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Character Building - Refinement

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

PERHAPS there is no characteristic more dependent upon early habit of thought and early environment than refinement. With some persons it seems to be innate, and it may be, but environment is stronger in this matter than is heredity, and the man or woman whose thoughts and deeds are pure was probably surrounded in early childhood by persons of cultured manners and speech. While children are very young they are unconscious mimics, and will try to speak and behave as they see their parents do, but that very tendency toward imitation will make them quick to attempt to copy the ways and language of the children with whom they come in contact in school and street. Therefore watch carefully for any coarseness, and always censure it strongly.

To be refined in speech, one must never allow one's self to use a coarse word when a delicate one will answer the purpose. Children must remember this fact. Do not allow them to exclaim to each other, "Shut up ! " or "That 's a lie!" It is distressing to note how many brothers and sisters go unchecked in this tendency to rude speech, their parents seeming to feel that as the little ones grow older they will be ashamed to continue to use such expressions. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the child who has become accustomed to rough words when young may lapse into them when off his guard, even when a grown man, or when wishing to appear well.

Putting aside any question as to the sin of various kinds of profanity, no one can deny that violent expletives are vulgar. The refined person will not exclaim "Darn it!" or "Golly!" or "Gosh!" When one stops to analyze such utterances one will note that they are both senseless and coarse, therefore to be avoided.

The child who has been taught that refinement begins in the heart will not enjoy a vulgar story and will not repeat one. The girl who shuns the playmate using unclean language, the boy who declines to talk with one who utters unclean thoughts, will gather about them only children of kindred tastes with theirs.

Refinement in act and word will prevent coarseness in speech and will fill the mind with pleasant pictures of "whatsoever things are pure," and "whatsoever things are of good report." From infancy children must be taught to "think on these things," and to look for them, since in the world, even in childhood, one finds that for which one seeks.

The "Old-Fashioned Stories" part of Volume III radiates the qualities of pure speech and gentle act. For the boys the biographies of " Sir Philip Sidney " in Volume VII and " Washington Irving" and "Longfellow" in Volume IX are of first importance; girls may profit by reading "Lydia Maria Child" and "Emma Willard" in Volume IX, and "The Expression of Rooms," "Girls and Their Mothers," "How to Entertain a Guest," and "Good Taste in Dress," in Volume X. Both boys and girls are recommended to read "The Feeling for Literature," "Books in the Home," and "On Readers and Books," in the last-mentioned volume. In Volume XII "The Young Folks' Story of Art" ought to prove inspiring. As for the poems in Volume XI, almost any of them answer to this end of refining the nature.

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