Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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Dumbbells as Aids to Morality.
    A young man writes me that he wants to be
a good man, but that he lacks character and
self-control.  The animal conquers the divine within
him.  He asks me for a recipe for building up his
better nature and strengthening his will power.
First of all he should
    Build on resolve, and not upon regret,
        The structure of the future. Do not grope
    Among the shadows of old sins, but let
        Thine own soul's light shine on the path of
    And dissipate the darkness.  Waste no tears
    Upon the blotted record of lost years,
    But turn the leaf and smile, oh, smile, to see
    The fair white pages that remain for thee.

    Prate not of thy repentance.  But believe
        The spark divine dwells in thee.  Let it grow.
    That which the upreaching spirit can achieve
        The grand and all creative forces know.
    They will assist and strengthen as the light
    Lifts up the acorn to the oak tree's height.
    Thou hast but to resolve, and, lo! God's whole
    Great universe shall fortify thy soul.

    Resolve to be greater than your temptation.
Every conquest is a step toward higher growth.
    This correspondent evidently thinks he is more
powerfully tempted by the senses than the average
mortal and believes it is impossible for his better
nature to govern his passions and appetites.
    Thousands of people are arguing in the same
fashion, not realizing that where the passions are
most strongly implanted there, too, is always an
equal strength of will if it is only brought forth and
exercised.  But the one is indulged, the other
    Then, too, the more we dwell upon the thought of
our faults and weaknesses, the more pronounced
they become.
    It is wiser to give as little attention to them as
possible.  The consciousness that we are weak in
any direction should not be the dominating thought;
but, rather, the conviction that we are great enough
to control our actions.
    The man who finds nothing to control in his
nature is not to be envied or admired.  He is only
half alive.  He exists, but he does not live.
    The pro-creative impulse, which seems to be the
besetting temptation to this man, as well as to many
others, is not a sin.  It is the foundation of the
whole universe of living things.
    I have no doubt my correspondent has been edu-
cated to think of that side of his nature as some-
thing base and unworthy, and a propensity to be
ashamed of.  The majority of young people are
reared with these false and blasphemous ideas of
God's fundamental law.
    When their natural impulses awaken, they believe
themselves to be vile and wicked beings bound for
destruction.  They listen to cold and unattractive
sermons on the necessity of living in the spirit and
turn with new sense of fascination to the pathway
of the senses, down which trip the light feet of
Folly, lighted by the fires of youthful passion!
    They do not know, because they have not been
told, that the passions are a part of divine equip-
ment, to be controlled by the divine will and to be
conserved for the highest and holiest of purposes.
    All greatness, all strength, in whatever direction,
is associated with strong passions.
    The human being who boasts of being born with-
out these impulses places himself on a par with the
man born without arms.
    True greatness lies, not in being devoid of pas-
sions, but in being able to control them.  To control
them we must respect them.
    To the young man who has let the horse master
the driver, and who wants to get possession of the
reins, I would say assert your will power, call to the
God within, and occupy your mind and exercise
your body.  Seek a gymnasium or the golf field, or
the skating rink, the wood pile or the anvil when
your surplus vitality begins to overcome your good
    Dumbbells are better aids to morality sometimes
than sermons.  Fanny Kemble, the great actress,
used to say that a twenty-mile walk a day was her
recipe for conquering  the devil within her.  What
she meant was, using her surplus vitality.
    A devil is only an angel gone astray.  Evil is only
misdirected good.

Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.
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