“Strength and honour are her clothing.” (Proverbs 31:25)
What is your aim in life, or, rather, what would you have your life to be if you could have the choosing? What kind of life looks the best and most desirable to you? What are your ideals?
An ideal is a mental conception of perfection. It is a picture in the mind of things as we should like to have them. Every girl has her ideals and in one way or another is working toward them. She may be careless and hardly conscious of what she is doing, yet certainly she is following after her ideal. She has in her mind the picture of the woman she wants to be.
No girl can rise higher than her ideals. The ideal one has in mind is the limit of perfection to that person. It is impossible to attain to higher things than we strive for; and few, oh, so few, even reach their ideals. So it is imperative that a girl set before her good and pure ideals, that she set her mark high. It is better to aim at the impossible than to be content with the inferior.
Every girl is a woman in the making. Sometime she will stand in a woman’s place and take a woman s responsibilities. And now, while she is a girl, she is forming the character that shall be hers through womanhood. Her ideals are shaping her life.
What is an ideal woman? What sort of woman do you most admire? Who among your acquaintances seems the most admirable to you? Consider her lifework, her manner of speech, her influence upon those about her. Think of her as a housewife and a mother. Is your ideal woman loud-spoken, or is her voice pitched low and sweet? Does she criticize others quickly and sharply, or has she always a good word for everyone? Is her dress quiet and becoming, or dashing and bold? Is she conspicuous for the ornaments and jewels upon her person, or is her adornment that of a quiet, Christian spirit? Is she a leader in society, or a quiet homebody? Is she a teacher, a housewife, or businesswoman? Is she an actress or a movie star? Is she earnest and sincere, or light and frivolous? Whatever she is you admire, she is your ideal, and deep in your heart you wish to be like her. Because she is your ideal—your pattern of womanhood—you will be putting on ways like hers.
Out of these many traits let us together choose the ideal woman. First of all, she should be earnest and sincere. Our truly ideal woman will not be silly or frivolous, nor will she be guilty of actions that appear vulgar or unwomanly. She must be sweet-voiced and gentle—how a loud, boisterous woman jars on our feelings! She must always have a kind word for others—not a person who will unjustly criticize behind your back. Her clothes are womanly and becoming, for our ideal woman will not wear anything that will cause others to jest and joke at her appearance! She will be known for the beauty of her character rather than the richness of her clothing or ornaments. Her face may be pretty or it may not be. She should be home-loving and a lover of little children. She must be tenderhearted and sympathetic. She must be the kind of woman to whom one could come with her troubles, truehearted and loyal in friendship, never breaking faith. She must be a Christian, serving God sincerely. With such a pattern before her any girl will be safe. But girls are liable, if they are not guided carefully, to become blinded by the glitter and gloss of things that are not pure gold. The dressy, extravagant woman, the social queen, or the girl seen oftenest on the screen at the picture show, becomes brighter lit than the noble women whose lives are telling for good. You, my little friend, choose well; for she whom you choose becomes your pattern.
A right ideal is worth striving for. The best cannot be obtained without effort. Effort costs something. We do not drift to the best that is in us, but we gain the higher places by steep, hard climbing. Every girl has much within her to be overcome, and much to be developed. If her ideals lie in gaining culture and education, then must come years of hard study and application. If her aspirations run out to music, drawing, painting, sculpture, these accomplishments are perfected only after years of hard work. Does she aspire to be a housewife and mother? Then she must learn those homely arts that are woman’s part in homemaking. Perhaps this latter vocation takes more earnest application and persistent effort than any other: for home touches the life so closely everywhere. Does our girl aspire to be pure and noble? Then she must give up all that defiles and leave it out of her life.
It is not enough to have good ideals. There must be a careful and persistent effort to live up to them. To keep these ideals perfect often costs the sacrifice of other things that seem pleasant. Like the merchant of old who found a pearl of greatest price and sold all that he had to purchase it, so a girl, to keep her ideals pure, must be willing to give for that all else. And a girl will sacrifice much for her ideal, be it good or bad.
It is not enough to strive for a life morally pure and noble. That is good; but the truly ideal life is one lived for God. A life which does not in word and deed reflect the life and teachings of Christ fails that much in being ideal.
I never think of one who stands by her Christian ideals but that I remember a girl I knew years ago. She was a happy, blue-eyed girl with high ideals of morality and godliness, and with a purpose to be true to these in all her conduct. She had kept company with a young man for some time and they had become engaged to be married, and she gave him her whole heart’s love. But he was not a Christian, and as their acquaintance became more intimate he saw more and more her determination to be guided in everything by her pattern, Christ. He loved the things of this life and desired that their lives together should be gay and full of worldly pleasure, while he saw plainly that her mind ran to things spiritual. He thought it best for them to understand before marriage that their lives were not to be religious, but should be given to the things he loved. So one evening he told her plainly his position. Her blue eyes opened wide in astonishment that he should set before her such a choice; for he had said that if she were not willing to give up her religion she must give him up. She was disappointed, for she had hoped to win him for the Lord. But her answer came firmly from her heart, “I will not give up my Lord for any man.” This decision cost her his friendship and the fulfillment of all the hopes and plans they had built, but she had in her heart the consciousness of having stood by her convictions.
And you, too, must stand by your convictions at the cost of things you love. An ideal is worth little if it is not worth wholehearted, honest effort. Nothing is more pitiful than a woman whose mind admires purity and right, yet whose will is too weak to choose them and whose life is blighted by sin and mire about her. Be true, be noble, aim high, and God will give you strength to keep your ideals.
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