Shall She Tell Him?
( Originally Published 1916 )
A MOST interesting letter comes to me from a reader. She writes:
"I am nearly thirty. Some years ago I forgot, for a brief time, that I was a woman, and being unhappy, restless, and extremely foolish, I lowered myself to sin. I did not fall utterly, but in my indiscretion I stained my soul.
"After a short period my conscience awakened. I saw where I was going, and I stopped. I repented bitterly of my acts and thoughts. I asked forgiveness of Heaven, and thought that it had been granted.
"I did not think when I committed those sins that love would ever come to accuse me. But today I love a man, and he loves me with all his heart. He believes me to be all that a woman should be. If I tell him the facts of my past life I know he will hate me.
"Yet I feel that I do not deserve his love, and that I ought not to marry him and deceive him, as I would deceive him if I remain silent.
"What shall I do? Shall I tell him?
"I had thought repentance and right living would wipe out any sin, however great, but I can find no peace since love has come, and I stand accused before it.
"Do I deserve love? Or must I give him up, and put love away from me forever because of those early mistakes of mine?
"I know, and he has not tried to conceal it from me, that his life has not been blameless. But somehow it seems different in a woman.
"Shall I tell him?"
The "unpardonable sin" nonsense has done no end of hurt. It is not wrongdoing that permanently soils; it is continuance in it, and the persistent love of it. If you are honestly sorry that you did wrong, and not merely fearful that you will be found out, and if you have ceased evil-doing, you have a moral right to respect yourself.
The "bird with a broken wing" theory is immoral. We have all sinned, the Good Book tells us; and, for that matter, we do not need to be told; we know it. And it is the very essence of any right living to be able, by repentance and reformation, to take up life afresh, "with a conscience void of offense toward God and man."
As for your husband, or husband to be, he is not your confessor. You are your own judge as to your fitness for wifehood. You know whether you come to him worthily or not. And if he is not satisfied to take you as you are, and upon your own estimate of yourself, you would better let him go.
Hold on to common sense. Be just to yourself, or you cannot be just to others. It is very easy to fall into the luxury of self-condemnation, to wallow in remorse; but a diseased, morbid, and unintelligent conscience can do quite as much harm as no conscience at all.
Keep your chin up. Tell the truth in preference to a lie, but remember there are times when our highest duty is to keep our mouth shut.
To believe that you are forever ruined and hopeless is about the worst belief you can indulge in. And rest assured if you are now sure in your own heart that you have put away forever the follies of the past, love can and will come and keep you sound and clean in the future.
Old as human sin is human and divine forgiveness, and old as the blackness of weakness and perversion is the whiteness of the new life built upon the death of the old. Says Whittier:
For still the new transcends the old