How many women owe to the examples and deceptive lessons of a so- called friend, the bitterness that corrodes their hearts, and the remorse which perhaps torments their life! We pass over in silence those societies the evident danger of which is easily perceived, and on that account easily averted; but you have not the same guarantee against the noxious effects which arise from those relations whose union is found in the most frivolous instincts of the heart, to which access is gained by the feeblest faculties of the soul. What is it that is most commonly found in those intimacies, if not thoughts without consistency, vain hopes, precocious or impatient desires, indiscreet confidence, imprudent language, rash questions and answers rasher still?
As a general rule, any society or company from which you derive no benefit for head or heart is, if not dangerous, at least pernicious; and you ought to shun them unless that imperative reasons or the will of your parents advise otherwise; for all that tends to diminish your esteem for the value of time and for the love of serious things is prejudicial to your soul. You should prefer your mother's company to that of all others. Her life should be as a book constantly open before you; her lessons and examples, her experience and counsels should be an inexhaustible mine of instruction, useful and precious to your soul.
The young lady is indeed an object of compassion who feels her mother's company irksome and onerous. At your age the heart is confiding and effusive, and it needs some bosom in which to repose its confidence; for it would be subjecting it to an ordeal too rude, and exposing it perhaps to a fatal reaction, by completely depriving it of consolations derived from acquaintances approved by every law, human and divine. It should be treated with moderation, founded on prudence, as undue severity renders its desires and needs more imperative.
But if it is dangerous to restrict the heart to silence and inaction it is much more dangerous to feed it on frivolous affections. There is nothing that exhausts its energies so much as an over-indulgence in those puerile sentiments fed by the imagination. Those sentiments create within it a void which nothing can fill, and destroy its love for everything that is noble and generous.
A frivolous heart is not less disastrous to woman than is a frivolous mind. How many women find themselves disarmed and powerless in important circumstances of life, for having neglected in youth the training of the heart's affections! How many are unequal to the task of discharging a painful duty, because they were wont to seek their pleasure in all they did from early childhood! How many who, spite of the chastisement of adversity and deception incurred by their idolizing preference for their levity and affections, still remain the dupes of their blind attachment even in their old age! Your esteem for your own heart, and appreciation for its affections, should be highly noteworthy, and deeply graven in your mind by the constant habit of prizing them.
When you feel an attraction for a young person of your own age, do not blindly obey it, before having maturely studied its nature and motives. We should always act for a purpose worthy of ourselves, but more especially so when there is question of delivering ourselves over to the confidence and friendship of others; for in this mutual exchange we dispose of the greater part of our being. In this intimate relation, which is formed insensibly by repeated interviews, there is formed a reciprocal discernment that exercises a powerful influence over all the faculties of the soul, the convictions of the minds, the sentiments of the heart, the habits of character, and often even over the general deportment.
The good sense of our fathers has expressed this truth by one of those proverbs so familiar to them: "Tell me your company and I know who you are." Of course you have frequently heard those words, and knowing their meaning withal, perhaps you have not considered the circumstances wherein they may be applied. We earnestly wish that they may never be employed relative to you, at the expense of the joy of your heart or the peace of your conscience.
You should use much discretion in the choice that you make of the person with whom you would form an intimate acquaintance; for such an intimacy is not only founded on a mutual confidence, and reciprocal affections; it is also the result which follows from being frequently in each other's company. This latter intimacy is more dangerous than the former because the heart, not thinking itself interested, is less upon its guard, and consequently more exposed to suffer from the poison concealed in words and examples.
Be assured of the nature of the attraction you feel. See if it is founded upon solid qualities, capable of making an impression upon an upright and serious mind, or upon those superficial qualities which the world esteems, and which allure volatile minds. In the latter case, you cannot, without danger, engage in relations; the inevitable effect of which must be either to fortify your present defects, or add to them others which you have not at present. If your love for any one be founded on trivial motives, and if you dispense yourself from the obligation of restraining your affections, let me entreat you to take at least all the precautions that prudence requires to prevent you from becoming the dupe of a foolish fondness. But if your affections are founded on sympathy of character, on a concurrence of holy thoughts and sentiments, with a view to strengthen the love and practice of virtue; then the attainment of their object is highly commendable and praiseworthy; and you may justly hope to secure the happiest results from it. But even then, you should be on your guard against your own judgment, placing a certain restraint on your sentiments of confidence and love, or friendship, which, in order to be lasting, must be calm, devoid of that impetuosity which acts violently on the heart. It should be the work of time, shedding its sweet influence on the duties of life, rendering their accomplishment less laborious and more fruitful.
Those who love each other with a sincere Christian affection, willingly sacrifice to duty the pleasure of being together, or rather their great pleasure consists in doing God's will; with noble courage they rise superior to all other considerations, and mutually inspire each other with a holy zeal, imposing silence upon the voice of their affections, in presence of the voice of their conscience.
Such is the manner in which persons should love each other; such are the affections that God blesses and rewards. You are deeply indebted to Divine Providence if it has sent you one whom you can love in this way, for this is one of the most precious gifts of God's mercy. It is especially at your age that such friendships are most easily formed, because then the heart is more tender and confiding. How many women owe, in a great measure, their peace of mind and conscience to the good advice and protecting influence of a friend whom they met with in the springtime of life.
There are in woman's life many delicate and trying circumstances that demand the intervention of a sincere friend, to direct and sustain her, when the light of conscience becomes obscured or extinct; when the energies of the heart succumb to the allurements of pleasure; when the mind, embarrassed by doubt and perplexity, can scarcely distinguish the line of duty, semi-obliterated by prejudice and passion; happy, then, is the woman who can call upon a faithful and tried friend, to whom she can confide the secrets of her heart, and from whom she may hope to receive the help and consolation that her condition calls for.