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Before you get married. Leo Tolstoy’s letter to his son

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My dear friend Ilya, your letter to Tanya has already arrived. I see that you are moving closer to your goal. I want to write to you – as I have no slightest doubt you will tell her about my opinion. I think it is a great opportunity that I look at with both fear and joy. That’s what I think: if a man marries for pleasure only, no good will ever come out of it. Making marriage one’s major goal disregarding all the other things – in this case, marriage as a union with your loved one is a great mistake. This is obvious if you think about it. If the goal is marriage, then go ahead, get married, but then what? If you had no other purpose in life before your marriage, later, together, you will find it even more difficult to find one.

People usually get married and forget about it.

So many wonderful moments await them: married life, the birth of children… These events sort of constitute life itself, but unfortunately, it is a dangerous illusion.

People usually get married and forget about it.

So many wonderful moments await them: family life, the birth of children… These events sort of constitute life itself, but unfortunately it is a dangerous illusion.

Parents who spend their days only in raising their children and have no other purpose in life, try to put off the understanding of the essence of life, and the punishment they eventually end up with is they don’t know what they have lived for. They will only put this question off but not escape it, as they will have to raise their children, teach them and lead them, although they have nothing to guide them by, in other words, they can’t teach them anything valuable. And then parents lose their human qualities and happiness depending on them, thus turning into breeding cattle.

So, that’s why I think that people who are getting married (because they believe they are ready for this), must make themselves be better aware of their thoughts.

In order to make it clear, you need to take into account the circumstances and conditions that you had to or still have to live in. Determine what you consider important or unimportant in life. Learn what you believe in, what you regard as eternal and immutable truth and what you are guided by in life. And not only find out or make it clear, but also practice it in your life. Learn how it works in real life, for unless you do what you believe in, you cannot say whether you believe it or not.

I know your faith, and this faith, or all those aspects of it manifested in your deeds, must, as never before, be put into practice.

Your faith is that your welfare depends on those you love and are loved by. I have three strategies that I constantly use to achieve this. Practicing them is never enough, but still you need it more than ever.

First, in order to be able to love people and in return deserve their love, you need to get accustomed to expecting as little as possible from them, although this can be quite a challenge!  For if I expect too much from them, then I tend to often get frustrated and eventually start reproaching them instead of loving them.

Second, in order to love people not only in words but also in deeds, you must do something that can benefit them. That too requires hard work from you, especially at your age when it is so natural for people to learn that.

Third, in order to love and to be loved, you must learn compassion, obedience, as well as deal with difficult people and situations – in other words, you must learn the art of behaving to them so as not to upset or offend them. This is the hardest work you should not stop doing from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed. At the same time, this is the most pleasant work, for you will rejoice at your success day after day and will eventually receive another reward that you will not notice at first, but that will gradually become more and more enjoyable and this is – being loved by others.

So, my dear friend Ilya, I advise both of you to live and to think as sincerely as you can, since this is the only way to know whether you are moving in the same direction and whether it is wise to hold each other’s hands. And if you are sincere enough, then you are ready enough for the future too.

Your purpose in life should not be the joy of marriage, but an attempt to bring more love and truth into the world. The purpose of marriage is to help each other accomplish that goal.

The greatest crime and selfishness is when people are together only to enjoy life. And the noblest vocation of all is when you live to serve the Lord by doing good deeds in this world.

Do not confuse trivia with real things. Why not choose a higher goal? If you choose it you ought to follow it with all your heart. Do not choose small goals, they will lead you nowhere.

I’m afraid I got tired of writing, though I still have a lot to say.

Love you

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