This is the last one …
Ethics for Young Girls
Young Woman’s Journal, 1900-1901
Lesson 18: Thought Should Inspire Action
We are told to have beautiful thoughts. That is right, but it is not sufficient that thoughts be good; we must put them into action or into practice.
Before a child learns to walk he no doubt has the idea of walking in his mind. He wishes to move to obtain objects. He sees other people about him walking, and desires to perform the same action. He puts his little foot forward, stumbles and falls, but he is not discouraged. He tries again and again until he can walk perfectly. Now he does not need to think of the action any more. It has become a habit with him.
It would be of but little value to the babe to have only the idea of walking; he must walk; he must put what little knowledge of walking he has into action. The more he tries to walk the more perfect his knowledge of that action becomes. The first stage of the action is in the mind. The little one wisely puts what he has in his mind, into the bodily action, and he – walks.
It is the same with his learning to talk. First the word “Mamma” is in his mind. he has heard others say it and knows what it means, and he tries to put his knowledge into practice. He attempts to say “Mamma.” His first efforts are crude, indeed, but nothing daunted, he tries once more, and is successful. Of how much value would the idea have been to him if he had not put it into action?
Let us take another example. A child has heard stories illustrating honesty. He has also seen persons perform acts which were called honest, so he gains a knowledge of honesty.
Now it isn’t sufficient that he have a mere knowledge of what honesty means. If that knowledge is to be of any real value to him, he must put it into action. He must be honest. Why are there not more honest people in the world? Is it because they don’t know what honesty means? Hardly. It is because they don’t put their knowledge into practice. Of course the more the knowledge is practiced the more nearly complete does the knowledge become.
The reason we are not so moral as we ought to be, and by morality is meant all kinds of right action, is not because there is no knowledge, but because the body is not trained to express our ideas of morality. All beautiful thoughts, aspirations, desires, that end in thoughts, aspirations, and desires, are almost valueless. To be of value they must end in deeds of beauty.
What is meant by the saying, “Hell is paved with good intentions?” It means that even the most wicked people have had good thoughts, which they have failed to carry out in their lives. The thoughts are necessary, but are incomplete unless they are executed.
We go to our church meetings. Our minds are filled with holy thoughts inspired by the sermons. We go home and our acts are in many cases the same as they were before we heard the sermon.
Beautiful words are valuable only as they inspire us to action. We can’t be good only in our minds. We are good only as our relations to those about us are right.
There is also the negative point of view to think of. We must often restrain ourselves from acting under the stimulus of wrong thoughts. A young girl knows it is wrong to drink coffee. At a social a cup of coffee is handed to her. The aroma strikes her nostrils and she almost accepts it. Then she thinks it is wrong and refuses the coffee. She refuses to act. She holds back the action.
This holding back of the action is just as essential when the thought inspiring the act is not a good one, as it is to act under the impulse of a good thought.
When the time comes for the Great Judge to consider our lives, he will no doubt judge us, not so much by what we have thought, as by what we have done.
1. In order that the past lessons be of value to you, what must you do with the knowledge gained through them?
2. What is the relation between knowledge and action?
3. Should we act or keep from acting when the following thoughts come into the mind: desire to gossip, to answer in anger, to read instead of to go to church, to exercise, to mend our clothing, to whisper in public meetings, to be neat and quiet in dress? Give a brief talk on each of the foregoing subjects.
4. What relation exists between action and habit?
5. What is a habit?
6. How can you form a habit?
7. What method would you pursue to break a bad habit?
8. Name some good habits.