Chapter 12 ~ Frankness
What a fine word this is! Frankness! How we like to hear it from others, and how we like to use it ourselves. It must be because the word stands for so much that is good and noble. To be frank is to be straightforward, sincere, honest in manner and speech, free from cunning and falseness, etc. Frankness is indeed a beautiful trait. Frankness is like to a light that give a halo and transfigures those that practice it into most charming persons. You should, therefore, endeavor to be frank! First let us ask in what frankness consists? It may be defined as a disposition which induces us not to seek to deceive others, and this disposition may proceed either from our mind or from our heart.
It should be well remembered that frankness does not exclude discretion and prudence; it does not require us to wear our heart upon our sleeve, as the saying is, to proclaim bluntly all our thoughts and all our feelings, as one would display merchandise in the front of a store. Not at all, it is often very advisable and very proper to keep to one’s self that which we think. It is not always good to tell everything we know. You will therefore avoid to be of those talkative children who blabber everything that happens to come to their minds, blurting it out no matter where and when. Great trouble is frequently caused by unthinking people and children who speak of everything they know or happen or hear, who wound the sensibilities of persons, bring about quarrels and discord between good friends, etc.
There are things, therefore, that it will not be prudent to speak of, and you must not suppose that you must tell everything you think of, this would be a serious fault.
Thus we should be silent, for instance, about everything that is calculated to draw attention to ourselves, at least unless there is good reason to talk about such things. There is nothing so tiresome as a child who continually tires to keep people busy about his little self. Neither must we divulge the secrets of one’s conscience, nor talk of the advice our confessors gave us, of the sins we accused ourselves of, of the penance imposed on us, of the resolutions we have made, etc. All these things, as Holy Scripture tells us, are the King’s secrets; that is to say they are God’s and should be treated with respect and secrecy.
After thus defining some subjects that must be guarded by silence, let us now turn to those about which we should be frank. It is really impossible to keep everything to ourselves, we can not live together without communicating to one another many of our thoughts and feelings. And speech is given us to lend expression to our thoughts or to the varied emotions of our soul. Now and again you write to your relations, to your friends; this is another way of expressing that which is hidden within us. And even if you neither write nor speak, your thoughts will be manifest by your actions, and by your conduct. There is not a move of your features, nor a glance of your eye, which does not reveal something of your thoughts. Well, then, this is the domain of frankness, it is here that frankness must rule supreme, and the different ways of expressing our thoughts should only be employed in the service of truth and never to deceive about your real thoughts and sentiments.
Frankness in word and letter; never write or speak a word contrary to truth. Falsehood is abominable, says Holy Scripture. Frankness in conduct and actions; to act in a way so as to make people attribute to us intentions which we do not possess is hypocrisy, another abominable thing. Frankness in countenance, in our manner; to avoid honesty in expression of the face, to affect a smile when it is not meant, is dissimulation, which is as repulsive as it is deceitful. Lying, hypocrisy, dissimulation are the three chief enemies of frankness, use your best endeavors in combating these enemies. And why is this so important? Because, in the first place, dear children, it is a question of moral beauty.
Do you wish to be ugly and repulsive to everyone, God and men? The habits of lying, of dissimulation, of hypocrisy, are all the work of darkness and it is only the light of truth and sincerity that is lovely and a source of beauty. Behold the animals that fly from the light and roam by night: the mole, the owl, the bat, how ugly they are! They inspire us with a feeling of disgust, and so do the people that shun the light of truth. The mark of darkness is stamped upon their faces, and is seen in their eyes; they are objects of suspicion and of distrust.
Then again it is a question of the well being of the soul. If there is evil in us, a habitual fault, a tendency to sin, the soul is not healthy. Remedies must be administered by those to whom God has given charge of us, parents, teachers, confessors. These consist of exhortation, warning, even punishment if required by the circumstances. Such corrective measures are not agreeable and, in order to escape them, children sometimes lie. But, alas, while falsehood may in such instances protect against the incurred punishment, it will, on the other hand, deliver them to the evil habits which their guardians seek to correct. Having found a way to avoid immediate punishment for their evil actions, namely by lying, resistance against temptations weakens, the evil actions grow into strong, bad habits, and in addition the vice of lying is acquired.
It is for this reason that lying and dissimulation child so easily grow accustomed to vice. Their hypocrisy envelopes them in an atmosphere of sin, and as they find a way of doing wrong without hindrance or punishment they become more and more hardened in sin and sinful habits.
On the other hand, the child who is frank may sometimes forget himself, but as he is upright, and as he loves the truth, he admits his fault, confesses it, receives the counsel and the help of which he stands in need, and he rises up again from his unfortunate fall into sin.
You must, therefore, endeavor to be frank, dear children, and be frank with all people, for they all have the right to expect that you will not deceive them. To deceive any one is a gross insult, an injustice, often causing harm, and God forbids your doing such things. You will be frank especially with your parents; having received from God the charge of bringing you up, of advising and correcting you, they have consequently the greatest right to know your conduct, your faults, your tastes, your inclinations. It is their duty to seek the right means to bring you up in virtue, and it is for you to make this possible for them by placing confidence in them and by being truthful about all your thoughts and actions. It is understood, of course, that you must be sincere and frank toward you confessor in the acknowledgment of faults committed; here lying would be a crime, because in Confession we are speaking to God Himself, who is represented by the priest. You have been told of the dreadful consequences of falsehood in Confession and how foolish it would be to lie to the priest who is there to pardon and not to condemn. He is a good friend who seeks to cleanse your soul of the dross of sin, and in order to do this, he must thoroughly know the condition of your soul.
I trust that you see now the importance of frankness in speech and action. God loves truth, and the devil is the father of lies and liars.