Girl Who Has Made A Mistake
( Originally Published 1918 )
WHATEVER may have been the attitude of society in the past toward the woman who had made a moral misstep, today we no longer look upon her as totally different from all other human beings. Her error was a grievous one, but it has not necessarily ended her life as an individual. It is not necessary for her to feel that she has no right to a husband and a home of her own. She may even make the mistake of her youth a part of her own spiritual unfoldment and a means of becoming a more sympathetic, helpful member of the community. With the remembrance of her own weakness in the back-ground of her consciousness, she is able to enter into the temptations of others, to strengthen them for resistance and for the ultimate mastery of untoward circumstances. Thus she may be-come a real source of moral strength in the community.
With this belief in the power of human nature to rise above its own weaknesses and to turn them into sources of strength, we do not consider it amiss to speak of the possibility of marriage for one who has learned the bitter lesson of the unsatisfactoriness of wrong-doing.
Many times the very qualities which render such a girl attractive to the man who brings about her ruin, are the qualities which will make her most successful as a wife. She is loving, demonstrative, clinging, easily influenced, and so she falls an easy victim to her seducer. Had she fallen into the hands of the right kind of man, she would have made him a docile, responsive, thoughtful, loving wife. Having learned through bitter experience the necessity of guarding herself from the approaches of the conscienceless man, she is equipped to maintain her own moral integrity, while she is just as fitted to make a success of herself in the home as she was before this hard lesson came to her.
The girl who has returned to the life of moral rectitude has a right to look forward to the ordinary joys of womanhood, but she is, of course, face to face with the question as to whether or not it is fair and just for her to accept a proposal of marriage from one who is unaware of her previous sad experience. The question that springs spontaneously to the lips of the young girl who is trying to make good, and who finds herself the recipient of a man's honest love, is, "Must I tell him of my past ,experience?"
The question is, indeed, a difficult one, and must be considered carefully from both sides. Then each individual must decide her own course of action for herself.
In the first place, there is, of course, the danger that if the man has had no suspicion of the girl's past history it may come to him with such a shock that he will turn from her and desire to have nothing more to do with her. She runs that risk, of course, in confessing to him her past. Should her story meet with this sort of reception, how-ever, she may console herself with the thought that by so doing he has proven himself not worthy of the deepest love which she had to be-stow. It has not-been considered too much to ask of women in the past that they should spread the cloak of charity over the misdoings of their lovers in the wild years of their youth. It would seem as though it might be possible for men to exercise a corresponding generosity, especially where, as in the majority of instances, the girl has been very largely but little more than a weak and innocent victim. It speaks well for the development of the human race that there is an increasing number of men today who are willing to overlook the past, feeling confident that the bitter lesson has been learned, and resting secure in the knowledge that their love and strength will bring to the yearning feminine nature the satisfaction and the support which it needs to render life both happy and secure. Instead of regarding her story as the possible cause of a great disappointment to her, she should look upon it as a great test of the sincerity of the man's devotion, and so she will not be afraid to apply it.
Moreover, if her lover leaves her at this time, she must realize that he has but left the way open for a more worthy man to find his way into her heart, and so she need not give way to despair.
A much more serious situation, however, develops when a man thinks that he will be able to overlook the past actions of his wife, but later on finds that the knowledge of them has poisoned his mental attitude toward her, so that eventually he may descend to such depths as to "throw her past into her face," as the saying goes. This is, indeed, a tragic situation, and should be avoided in every possible way. If, after telling her story, the young woman observes the slightest reluctance on the part of the man to renew his proposal of marriage to her, let her not hesitate to take drastic action herself at once. She may be tempted to endeavor to rekindle his ardor, and she may succeed temporarily in doing so, but in this she has made a great mistake. Unless he is ready, whole-heartedly and with reassuring warmth, to repeat his protestations of a love which persists in spite of all that she has told him, let her not hesitate to cut off at once all connection between them. By so doing she will save herself much possible unhappiness in the future.
These two contingencies she may avoid by keeping her story to herself, and this course of action, it goes without saying, is open to her. There is one important thing which she must take into account, however, if she decides to keep her lips sealed. That serious consideration is the possibility, one might almost say the probability, that at some time in the future her story may come to her husband's ears from some other source. Its importance, then, will be unduly enhanced by the mere circumstance of her long-continued silence. The very fact that she considered it necessary to keep this thing secret and away from his knowledge may make him feel, in the first place, that it was much more her fault than it may really have been, or in the second place, that she does not love him as she has pre-tended to do.
It is quite true that "perfect love casteth out fear." If she had felt, at the very beginning, that her love for him was so great that she could not bear to deceive him in any particular, and had had such confidence in the greatness of his love that she could trust him to forgive, she would not have hesitated to disclose to him all of the past. This it is which he will feel when the knowledge comes to him from some other source, and this will be the greatest factor in the situation as it then develops. To confess all to a lover in the ardent period of courtship is to appeal to the very best in a man's nature, by thus throwing oneself upon his mercy, and he will, in all probability, rise to the occasion in a most generous and gratifying manner. Having agreed together to put all of the past behind them, there will be no overshadowing fear to threaten its disrupting effect upon their united love.
In concealment there is the danger, also, that the knowledge that she is concealing something from her husband will tend to act as a continual barrier between the two, and for this reason it would seem wisest for the girl who has made a misstep to confess it at the very beginning, and thus establish their united life upon the only sure foundation, that of mutual confidence and mutual faith.
The man who would take, advantage of such confidence in later years to twit his wife with her previous indiscretion is too dastardly an individual to call for consideration. It is only necessary once more to urge the girl not to make the mistake of accepting a reluctant husband. If the young woman will follow her own instincts, in the majority of instances she will know which course to pursue. It is certain that true love will wipe out all remembrance of such errors.