You can read Part 1 here! We continued on in my little homeschool book club this month with Book II, Part I—Conscience, chapter 16 to Part II—The Will, chapter 2 of Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves. I had a harder time understanding this section, which is why I’m so thankful for the book club as they can give me insight where my feeble, sleep-deprived brain refuses to work properly!
Here are a few points that stood out to me….
It behoves each of us to lay ourselves out for instruction, to read, inquire, think, to look about us for a way of acting, believing
That Circumstance, a sacred oracle,
Speaks with the voice of God to faithful souls;
and it is usually in our way, and not by going out of our way, that we shall find the particular piece of brotherly work appointed for us to do. – vol 4 pg 105 (emphasis mine)
I think so often, especially for Christians, we have this idea that the people who need the most “help,” whether it’s financial or whatever the case may be, are far away and that we must help them in HUGE ways, like raising thousands of dollars for an entire village. We picture Sally Strothers holding the hand of a skin-and-bones African child with flies buzzing around their heads.
While I don’t want to imply that people “far away” don’t need help and that we should ignore anyone outside of this country entirely, I do want to point out that there are sometimes people who need our help living on the same street as us and “help” doesn’t necessarily have to be huge. One of the examples one of the women in the group made was offering to watch a neighbor’s kids or to take them out to coffee if you know they need a break or just seem to be struggling somehow. This was such a simple suggestion, but so profound in that, as a mother of small children, I can see how this would be such enormous help.
charitable efforts, which go against the grain of the persons benefited, miss that principle of love which alone gives us a right to do service to others. – vol 4 pg 105
And, again, I know I’m picking on my fellow Christians, but I also feel as though I see this one a lot. That habit of “helping” people by attempting to make them into something they’re not.
Our Lord has said once, for all time, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” – vol 4 pg 107
It is profanity to say of greed, sloth, sin, depravity of every kind, ‘Oh, it’s human nature’; for human nature is fitted for all godlike uses, and the Son of Man came to show us all that we may be when we do not reject the indwelling of our God. It is only as we realise the greatness of human nature that we understand what our Lord means when He says that one soul is worth more than the whole world. – vol 4 pg 107
By the way, let me again say, it is a grievous misrepresentation to put down what is low, lazy, and unworthy to human nature, and never to say of heroism, self denial, devotion, these are human nature too. For, indeed, what human nature is depends upon how we use it. This nature of ours is capable of base behaviour, as we know too well; but it is equally capable of magnanimity and generosity. – vol 4 pg 121
This, for me, is the heart of Charlotte Mason and why I’m choosing to use her methods and ideas to educate my kids. So often in the world of Christian parenting, there is such an emphasis on the sin nature of children and how we must, essentially, beat it out of them. The priority is on obedience above all else and corporal punishment (ie. spanking) is used for even the most minor of infractions which are often, lets face it, just a kid being a kid.
This thinking is so wrong (and dangerous) on so many levels, not to mention it’s a pretty horrible way for a child to grow up. We all have the capability to do bad and we all have the capability to do good in equal parts. No single child is more naturally inclined to evil than any other. Why not focus on and encourage the possibility for good rather than trying, at all costs, to eliminate bad behavior?
One more way of stultifying conscience we must watch against with jealous care, because this is an offence which has the appearance of righteousness: I mean the absorption of the mind by a single idea. Most wars and all persecutions, family quarrels, jealousies, envyings, resentment against friends, half the discords and unhappinesses of life, may be traced to this cause. The danger is, that good people may so fix their eyes upon one point of offence that they lose the sense of proportion. A spot the size of a penny piece hides the sun. – vol 4 pg 111
And another modern application. This is so true, especially with politics, that we get so caught up in voting over one issue or following party lines, that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Few things in life can be boiled down to just one topic or point or argument. There are so many viewpoints and sides to everything and I think it’s much wiser to listen and take it all in rather than just insulating ourselves with ideas and opinions that agree with our own, or trying to boil everything down to just one point.
A wise man has said that, were there no other evidence of the existence of God, the conscience of man is a final proof. – vol 4 pg 114
Straight out of Mere Christianity. 🙂
Let that story of the Father who ran to meet his returning prodigal, who received him with honour and feasting, who fell upon his neck,––image too tender for a man to have dared to conceive it, but which is given us with the authority of Christ, let this amazing picture of the dealings of our God be with us always to light up the dark places in our own lives. – vol 4 pg 120
Again, she emphasizes the grace and love of God, rather than His wrath as so many other Christian parenting “mentors” often do.
In the meantime, we Western nations have become enfeebled by a philosophy whose first principle is that we must never under any circumstances lose our life. The greatest happiness of the greatest number is our avowed general aim; comfort at all hazards is our individual desire; and ‘Every man for himself,’ is the secret, or open, rule of life followed by many of us. – vol 4 pg 136
And we continue to hang on to this philosophy and even continue to feed it over 100 years after she wrote these words. I think the fact that part of our nation is ready to elect a bombastic, selfish, dishonest, racist, and misogynistic man into the office of President – the chief representative of our nation to other nations and an example to our children – speaks volumes about where we are as a society.
More next month!