After watching the adaptions over and over of one of my favorite books, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, I caught a very important detail that I feel is not natural in this time. Very briefly and in case you don’t know, Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine, is the second out of five sisters, daughter of a gentleman who does not have a lot of money and once he passes away, his property will be given to a male heir. She is witty, vocal, and determined to marry for love, so not very typical for her time (early 1800s). She interacts with people of varied backgrounds, providing her the opportunity to move in different societies and have different experiences.
It became obvious to me that this young lady was always polite. There were moments where she was angry or upset, but she always kept her composure. In the presence of people that she didn’t stand or believed had wronged her or someone she cared for, generally, she still kept decent manners.
Sadly, this astounded me. Today we are taught that only those who deserve it should be treated kindly. We believe that standing up for ourselves is putting someone in their place. If you don’t say something then you are a coward. If you don’t do something that person will be trampling on you forever. What kind of attitude is this? How does it promote community, compassion, room for error, or forgiveness? How does it help one be better when the goal is to fight violently at all times?
The lesson from Eliza is not to not speak your mind or not point out wrong. It is to maintain yourself above all. Our emotions should not be led by our surroundings. We will be affected by what is happening and we will laugh or hurt. However, the outside should not be the dictator of how we behave. This not only for the benefit of family, friends, and society as well, but mostly for our own.
Maintaining composure allows multiple benefits. You are granted time to think before acting, which should help you make better choices. Your actions have a higher probability on being based on logic and not feelings, which are fleeting. The disagreement in place will stay more relevant than wander to any other issues. You can help others that are really struggling, calm down and gain perspective. You can serve your surroundings in a richer way than when your arms are flailing about without a north.
Being rude, even to those who are, isn’t as enriching. We are seen as detached, inconsiderate, and curt. We give the impression of not caring for those around us, and become a repellent for closeness. We get excluded from true relationships because the big mask we wear to cover our sensibility can be too much of an obstruction. And honestly, what is the purpose of being rude? To keep someone at a distance or teach someone a lesson? I’ve learned that if there is a distance, let it be until you or the other person are ready to reconciliate. From past experiences, I’ve understood that “whipping someone in shape” is not the best way to get the message through. It is done more for our own ego than for the wellbeing of others. We might not be strong enough because of pain, to care for the others’ wellbeing, however, our ego doesn’t need to be fed that sort of garbage either.
Unfortunately there will be moments when our emotions are too strong and they win us over. We are human and this is part of life. Yet, if most of the time we aim to keep cool and collected by putting things into perspective, and those around us try the same also, for the most part we should be covered from making rash decisions that can hurt us and others.
So when I feel passionate about a response or an event, I stop and breathe to give myself some time. I remind myself that I gain more by letting it slip or going at it from a different angle, still with a polite and respectful tone. I try to remember that manners and kindness, even to myself, are more than a strong tongue.