From my contacts with some fourteen hundred wayward girls, in helping them through the dark hours of their experience when they became mothers of babes who had no legal fathers, I have gleaned some valuable lessons in soul winning. These I have been asked to share with our workers who occasionally meet problems of this character. I wish to mention first the matter of putting confidence in the girls you are seeking to save. Following that, in helping them to establish Christian characters, I would emphasize the importance of building on truth. These two points have been especially impressed upon me through the letters that have come, asking for advice.
Confidence in the Erring
Often the remark is made by those who visit the West Suburban Home for Girls at Hinsdale, Illinois, "Why, Mrs. Clough, you can't trust these girls, can you?"—conveying the idea that because they have stepped over the line morally they are wholly bad, that there is no good thing in them. This is a serious misconception. Some of our girls are truthful, they are good workers, they are educated, they are accomplished, they are all that other girls are. There are, of course, those who are the opposite of all this; yet we can always find some good in each one upon which to build. Confidence begets confidence, while distrust drives the soul away. Show your confidence in each, at least until that confidence has been destroyed. Many of our girls have been won back because we placed confidence in them.
This statement in "Ministry of Healing" often comes to my mind:
"When one at fault becomes conscious of his error, be careful not to destroy his self-respect. Do not discourage him by indifference or distrust. Do not say, 'Before giving him my confidence, I will wait to see whether he will hold out.' Often this very distrust causes the tempted one to stumble."—Pages 167, 168.
One girl, before she came to us, had been made to feel that she was thoroughly bad. Remarks made by the members of her own family had led her to believe that she was hopeless and useless. What a change came over the girl while she was with us! She went to work with a will because we made her feel that she was needed. We praised her work and showed our confidence in her, and she made good.
"Christ honored man with His confidence, and thus placed him on his honor.... It was a continual pain to Christ to be brought into contact with enmity, depravity, and impurity; but never did He utter one expression to show that His sensibilities were shocked or His refined tastes offended."—/d., p. 165.
"The Saviour's example is to be the standard of our service for the tempted and the erring. The same interest and tenderness and long-suffering that He has manifested toward us, we are to manifest toward others.... As we see men and women in need of sympathy and help, we shall not ask, 'Are they worthy?' but, 'How can I benefit them?' "—Id., p. 162.
"It is always humiliating to have one's errors pointed out. None should make the experience more bitter by needless censure. No one was ever reclaimed by reproach; but many have thus been repelled, and have been led to steel their hearts against conviction."—Id., p. 166.
Lesson From Paul's Methods
The apostle Paul, in his labors for the Corinthian church, taught us the importance of placing confidence in those who had sinned. After his departure from Corinth many fell away from the truth. Strife, immorality, and the grossest of sins were practiced right in the church. Many of the church members had fallen back to the level of the heathen idol worshipers about them. They made an attempt to deceive Paul by leading him to believe that they were all right; yet through a God-fearing family in the church he was made acquainted with their evil practices.
There were some things that were ignored entirely in Paul's letter to the church at Corinth. Sister White tells us, in "The Acts of the Apostles," page 303, that his reason for ignoring those things was the fear of turning some trembling soul away from the truth.
To deal with souls is the most delicate work the Lord ever gave to man. Only by sanctified wisdom and God-given judgment can that work be accomplished. Never should there be a spirit of aloofness or a "holier than thou" attitude.
"It is a delicate matter to deal with minds. . . . You may stand up stiffly, feeling, 'I am holier than thou.' and it matters not how correct your reasoning or how true your words; they will never touch hearts."—"Ministry of Healing," pp. 163, 164.
Note the confidence Paul expressed again and again in his letter to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 2:3 he says, "I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all." Again he says, "I rejoice, therefore that I have confidence in you in all things." 2 Cor. 7:16.
Truthfulness Under All Circumstances
I recall one girl who came to us posing as a married woman. Occasionally we have a girl who does that. I knew from the first that she had no right to the title of "Mrs.," but I kept still until I could win her confidence and she would tell me herself.
The time came the day after her little boy was born. She sent for me and told me of the terrible anguish she had suffered during the months she had been with us, because she was living a lie. She was more conscientious than some other girls. She had been reared in the family of a Christian educator and author. Her father had taught her the principles of truth and honesty. This was the first time in her life that she had lived a falsehood, and her heart was breaking. She had broken the seventh commandment, but had sought and found forgiveness for that. Now she was suffering for transgressing the ninth commandment. By confessing and forsaking this sin also she once more felt the approval of Heaven.
I cite this experience to show the importance of urging the living of the truth. The question often comes up, Would it be right for a girl who has a baby without a name to call herself "Mrs." as she meets people? My personal opinion is that the girls get along better in the end if they tell the truth as they go. They do not need to tell all the facts, nor to keep telling them to strangers or casual acquaintances; but they can give an answer in such a way as to make it embarrassing for the interrogator to continue.
When a girl confesses her sin, she should also forsake it. To be continually telling it is not forsaking it, yet there are some girls who need admonition along this line.
I think if a girl lives close to the Lord, her life will be such that there will be no question about the past. The Lord knows how to keep His hand over that whole experience, and He will not let it come up to be an insurmountable embarrassment to the girl, even though she may have her child with her. I often advise the girls to avoid using either of the titles "Miss" or "Mrs." When questioned concerning the name they can say, "It is plain Mary Jones." That should silence all but the most inquisitive. It always pays to tell the truth. My advice to a girl who has made a mistake in life, is to tell nothing about the past, but if pressed to say something, to tell the truth.