Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lessons from Pride & Prejudice

A few weeks ago I downloaded a free audiobook of Pride & Prejudice. Listening to the audiobook helped so much in understanding the characters' inner thoughts and the ways their thinking was transformed as the book progressed... so many things you can't quite capture in a film (though the A&E miniseries does a pretty good job!). Here are some quotes that stuck out to me and some thoughts that arose in me about each one:
With this answer Elizabeth was forced to be content; but her own opinion continued the same, and she left him disappointed and sorry. It was not in her nature, however, to increase her vexations by dwelling on them. She was confident of having performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils, or augment them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.
Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes, and still thought there might have been time enough. But it was her business to be satisfied – and certainly her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.
Both of these quotes above remind me that there's something in Elizabeth's character that I can learn from her: "it was her business to be satisfied." Contentment – not fretting over what has been or what could have been – is so important! Oh, that I could say "to fret over unavoidable evils" is no part of my disposition! Lord, help me grow in contentment.

Also in the first quote above, I see Elizabeth being "confident of having performed her duty," at which point she moves on without worrying. I can learn from this... how often we do what we know to be right or believe God would have us do, and then we second-guess ourselves. Let's just live in obedience and trust God with the results!
She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd. (...) "How despicably I have acted!" she cried; "I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable mistrust! How humiliating is this discovery! Yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself."
And here it is! The moment when Elizabeth realizes how very wrong she was, how hasty in making assumptions about people's character! Oh, that we would not be so hasty; that we would treat others with grace. And, Lord, help us to grieve as passionately as this over our sin. Thank You for dying for all of these petty idols we grab hold of!
But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within her of good will which could not be overlooked. It was gratitude. – Gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection. He who, she had been persuaded, would avoid her as his greatest enemy, seemed, on this accidental meeting, most eager to preserve the acquaintance, (...) Such a change in a man of so much pride excited not only astonishment but gratitude – for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such, its impression on her was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined. She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him; she felt a real interest in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that welfare to depend upon herself, and how far it would be for the happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her fancy told her she still possessed, of bringing on the renewal of his addresses.
This one I just love. Look how Elizabeth's feelings toward Darcy have changed! Maybe this was so sweet to me because it reminds me of how I often feel toward my husband, and toward my God for that matter: simply grateful that he still loves me enough to forgive all my wrongs against him. Grace really is amazing.
"Angry people are not always wise."
This one was a good challenge and reminder to me. In context, this is when Miss Bingley keeps putting down Elizabeth to Mr. Darcy, as if that would heighten his affections for herself. This would be a good thing to tell myself when I'm acting out of anger or other strong emotions. Just because you feel something strongly doesn't mean you are acting wisely!
He had, to be sure, done much. She was ashamed to think how much. (...)  They owed the restoration of Lydia, her character, everything, to him. Oh! how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed towards him. For herself she was humbled; but she was proud of him. Proud that in a cause of compassion and honour, he had been able to get the better of himself. 
Again, just loving the transformation in Elizabeth's thinking toward Darcy.
"I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!" cried Jane. "Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another man for you!" 
"If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. No, no, let me shift for myself; and, perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet with another Mr. Collins in time."
"Till I have your goodness, I can never have your happiness." Here is a good reminder that, the more we trust in God, forgiving instead of holding grudges and seeking vengeance, thinking well of people and giving the benefit of the doubt.... the happier we will be ourselves. Plus the end of this quote is just funny!
"I cannot give you credit for any philosophy of the kind. Your retrospections must be so totally void of reproach, that the contentment arising from them is not of philosophy, but, what is much better, of innocence. But with me, it is not so. Painful recollections will intrude which cannot, which ought not, to be repelled. I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.''
Here we get to hear some of what Mr. Darcy has been processing all along! I love how both Darcy and Elizabeth realize their sin, are repentant (or at least remorseful, since we see not much of an indication in this book of anyone's being Christian or otherwise), and, (finally) humbly give grace to each other. It is a reminder to me of the goodness in repentance and forgiveness in relationships. It also shows us that things will go a lot better if we don't let sin get a foothold in the first place!

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