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Conversation On Conversation
by [?]

“Certainly; some things,” said Miss B.

“Well, now, in the case mentioned by Helen, when two or three people with whom you are in different degrees of intimacy call upon you, I think she is perfectly right, as she said, in talking of roses, and Canary birds, and even of bonnet patterns, and lace, or any thing of the kind, for the sake of making conversation. It amounts to the same thing as ‘good morning,’ and ‘good evening,’ and the other courtesies of society. This sort of small talk has nothing instructive in it, and yet it may be useful in its place. It makes people comfortable and easy, promotes kind and social feelings; and making people comfortable by any innocent means is certainly not a thing to be despised.”

“But is there not great danger of becoming light and trifling if one allows this?” said Miss B., doubtfully.

“To be sure; there is always danger of running every innocent thing to excess. One might eat to excess, or drink to excess; yet eating and drinking are both useful in their way. Now, our lively young friend Helen, here, might perhaps be in some temptation of this sort; but as for you, Anna, I think you in more danger of another extreme.”

“And what is that?”

“Of overstraining your mind by endeavoring to keep up a constant, fixed state of seriousness and solemnity, and not allowing yourself the relaxation necessary to preserve its healthy tone. In order to be healthy, every mind must have variety and amusement; and if you would sit down at least one hour a day, and join your friends in some amusing conversation, and indulge in a good laugh, I think, my dear, that you would not only be a happier person, but a better Christian.”

“My dear uncle,” said Miss B., “this is the very thing that I have been most on my guard against; I can never tell stories, or laugh and joke, without feeling condemned for it afterwards.”

“But, my dear, you must do the thing in the testimony of a good conscience before you can do it to any purpose. You must make up your mind that cheerful and entertaining conversation–conversation whose first object is to amuse–is useful conversation in its place, and then your conscience will not be injured by joining in it.”

“But what good does it do, uncle?”

“Do you not often complain of coldness and deadness in your religious feelings? of lifelessness and want of interest?”

“Yes, uncle.”

“Well, this coldness and lifelessness is the result of forcing your mind to one set of thoughts and feelings. You become worn out–your feelings exhausted–deadness and depression ensues. Now, turn your mind off from these subjects–divert it by a cheerful and animated conversation, and you will find, after a while, that it will return to them with new life and energy.”

“But are not foolish talking and jesting expressly forbidden?”

“That text, if you will look at the connections, does not forbid jesting in the abstract; but jesting on immodest subjects–which are often designated in the New Testament by the phraseology there employed. I should give the sense of it–neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor indelicate jests. The kind of sprightly and amusing conversation to which I referred, I should not denominate foolish, by any means, at proper times and places.”

“Yet people often speak of gayety as inconsistent in Christians–even worldly people,” said Miss B.

“Yes, because, in the first place, they often have wrong ideas as to what Christianity requires in this respect, and suppose Christians to be violating their own principles in indulging in it. In the second place, there are some, especially among young people, who never talk in any other way–with whom this kind of conversation is not an amusement, but a habit–giving the impression that they never think seriously at all. But I think, that if persons are really possessed by the tender, affectionate, benevolent spirit of Christianity–if they regulate their temper and their tongue by it, and in all their actions show an evident effort to conform to its precepts, they will not do harm by occasionally indulging in sprightly and amusing conversation–they will not make the impression that they are not sincerely Christians.”