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- Men, Women, and God - 3/23 -

reason that resource is not open to you, go to a doctor or a minister or some senior friend. It is worth while to take a lot of trouble to find the right person, and it is still more worth while to take trouble to avoid the wrong person. Find someone who has seen the hand of God in the facts of sex and who can therefore talk about them without embarrassment. And do not let yourself be deterred by the fact that you may have made mistakes already of which you are ashamed. Most of us made mistakes in our early years just because of the same ignorance which has been your fate. And therefore we are not shocked. We are just sorry, and would like to help. It is not true that mistakes inevitably spoil the future. Forgiveness, recovery, and new life are possibilities for us all. And if you have already made mistakes through ignorance, that is but one reason more why you should know the truth without delay. When you are told the truth you will be learning something about God as well as about yourself, for He made you.

Nor is it only for your own sake that you ought to know. If you want to achieve helpful relations to men or women, and ultimately to achieve a right relation to husband or wife, you need to know the plain facts about our incarnate life. Men and women often make the right way of life more difficult for each other by mere ignorance. You need to know if you are to be really kind.

I cannot forget that when young men and women of sensitive and refined natures come to this knowledge all at once, when already adults, it may at first create a sense of repulsion. It does not do so for those who have learnt the facts bit by bit as they were ready for them. In that case they are accepted easily and naturally. But with the others it may well be that just because they have clean and delicate minds, they may at first experience some real distaste when they come to understand the creative processes through which they were born. But to any such I would say that against that possibility they may be forearmed, if they will but believe that when love takes two people into its charge the physical consequences all come to seem natural and right and sacred. You need never know anything of these matters at first hand except when real love for some man or woman has mastered you, and then the experiences to which that love will lead you will be found to be pure, and simple, and happy. If you approach this part of life with reluctance or in fear, or with some mistaken sense of shame, you may spoil it, and spoil somebody else's life in addition. But if you will believe this plain witness, which thousands would unite in offering you, you may be greatly helped. Ultimately your way to success in this part of life lies in accepting your nature with its sexual elements-- not in trying to be a sexless person. That is not the way of purity. It is the way of folly. Therefore again I say--Do not be afraid of the facts. Those who have traveled that country report to you "There is nothing here to be afraid of--at least there used to be nothing."

And now in case these pages are read by some young married persons who still have before them the chance to serve their own children in this matter, may I insist that a solemn obligation rests on them to see that their children learn the truth in a simple and natural way from the lips of their fathers and mothers? The ideal way in this connection is that children should learn about their own bodies from the same people who first tell them about God and goodness. When that happens there is no danger that they will slip into an unclean attitude towards sex, for children nearly always accept the things their parents tell them as natural and right things.

Perhaps the first step in the way is to decide never to tell children anything that is not strictly true. When your little girls or boys ask how babies come, tell them that they could not understand, but that you will tell them as soon as they are old enough. And then very early tell them at least that babies come from the bodies of their mothers. The first wrong turn that the thoughts of many of us took in connection with sex was when some older person was made embarrassed or angry by our natural questions. We made a note then and there that there must be something queer and wrong about the way babies come, and the impression sank down into the unconscious part of us to bring forth mischief for years to come. But if a parent's own attitude to sex is clean and true he or she will find it quite possible to tell the plain truth to innocent little minds. The first bit of knowledge imparted, namely that babies come from the bodies of their mothers, will often beget a new attitude of regard and chivalry in children towards their own mothers. I can say with certainty that it is very good for a boy to know that for his sake his own mother once went through both pain and risk.

And then let the rest all come naturally. It is better to tell your children in almost any way than not to tell them at all, but the best way is not to make a solemn occasion of the telling, but to let the knowledge pass from you to them as incidents and occasions suggest. If you have contact with nature in common with your children the occasions will be many for telling them about flower and animal life. And this will naturally lead on to instruction about human beings. Even if such contact with nature should be impossible, life in any place and in any guise will assuredly present you with opportunities for your teaching. And in any case try to get in _first_. Before the slime of schoolboy talk or the follies of schoolgirl talk have defiled the subject tell your children about it, as about something sacred and beautiful--much too sacred and beautiful for the chatter of idle hours in playgrounds, etc. You will be surprised, if you have forgotten your own childhood, how early it is necessary to do all this if you are to get in first. No general rules about the right age can be laid down. Children differ enormously in regard to the ages at which they pass from stage to stage in their development. You will need to watch and to understand. Above all do not let your telling take the form of mere prohibitions. Do not let it stand related in the first case to warnings against sins. You do not want to associate the idea of sin in the first case with this subject at all. What you can do is to implant a certain reverence in a child's mind in relation to the whole matter, and if you succeed in that you will have forearmed your child against sin. I long to know that children are learning about sex not in association with scoldings, reproofs, and warnings, but rather as part of the splendid truth of God. It is the association of the facts of sex with the sins of men and women that has spoilt this part of life for most minds. Of course it is only kind to tell boys and girls where it is that they may go wrong--it _is_ necessary to put them on their guard. But that should be a secondary matter--a mere addition to your teaching.

My own experience as a minister has brought to my knowledge several very pathetic instances of how young girls get into very serious trouble just through lack of the knowledge their mothers ought to have given them. It seems possible still for a girl even of seventeen or eighteen, or even much older, to be almost incredibly ignorant, and no words are too strong to describe the cruelty of allowing them to face life in that condition.

In any case let your teaching be, in general terms at least, complete before adolescence. If you wait till adolescence has begun, the telling may cause undue excitement. If you finish your general teaching before that stage it will save your child from much unwholesome curiosity.

And here, though the subject must necessarily be distasteful to many, as it is to myself, I must put in a word about self-abuse. [Footnote: Knowing from experience that a good many parents do not even know what self-abuse means, let me simply say that it consists in such handling of the genital organs as creates emotional and physical sexual excitement of a kind that is obviously unnatural.] In recent years a large number of men have given me their confidence, so that I am not speaking from hearsay when I state that a percentage of men which probably approximates to seventy-five are, at least for a time, victims of this habit.

I know that it is easy to exaggerate the physical and mental evil effects of it. But what is beyond all question is that it produces bad psychic consequences, and does so leave men out of conceit with themselves that when they realize that they have become victims to the habit their mental sufferings are often pitifully acute. Indeed, it is because my pity and sympathy have been so drawn out to many men I know that I cannot forbear to speak on behalf of those who may yet be saved from it. The facts about it are that the habit is often begun at an almost inconceivably early age. It is very often begun without any sense that it is wrong, and certainly without any knowledge of how evil it is. And once it has been begun, it is horribly hard to abandon. Uncounted good men have to confess to-day that in their younger days they never did achieve liberation in spite of constant efforts. Uncounted men have brought about in this way a certain perversion of their natures with regard to their sexual functions which clouded their lives for many years. And yet the cure for this situation is very simple and almost easy. The men who have completely escaped practically all testify that they owe their immunity to the kindly and timely advice of some wise senior. The habit is _not_ natural, and therefore it is _not_ hard never to begin it. If it has not been begun in boyhood a very little determination will keep an adult man from falling into it. And this means that in this case parents can, if they will, save the rising generation. Perhaps it is mothers chiefly who will have to render this service just because the habit is begun so very early, while boys are still in very close association with their mothers. I may seem to be contradicting what I have just said about mere warnings, but I would certainly say that any sort of arresting warning is better than inaction in the matter. Yet even in this matter any kind of harsh warning is not the best way. A boy can be taught that there is a certain sanctity about certain parts of his body. He can be taught to treat them scrupulously and hardily. He can be given positive ideas which will save him, though I also believe that he ought to be told with definiteness to avoid this particular snare. I know of no other case in which a little wise love and timely vigilance may have such tremendous results in saving a child from future suffering and mistake. Does anything more need to be said to mothers who really love their sons!

I have written these things about boys and men because it is in that connection that I can speak from first-hand knowledge. But several women doctors have told me of late that there is a very real need that girls also should be helped in view of the similar danger which lies in their path. With them the habit is no doubt much less common. But it is common enough, and has serious enough consequences, to constitute a call to parents in their case also.

Most of those who read these pages will themselves be young. If they have troubled to read the paragraphs I have just written a number of them will, I know, be moved to say to themselves, "We would give anything if our parents had done these things for us." Yes! it is a great pity they did not. But do not be hard upon your parents. They were the victims of a wrong tradition. The conspiracy of silence had in their day been given almost religious sanctions. Some of them were themselves embarrassed by the whole subject just because no clean persuasions about it were current in their youth. That was their calamity, as it has in part been yours. But no such calamity need overtake your children. If you can and will cleanse your minds now--if you will take this whole subject out into the cleansing light of God, and look at it there till you have seen the divine truth about sex--if you can escape embarrassment and attain to thankfulness, then you will be able to keep this whole matter clean for your children. Your generation has suffered much. The next need not. And remember that whatever doctors, teachers, and ministers may do for the nation, it must be parents who will save us in the long run.

You at least can get ready.

Men, Women, and God - 3/23

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