A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

When we want to see good in everyone — a lesson from Pride and Prejudice

Some people assume the best to a fault. Sometimes they even do this to the detriment of others. Some of us may have been like that, or maybe still are. It’s a trap for young players on this earth, especially young females and Christians who are taught it is wrong to think anything slighting about anyone.

For anyone who hasn’t read Pride and Prejudice —  the character George Wickham is an unscrupulous, lying, conniving, crafty, cad who charmed the genteel community of Lizzy Bennet and her sister Jane. Jane is a tender-hearted young lady who always wants to see good in everyone.

Lizzy had initially been charmed, and even romantically interested, in George Wickham. Wickham had ‘confided’ (actually lied) to Lizzy by accusing their mutual acquaintance, Mr Darcy, of having failed to remit to Wickham the valuable gift which Darcy’s father had bequeathed to Wickham some years previously.

But Lizzie’s eyes were eventually opened to Wickham’s black heart by means of a letter she received from Mr Darcy who gave her a full and convincing account of the real history between himself and Wickham. Darcy’s account cleared his own name and showed Wickham to be a scoundrel. Here is Lizzie talking confidentially to Jane about the letter Darcy sent her.

‘The lifting of the fog’

She [Lizzy] then spoke of the letter, repeating the whole of its contents as far as they concerned George Wickham. What a stroke was this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world without believing that so much wickedness existed in the whole race of mankind, as was here collected in one individual. Nor was Darcy’s vindication, though grateful to her feelings, capable of consoling her for such discovery. Most earnestly did she labour to prove the probability of error, and seek to clear one without involving the other.

“This will not do,” said Elizabeth. “You never will be able to make both of them good for any thing. Take your choice, but you must be satisfied with only one. There is but such a quantity of merit between them; just enough to make one good sort of man; and of late it has been shifting about pretty much. For my part, I am inclined to believe it all Mr. Darcy’s, but you shall do as you chuse.’’

“I do not know when I have been more shocked,” said she. “Wickham so very bad! It is almost past belief. And poor Mr. Darcy! dear Lizzy, only consider what he must have suffered. Such a disappointment! and with the knowledge of your ill opinion too! and having to relate such a thing of his sister! It is really too distressing. I am sure you must feel it so.”

“Oh! no, my regret and compassion are all done away by seeing you so full of both. I know you will do him such ample justice, that I am growing every moment more unconcerned and indifferent. Your profusion makes me saving; and if you lament over him much longer, my heart will be as light as a feather.”

“Poor Wickham [said Jane]; there is such an expression of goodness in his countenance! such an openness and gentleness in his manner.”

“There certainly was some great mismanagement in the education of those two young men. One has got all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.”

“I never thought Mr. Darcy so deficient in the appearance of it as you used to do.”

“And yet I meant to be uncommonly clever in taking so decided a dislike to him, without any reason. It is such a spur to one’s genius, such an opening for wit to have a dislike of that kind. One may be continually abusive without saying any thing just; but one cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.”

“Lizzy when you first read that letter, I am sure you could not treat the matter as you do now.”

“Indeed I could not. I was uncomfortable enough. I was very uncomfortable, I may say unhappy. And with no one to speak to of what I felt, no Jane to comfort me and say that I had not been so very weak and vain and nonsensical as I knew I had! Oh! how I wanted you!”

“How unfortunate that you should have used such very strong expressions in speaking of Wickham to Mr. Darcy, for now they do appear wholly undeserved.”

“Certainly. But the misfortune of speaking with bitterness is a most natural consequence of the prejudices I had been encouraging. There is one point on which I want your advice. I want to be told whether I ought, or ought not, to make our acquaintance in general understand Wickham’s character.”

Miss Bennet [Jane] paused a little and then replied, “Surely there can be no occasion for exposing him so dreadfully. What is your own opinion?”

How very typical that after realizing Wickham’s real character, Jane is then perplexed about whether the community should be informed that he is actually a licentious and covetous       manipulator.

 

~~~

Here is where Lizzy reflects to herself about her initial perceptions of Wickham and Darcy. This comes much later in the book, when Lizzie is analyzing and humbly learning from her mistakes. She realizes how little basis she had for believing Wickham to be a man of truth when they first conversed and he ‘confided’ in her. And how quickly all her thinking and perceptions were skewed by Wickham’s crafty words and smooth presentation. She shamefully realizes how naive she’d been, and how she had presumed too much too quickly.

She had never heard of him [Wickham] before his entrance into the —-shire Militia, in which he had engaged at the persuasion of the young man, who, on meeting him accidentally in town, had there renewed a slight acquaintance. Of his former way of life, nothing had been known in Hertfordshire but what he told himself. As to his real character, had information been in her power, she had never felt a wish of enquiring. His countenance, voice, and manner had established him at once in the possession of every virtue. She tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy; or at least, by the predominance of virtue, atone for those casual errors, under which she would endeavour to class what Mr. Darcy had described as the idleness and vice of many years continuance. But no such recollection befriended her. She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of air and address; but she could remember no more substantial good than the general approbation of the neighbourhood, and the regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess. After pausing on this point a considerable while, she once more continued to read. But, alas! the story which followed, of his designs on Miss Darcy, received some confirmation from what had passed between Colonel Fitzwilliam and herself only the morning before; and at last she was referred for the truth of every particular to Colonel Fitzwilliam himself — from whom she had previously received the information of his near concern in all his cousin’s affairs, and whose character she had no reason to question. At one time she had almost resolved on applying to him, but the idea was checked by the awkwardness of the application, and at length wholly banished by the conviction that Mr. Darcy would never have hazarded such a proposal if he had not been well assured of his cousin’s corroboration.

She perfectly remembered every thing that had passed in conversation between Wickham and herself in their first evening at Mr. Philips’s. Many of his expressions were still fresh in her memory. She was now struck with the impropriety of such communications to a stranger, and wondered it had escaped her before. She saw the indelicacy of putting himself forward as he had done, and the inconsistency of his professions with his conduct. She remembered that he had boasted of having no fear of seeing Mr. Darcy — that Mr. Darcy might leave the country, but that he should stand his ground; yet he had avoided the Netherfield ball the very next week. She remembered also, that till the Netherfield family had quitted the country, he had told his story to no one but herself; but that after their removal, it had been every where discussed; that he had then no reserves, no scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy’s character, though he had assured her that respect for the father would always prevent his exposing the son.

How differently did every thing now appear in which he was concerned! His attentions to Miss King were now the consequence of views solely and hatefully mercenary; and the mediocrity of her fortune proved no longer the moderation of his wishes, but his eagerness to grasp at any thing. His behaviour to herself could now have had no tolerable motive; he had either been deceived with regard to her fortune, or had been gratifying his vanity by encouraging the preference which she believed she had most incautiously shewn. Every lingering struggle in his favour grew fainter and fainter; and in farther justification of Mr. Darcy, she could not but allow that Mr. Bingley, when questioned by Jane, had long ago asserted his blamelessness in the affair; that, proud and repulsive as were his manners, she had never, in the whole course of their acquaintance — an acquaintance which had latterly brought them much together, and given her a sort of intimacy with his ways — seen any thing that betrayed him to be unprincipled or unjust — any thing that spoke him of irreligious or immoral habits. That among his own connections he was esteemed and valued — that evenWickham had allowed him merit as a brother, and that she had often heard him speak so affectionately of his sister as to prove him capable of some amiable feeling. That had his actions been whatWickham represented them, so gross a violation of every thing right could hardly have been concealed from the world; and that friendship between a person capable of it, and such an amiable man as Mr. Bingley, was incomprehensible.

She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. — Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.

“How despicably have I 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 distrust. — 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.”

I shall leave this already-too-long post here by simply inviting readers to share what it brings up for them or how they may relate to it.

21 Comments

  1. Jeff Crippen

    “Nothing had been told in Hertfordshire but what he told himself.” I have often asked, “so, what is your source of information about this person?” And the answer so often is, “well, the person himself.” And yet we so often believe them. Amazing.

  2. Free at Last

    In growing closer to Christ, I have become more aware of my own shortcomings and transgressions. This awareness has caused me to extend more grace and mercy toward others. Also walking out 1 Cor 13:7: Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, makes it difficult for me to be too critical or judgmental of others. I am often now more concerned about the plank in my own eye than the speck in my brother’s. These things make it hard for me to call out sin in others. When I recognize how guilty I am in my own areas of weakness, I am not going to point out your flaws to you.

    I also know we are all a work in progress. I don’t get to take the paintbrush out of God’s hand as he works on his masterpiece that is you. I can’t hurry him along in his artwork. I can’t even take the brush out of his hand and work on myself. Again, I come up against this idea of not being responsible for anyone other than myself…which is job enough for me for the rest of my life.

    So, as I become more of an encourager and less of a critic (to myself and others), I want to focus on the good in others. My ex had many good things about him. It’s just that the bad finally became too much for me to bear. I still struggle, like Jane in the story, with how to believe my ex was truly “evil” or “wicked” (terms ACFJ uses for abusive men). I am more of a Pollyanna in that there must be SOME good in everyone. And if people only knew Jesus, they could become better people. There is hope for all humanity in Christ. I hate to give up on people. Christ didn’t give up on me.

    I have not mastered this practice yet (of thinking the best of others), but I tend to walk there more often. I am learning to even have compassion toward my mean neighbor who is nasty/vile toward my children and me for no good reason. I wonder if I am so used to mistreatment, that it doesn’t affect me like it should. I am reading a book now about how to respond when you are mistreated. There is much scriptural truth in it, but I am not sure I am on board completely with it. It talks about taking the mistreatment, as Jesus did, and not returning evil for evil, but allowing God to avenge you. Then today I heard Erwin Lutzer on the radio say all our suffering and trials are for a purpose, even if we don’t understand the “why” of it.

    I wonder if God is pointing me in a new direction for handling offenses and abusive people. I don’t know. I am so used to a lifetime of defending myself, holding my ground, and feeling misunderstood or like I have no voice. I wonder if he is saying, “Chill out, I’ve got this. Give it to me, move on, let me take care of it for you. Quit wallowing in it, trying to reason it out, reliving it, and stirring up inner strife. Move on. Cast your cares upon me. Be anxious for NOTHING. Not even when you are persecuted and reviled (even by the one who is/was supposed to love you as I love you).”

    This would be utter victory to me. To be able to walk this way.

    I find it hard to hate people. Even to hate a wicked man or woman. Am I just too naive?

    • Hi Free at Last, just letting you know that when you submitted this comment the screen name you gave was not one that you currently use on this blog, so I changed it to the one you currently use. 🙂

    • Dear Free At Last,
      I’m not quite sure what to say to you, but I’m going to have a go. Please forgive me if I get the tone wrong, or say something that is not relevant to you.

      You said that 1 Cor 13:7 — Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres — makes it difficult for you to be too critical or judgmental of others.

      Does God always protect everyone? Doesn’t He sometimes hand people over to their sins? Or hand them over to the consequences of their sins?

      How do you deal with these sayings of Jesus?

      “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

      Or this one?

      “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt 12:34

      How do you deal with the times when Christ got angry? For example:

      And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:5)

      And how do you deal with the fact that Jesus did not trust everyone?

      Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people (John 2:23-24)

      And how do you deal with the passages that indicate God does not love everyone? For example:

      “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” (Malachi 1:2-3)

      As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:13-15)

      • bright sunshinin' day

        Barb, thank you for “dusting off” some forgotten verses! Seems many in the Christian community pick a few favorite verses like “love covers over a multitude of sins” to the exclusion of verses such as Proverbs 22:24-25 which says, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.” I think many Christians error in this way due to the poor teaching coming from the pulpit where many pastors are building whole doctrines based on this “cherry picking theology” method. The result? Confusion, weakness, and great harm…not to mention that it gives the devil a foothold.

        Satan, who is the master deceiver, tried his “imbalanced theology” on Jesus while He was in the wilderness by quoting only partial Scripture to Him. Jesus, who is Truth and knows ALL Truth, refuted satan by speaking the WHOLE counsel of God which shut satan’s mouth until his (satan’s) next attempt at deception…which of course, never worked on Jesus…because Jesus IS Truth and knows ALL truth, thus, He could discern a lie when it came dressed as “light.”

        It is a Christian’s duty to study “the whole counsel of God” (which is a life-long process!) so that we can come to know Jesus who is Truth, what He looks like, how He acts, and conform ourselves to His image and share these life-saving truths with others. This study will entail learning to discern between those walking in Truth verses those walking in darkness (some of whom are masquerading around as if they are walking in truth or light as Jeff Crippen’s new book describes).

        Isaiah 32: 5-8 helps me to learn to make a right judgment or to discern between a foolish person and a righteous or generous person. The foolish person “…works iniquity…utter error against the Lord…keep the hungry unsatisfied and cause the drink of the thirsty to fail…the schemes of the schemer ARE evil…he devises wicked plans, to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaks justice…” This passage helps me to understand and come to terms with reality that there are EVIL people roaming this earth doing evil things and I need to have a trained eye to spot them, be aware of them, and expose their wicked schemes before they hurt themselves and others (confronting or exposing evil is a loving act).

        In contrast to the evil person mentioned above, Isaiah 32:9 describes the righteous person. “But a generous man devises generous things, and by generosity he shall stand.”

        By reading this passage in Isaiah and by reading this ACFJ post, I am better prepared to discern between good people (Mr. Darcy) and evil people (Mr. Wickham), and with this knowledge, I can protect myself and others better against the wiles of the devil…and stand strong. As part of my training to discern good from evil, I think seeing the movie Pride and Prejudice (old version) is in order!

      • As a big fan of the BBC movie version of Pride and Prejudice, I agree. Another great part of that movie is the scene where Lizzy rebuts Lady Catherine. It is a model of how we can set firmly boundaries against interfering people who try to illegitimately control us. Lady Catherine pulls rank, and Lizzy denounces her and refuses to listen to her any more! Go girl!

    • M&M

      Dear Free at Last,

      I can somewhat relate. Although it’s not hard for me to be angry, I hesitate to hate because I don’t trust myself to distinguish between righteous and selfish hatred. And because John 3:16 doesn’t just say part of the world. I don’t ignore the wrath verses either. Some of them look like God defending the victims and some of them are still confusing. I think as long as you’re willing to listen He will lead you because “the sheep know His voice” and sometimes (in my experience) He makes us question so that we’re not relying on just one teacher or tradition. All scripture is god-breathed, but each person is on a different journey regarding which part that God is emphasizing to the individual.

  3. a prodigal daughter returns

    The reflection of Lizzy becoming aware of the things she first ignored touches me ” that he had then no reserves, no scruples in sinking Mr. Darcy’s character, though he had assured her that respect for the father would always prevent his exposing the son.”

    I thought about the abusive manipulators I knew, how they could profess wanting to protect someone’s reputation while subtly destroying it. In fact, took delight in doing so. Lizzie was also ashamed of her conduct in supporting Wickham, something abusers seared consciences and hardened hearts will not feel and a reflection that those that aid and abet abusers will not undertake.

    Two of my young female relatives state that they refuse to use the word “evil” to describe any human being. They haven’t lived long enough is all I think, nor suffered serious losses that truly evil people can inflict. They are prone to say “there are two sides to every story” and have empathy for perpetrators believing the lie that most people are doing the best they can.
    They’ve bought into the religion of America that it is nurture failures that create people that do terrible harm, or nature failures *DNA and mental health issues. Its a sort of whitewash that covers the truth that evil exists and excuses perpetrators as if they didn’t freely choose to harm others. The bible describes the father of lies that comes to kill, steal and destroy and “seeks whom he may devour”. I believe people that some people are so given over to darkness that they do the enemies bidding in destroying the lives of others.

    Lizzy saw evil for what it was in time and saw how she aided and abetted it. I’m grateful for the story revealing the power of the evil to pull in good intentioned people. This would be a great study for young people.

    • bright sunshinin' day

      PDR, in the recent ACFJ post https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2015/10/02/if-you-are-a-christian-then-you-practice-hatred-really/#comment-71734, a commenter linked one of Leslie Vernick’s articles which defined well what an “evil” person is verses an “ordinary” sinner. The link to Leslie’s article is below:
      http://leslievernick.com/five-indicators-of-a-evil-heart/

    • Yes, wouldn’t it be an excellent study to show teens and young adults the warning signs for disrespectful/abusive relationships? It’s often studied in literature courses, but to my knowledge it’s not been used as a core text for “Respectful Relationships” classes.

      This is topical in Australia at the moment as, after much lobbying from Rosie Batty & others, Aussie education departments are going to make Respectful Relationships part of the curriculum in schools.

    • I think your neices’ viewpoint is not just American; it is the PC of the whole of the Western World. Political Correctness.

      • KayE

        And maybe the whole world.

  4. Annie

    I love Pride and Prejudice.

    While being a victim of abuse I might be like Lizzy in that I do tend to see the good in others and give others the benefit of the doubt, as I read the post I really felt for Mr. Darcy. Too many times have I been cast as the terrible one without any evidence but someone’s story telling. Actions don’t always speak louder than words. I’ve been accused of things that if the listeners would only look at me and how I conduct myself they would know were untrue.
    .

    I want point out that seeing the good in others isn’t a fault. The abuser is taking advantage of the trait. However, while seeing the good in others is laudable it’s best to be wise if there’s conflicting information.

    But sometimes that conflicting information comes very late and options become more difficult.

    • hi Annie I’m not sure but it seems that you may have mixed up Darcy and Wickham, and Lizzy and Jane, in your comment. Perhaps my post wasn’t clear enough. Wickham is the wicked man who has the charming exterior. Darcy is the good man — the one who is misjudged by Lizzy at first but whose good character comes clear in the end.

      Jane is the one who ‘wants to see good in everyone’. Lizzy doesn’t so much want to see good in anyone, but in the early part of the book she is simply deceived by Wickham’s manipulative lies and charming exterior.

  5. Sunflower

    I find it interesting that this is one of my girls’ favourite stories, yet they seem to tend to not get that lesson from it. Could it be because the more recent movies/books all end with the rascal having an epiphany and changing into Mr. Wonderful? The abused just have to find the right thing to say, and ‘Voila!’ we have a hard heart changed in an instant into a dream father/husband/friend! All that had to be done was find the good in that person and bring it out.

    • Sunflower, in the BBC movie version, the rascal doesn’t reform. He simply gets away with his wickedness and has learned how to do it more under the radar.

      • Sunflower

        Sorry, I see how my comment wasn’t clear. What I meant was not the more recent versions of Pride and Prejudice, but other stories and movies that come out of Hollywood and ‘Christian’ movies as well.

  6. KayE

    “How despicably have I acted!”- I have never heard this from anyone. Not a single person who knew my ex has ever admitted any remorse for getting it wrong. That includes helping professionals, and my own friends and family. Even as his violence becomes ever more exposed, they continue to make excuses for him and try to normalize his extremely abnormal behavior. They are silencing my warnings about genuine danger, I’ve tried to be patient with them but now I’m angry.

  7. Allison

    It was interesting in one of the movie versions Lizzy mourns that her sister might not have run off with Mr. Wickham if she had been “more open” with her sisters about Mr. Wickham’s true nature. I am also curious what materials Rosie Batty uses in teaching the anti domestic violence classes.

    • Rosie Batty does not herself teach the Respectful Relationships classes. She is a survivor of DV and at the moment is Australian of The Year and thus has a platform as a public speaker. She has been using her influence to get people to lobby for the State Governments to include Respectful Relationships classes in the curriculum. And this lobbying has been pretty successful.

      The curriculum and resources for those classes will be decided by experts in the Education Departments, probably in consultation with the peak bodies that deal with DV: victim services, men’s behaviour change programs, sexual abuse services and primary prevention bodies.

      In Australia, Our Watch is one of the primary prevention bodies. DV VIC is a peak body for Victorian victim services. DVRCV is a peak body for education and training and to some extent primary prevention. No To Violence is a peak body for Mens Behaviour Change programs. Bursting the Bubble is a site for teenagers to understand family violence and abuse. The Line is a site which helps young people understand when ‘the line’ is crosssed and disrespect and or abuse is encroaching into a relationship. If you click on each of those links you should be able to drill down into various resources they have for children and teens.

      NOTE: all those sites are secular, so there may be things on them which normalise same-sex relationships. But with that caveat, there are many good things there which Christians can use and learn from.

      My list is not exhaustive, those are just organisations I know about. And my lens on this is the lens of someone who lives in the State of Victoria; people who live in other states of Australia may have listed some different bodies. Some of the links I’ve given are Australia wide, others are Victorian.

  8. standsfortruth

    Wow, just reading this post on Jane’s thoughts, towards the end caused so many of my own thoughts and feelings to come through.
    I can relate so much to her charactor, and the feelings that she was going through once she realized the truth about Mr. Wickham.
    Sometimes I am asked by casual people, “How long have you been married to your husband?”
    And with my new knowledge about him, I feel too ashamed, and upset to tell them the truth.
    So I just say “Too long.”

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