Danger Of A Careless Expression
( Originally Published 1902 )
DURING a conversation between Benjamin Franklin and his father, the former said : " Father, I know that many people here in Boston think I never had any religion, or that if I had I have apostatized from it." " God forbid ! But whence, my son, could these prejudices have arisen? "
Why, father, I have for some time past discovered that there is no effect without a cause. These prejudices have been the effect of my youthful errors. You re-member, father, the old story of the pork, don't you?" No, child, what is it, for I have forgotten." " I thought so, father; I thought you had been so good as to forget it. But I have not, and never shall, forget it." " What is it, Ben? " " Why, father, when our pork, one fall, lay salted and ready for the barrel, I begged you to say grace over it all at once, adding that it would do as well and save a great deal of time." " Pshaw, Ben! such a trifle as that, and in a child, too, cannot be remembered against you now." " Yes, father, I am afraid it is. All are not so forgetful of my errors as you. It was at the time inserted in the Boston News Letter, and is now recollected to the discredit of my religion."
A careless expression is a dangerous thing. It often works incalculable damage, especially as the gossip and scandalmonger are so ready to misinterpret, misjudge the motive or misrepresent. The careless remark about the blessing upon the pork did great damage to Franklin's religious reputataion, for many thought him to be irreverent and sceptical, when, in reality, he was a man of prayer, of faith, of love, of hope, and, more than most men, lived his religion in acts of practical kindness to his fellow men. His life was the expression of an adage of which he was the author—" Work as if you were to live a hundred years; pray as if you were to die tomorrow."