
things; to learn from her Master her whole duty and responsibility in this
world, and to do the one and fulfill the other, That should be her aim--to
realize in her character all the possibilities of her womanhood, and to do
all the work for her Master, which he may give her to do. Then, if God shall
call her to be a wife, let her still go on with the same reverence, faith,
and love—in whatever lines she may be led. I call young women to
faithfulness--that is all, simple faithfulness. Accept your duty, and
do it. Accept your responsibility, and meet it. Be true in every
relation you are called to fill. Be brave enough to be loyal always to your
4. One letter refers to what a true and
noble sister may be to her brother,
especially of the better than angel guardianship of an older sister over her
younger brother. Evidently this young man writes with the consciousness that
he himself has had the blessing of such an older sister. Volumes could be
written concerning such ministries. Moses was not the only child by whose
infant cradle, an older sister has kept sacred watch. He was not the only
great man who has owed much of his greatness to a faithful, self-denying
Miriam. Many a man who is now honored in the world owes all his power and
influence to a woman, perhaps too much forgotten now, perhaps worn and
wrinkled, beauty gone, brightness faded, living alone and solitary—but who,
in the days of his youth, was guardian angel to him, freely pouring out the
best and richest of her life for him, giving the very blood of her veins,
that he might have more life; denying herself even needed comforts that he,
her heart's pride, might be educated and might become a noble man among men.
Men who have true-hearted, self-forgetful older sisters
rarely ever honor them half enough for their sacrifices, their
unselfishnesses, the influence of their gentle purity and their hallowed
love. Many a sister has denied herself everything, and has worn out her very
life—for a brother who in his wealth or fame too often altogether forgets
There is a class of women in every community whom society
flippantly denominates "old maids." The world needs yet to be told what
uncrowned queens many of these women are, what undecorated heroines,
what blessings to humanity, what builders of homes, what servants of others
and of Christ. In thousands of cases they remain unmarried for the sake of
their families. Many of them have refused brilliant offers of marriage, that
they might remain at home to be the shield and comfort and stay, of parents
growing feeble and needing their gentle care. Hundreds more there are who
have hidden away their own heart-hunger for marriage and a family—so that
they may devote their lives to good deeds for Christ and for humanity.
Florence Nightingale denied herself the joy and sweetness
of wedded happiness, and gave her life to service in army hospitals,
carrying to wounded and weary men the blessing of her kindly
ministry—instead of shutting it up within the walls of a home of her own.
Every community has its own examples of those whose hands have not felt the
pressure of the wedding-ring, because some loved ones seemed to need their
affection and their service. We ought to honor these unmarried women. Many
of them are the true heroines, the real sisters of mercy, of the
communities where they live. Those who sometimes speak lightly of them might
better bow down before them in reverence and kiss the hands, wrinkled now
and faded, which never have been clasped in marriage.
5. Every writer speaks of "Christlikeness"
as the real crown and completeness of all womanly character. I
have not space to quote the words of any letter. I may say only that Christ
is not merely the ideal, the pattern, for every young woman to model her
life upon—but that Christ is to be her Friend as well as her
Savior—her Master, her Helper. Mary, sitting at Christ's feet,
is a loving picture which every young girl ought to keep framed in her
heart. One letter sums up the ideal womanhood in these elements:
"Trustfulness, hopefulness, joyfulness, peacefulness." But Christ must be in
your heart—before you can have these qualities in your life.
Let me now turn your thoughts to the other Scripture.
"The King's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is
of wrought gold." The words seem to describe the heart life—and
the outer life, or conduct. "All glorious within," with heart
pure, beautiful, radiant, bearing the image of Christ. "Her clothing
is of wrought gold," woven of threads of gold; that is, her outward life
also is pure, beautiful, radiant, Christ-like. This is the King's Daughter's
text; it is the motto which gives them the aim of all their life and
activity. Let us look at it a few moments as containing the Scriptural
ideal for all young womanhood.
"All glorious WITHIN". That is the first thing
to seek in your ideal of true young womanhood. You must have your heart
right, and it must be kept right. An evil heart never made a holy
life. A dark heart never made a shining life. A selfish heart
never made an unselfish life. A sad heart never made a glad life.
Says Faber: "There are souls in the world who have the gift of finding joy
everywhere, and of leaving it behind them when they go. Joy gushes from
under their fingers like jets of light. Their influence is an inevitable
gladdening of the heart. It seems as if a shadow of God's own gift had
passed upon them. They give light, without meaning to shine. These bright
hearts have a great work to do for God."
The reason these lives are such blessings, is because
they are glorious within. I cannot press home this truth too earnestly.
Everything depends upon the heart. The heart makes the life. A beautiful
soul will make even a homely face beautiful. Seek, dear girls, to be "all
There is only one way. Our natural hearts are not
beautiful, not pure, not glorious. We must let Christ wash our souls until
they are made whiter than snow. We must let the Holy Spirit cleanse us and
purify us and glorify our life within.
"Her CLOTHING is of wrought gold." Not only is
the inner life of the King's daughter all glorious, but her outer life also
is resplendent. Her character is beautiful. Her disposition is
kindly. Her spirit is gentle. She does lovely things. The
heart makes the life. A glorious light within, shines out and transfigures
all the being. It is wonderful how the whole life is brightened, by a
loving, joyful heart. So I counsel the young women to seek to have their
very faces shine with the glory of peace. Watch your life, your temper, your
disposition, your conduct, your acts, your words. You are a daughter of the
King; wear your royal garments wherever you may go. Go continually on your
Here is a morning prayer which each "King's
Daughter" is requested to offer: "Take me, Lord, and use me today as you
will. Whatever work you have for me to do, give it into my hands. If there
are those whom you would have me to help in any way, send them to me. Take
my time and use it, as you will. Let me be a vessel close to your hand and
fit for your service, to be employed only for you and for ministry to others
in your name."
It does not need great and conspicuous things, to make a
life golden and radiant in God's sight. Go out each day with this prayer of
consecration on your lips, and be a blessing to everyone you meet. Be a
blessing, first, in your own home, to those who love you most. Leave joy in
their hearts as you go forth, or as they go forth, for the day. Then go with
blessings, to every other life you meet or touch.
We are told of Jesus, that when people touched even his
garment's hem, virtue went out of him and healed them. We read of Peter that
the people laid their sick in the street, that the apostle's shadow as he
passed by might fall on them and heal them. It should be so, dear Christian
young people, with your lives. You should be so full of the Spirit of God
that at every touch of need or sorrow—virtue may flow out of you to heal and
bless, and that the mere shadow of your presence may be a blessing to
everyone on whom it falls. Is there not someone whom you know, perhaps some
lowly one, whom it always does you good to meet? Seek likewise, to have your
life such a reservoir of good, of blessing, of life, of peace, of joy—that
no one can meet you without taking away some blessing.
Someone may be discouraged by this setting forth of so
high an ideal. "I can never reach it. I can never train my life into such
beauty. I can never be such a woman. I can never do the duties of a
Christian in such n perfect way." No, never in your own strength. If
no help came from God, if there were set for us all the lofty ideals of the
Scriptures, and we were then left alone to work them out as best we could,
unhelped—we might well despair! But, for every duty and requirement, there
is a promise of divine grace.
Ruskin says: "He gives us always strength enough,
and wisdom enough, for what he wants us to do. If we either tire
ourselves or puzzle ourselves, it is our own fault." This puts tersely, and
in strong, homely phrase, the essence of such promises of the Scriptures as
"My grace is sufficient for you." "As your days so shall your strength be,"
and many others. "Strength enough and wisdom enough." We often say we shall
get strength enough, but we do not always remember that we shall get wisdom
enough for every duty, every perplexity, every place where great delicacy of
wisdom is required. Yet there is a promise to any one who knows that he
lacks wisdom, and will ask for it.
So the young girl need not be afraid to step out into
life, if she has Christ with her. He will show her the way. He will make her
strong for duty. He will be in her, and will help her to grow into radiant
beauty of life. He will give her wisdom for every place where wisdom is
required. As you bow at his feet, Christ looks into your face with love and
yearning, eager to grant you a new blessing. Ask him for what you need
most—will it not be for the blessing of simple goodness, the love of Christ
to fill your heart and pour out through all your life? No other gift can be
such a benediction to you; no other can make you such a benediction to
I cannot tell you how my heart yearns for the young
people to whom these words are addressed; how I long and pray that they may
be cleansed of all hidden faults and made all glorious within, and
that their garments may shine as if woven of threads of gold!