Jane Austen emphasized the theme of forgiveness in almost every book she wrote. Think of how Elizabeth forgave Darcy, Captain Wentworth forgave Anne, and nearly everyone forgave Emma. Even Marianne had to forgive Col. Brandon for being so old.
For me, Easter and Springtime are great times to contemplate forgiveness. Forgiving can bring added peace to our own individual lives and an increase in harmony to our relationships. You’ve probably heard the old saying that holding onto a grudge is like trying to poison someone else by drinking the poison yourself. I’m no expert in healing from abuse or violent crimes, but I can say that, in many cases, it helps so much to just let go and move on with your life.
Today, I want to share a little personal experience in the hope that it might benefit someone. Over a year ago, my husband said something to me that hurt a lot. He said it in passing, somewhat like Mr. Darcy at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice. He had no idea that it would wound me, and he didn’t understand why it did. The fact that he didn’t understand made it hurt all the more. Those of you who’ve been in a long-term relationship can probably relate. I thought of his statement over and over again. Looking back now, it seems silly, but at the time, the pain was real.
Then one day, I was reading The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, in which Jack suggests writing forgiveness letters to those who’ve hurt you. He suggests that you write a letter to each person you need to forgive, spending equal portions of the letter on each stage of forgiveness:
- Anger and resentment (I’m angry that . . ., I hate it when . . ., I’m fed up with . . . , I resent . . .)
- Hurt (It hurt me when . . . , I feel hurt that . . ., I felt sad when . . ., I feel hurt that . . . , I fee disappointed about . . . )
- Fear (I was afraid that . . ., I get afraid of you when . . . , I feel scared when . . ., I’m afraid that I . . . )
- Remorse, regret, and accountability (I’m sorry that . . . , I’m sorry for . . . , Please forgive me for . . ., I didn’t mean to . . . )
- Wants (All I ever wanted . . ., I want . . . , I want you to . . ., I deserve . . . )
- Love, compassion, forgiveness, and appreciation (I understand that . . ., I forgive you for . . . , I appreciate . . . , Thank you for . . . , I love you for . . .)
Jack writes that you may not want to give the person your letter. You may simply choose to throw the letter away when you’re done.
I wrote my letter and then gave the letter to my husband. It was a great experience for both of us. Once he read it, he finally understood where I was coming from. Plus, I truly felt that I forgave him, and I’ve been able to move past my resentment.
As I thought about it, my letter actually had some things in common with letters that Austen’s heroes wrote. Think of how Capt. Wentworth expressed both his pain and his forgiveness in this line to Anne:
I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.
. Also, consider how Elizabeth came to forgive Mr. Darcy. Recall the famous quote by Elizabeth at the beginning of the book:
I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine.
What finally helped Elizabeth to forgive was Mr. Darcy’s letter. Once he opened up to her about his true motives, he opened up the way for her to forgive him.
Another letter that deals with the concept of forgiveness is the one from Frank Churchill to Mrs. Weston at the end of Emma.Emma truly forgave him after understanding his perspective on the whole mess. Mr. Knightley, as well as many readers, had a much more difficult time, but perhaps, there’s wisdom in being a little more like Emma.
Can you think of any other examples of forgiveness in Austen’s novels?