Pride, Letters, and Forgiveness

Pride, Letters, and Forgiveness

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:

  1. Anger and resentment (I’m angry that . . ., I hate it when . . ., I’m fed up with . . . , I resent . . .)
  2. Hurt (It hurt me when . . . , I feel hurt that . . ., I felt sad when . . ., I feel hurt that . . . , I fee disappointed about . . . )
  3. Fear (I was afraid that . . ., I get afraid of you when . . . , I feel scared when . . ., I’m afraid that I . . . )
  4. Remorse, regret, and accountability (I’m sorry that . . . , I’m sorry for . . . , Please forgive me for . . ., I didn’t mean to . . . )
  5. Wants (All I ever wanted . . ., I want . . . , I want you to . . ., I deserve . . . )
  6. 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?

18 Responses to Pride, Letters, and Forgiveness

  1. REBECCA, thank you for this thought provoking post! It’s so hard to forgive those closest to me and myself. I have to forgive as an act of my will. Hopefully someday my feelings will come into proper alignment.

  2. I find that the hardest person to forgive is myself. Usually it is not a major sin but a comment which came out the wrong way, or an opinion which was out of place. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Thought provoking blog.

    • I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. I’ve had to work on forgiving myself too. We’re all so imperfect, and when we’re extra sensitive, like so many of us Austen fans are, we tend to overthink everything. Forgiving ourselves is very important.

  3. What a lovely post and a lovely idea. I’ll have to adopt it sometime, this move has been pretty hard on me! I immediately thought of Henry Tilney forgiving Catherine Morland several times. First when he thought she stood them up and then later when she thought his father was a murderer.

    • Thanks for that example Rose. You’re the NA expert, I’ve noticed. The more I read that book and understand it, the more I love it. Henry Tilney is the best. My heart goes out to you with the whole moving thing. I hope you can adjust. The letter has helped me so much.

  4. Fantastic post. I can relate to your story with your husband as I have experienced a similar situation where I ended up writing a letter to my husband expressing my feelings about a fight we had. Many years later I discovered that he saved the letter I had written him which meant a lot to me. Great advice and I love the examples you use from Jane Austen.

  5. Very nice post. I have to agree with J W about men not thinking the same as women. I have a very happy marriage. We’ve only been married for six years but we’ve been together for thirty this year. He once made a comment to me once that kept me awake for weeks on end until I challenged him with it. He didn’t even realise what he had said or why it had hurt me. They definitely speak first and think later.

  6. That was a very thought-provoking post, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing it with us. I think my husband and myself must have been blessed as we rarely argue or say hurtful things. If we do, it’s sorted out that same day as right from the start of our marriage, we agreed never to let any disagreement or other problem go overnight. It seems to have worked, as we celebrate our 40th (ruby) anniversary later this year.

    When you really stop and think about it, there has to be an awful lot of forgiveness going on in Jane Austen’s works, with or without letters. Apart from the ones you’ve mentioned, these are the ones that come to me off the top of my head:

    Sense and Sensibilty: Elinor forgiving Edward for his secret engagement to Lucy Steele.
    Pride and Prejudice: Darcy forgiving Lady Catherine for her behaviour towards Elizabeth.
    Emma: Robert Martin forgiving both Emma and Harriet Smith for the first refusal of his proposal. Jane Fairfax forgiving Frank Churchill for his appalling behaviour towards her (I know it was to disguise their secret relationship, but need he have been quite so horrible?)
    Mansfield Park: Fanny forgiving Edward for being besotted with Mary Crawford.
    Northanger Abbey: Catherine forgiving General Tilney for throwing her out when he discovered she wasn’t an heiress
    Persuasion: Captain Wentworth eventually forgiving Lady Russell for her interference “in the year six”.

    Now, did anyone or coild anyone ever forgive Lady Susan Vernon for anything?

    • That is a great list Anji! On every line, I thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Robert Martin and Jane Fairfax certainly deserve some sort of award in Emma–poor things!

  7. Hi Rebecca – Your post is serious, and insightful, and likely good advice for most everyone. I’m still laughing, though, about one of your opening lines, “Even Marianne had to forgive Col. Brandon for being so old.” I think, when all was said and done, he may have had to forgive her as well, for being so very young. Young enough to almost die over a man who, I’m sure from the colonel’s perspective, in no way warranted her affection. Thank you for the kind and thoughtful message – Summer

  8. I loved this post. Marianne comes to mind when she and Elinor were walking where she first met Willoughby and related how she now understood him. If he had chosen her, he would have a wife he loved, but no money. Elinor questioned if she was justifying his behavior. I think, at this point, she had forgiven him his choice of money over love.

    Personal note: husbands simply do not understand the power of their words. I too had a comment that plagued me for years. It was finally resolved; however, my confidence took a hit that took me forever to overcome. Bless his heart, I don’t think he realizes to this day what he did. Men think differently than women and, as it turns out, in most cases it is about them.

    • Thank you, J.W.. I think you’re right about Marianne. She did seem to forgive Willoughby. She’s an interesting case because, I could be wrong, but she never seemed angry at him. She just had an extremely tender heart and loved him so much.

      Thanks for your personal story. I’m glad you can relate to mine.

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