I still remember that Christmas Day. My dad gave me a gift that opened up my world. You see, my family has always been big on books. My grandmother would enjoy the nights she would get caught up in reading her favorite mystery stories. My dad is an avid reader. My mom enjoys getting lost in a good book. My grandmother was a schoolteacher for decades (she actually started teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, how cool is that?) and she was forever giving me books to read and enjoying her stack of books next to her comfy chair. She still has a stack of books next to her chair to this day!
But this particular Christmas, my dad wanted to introduce me to some new friends. Friends that were found in the pages of a book. He included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau…
And then there was this one book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
I don’t know what made me gravitate towards Jane Austen’s book so much. Maybe it was because I love reading works by other female authors. Maybe its because I share the main character’s name. Maybe it was because the book was beautifully bound.
But whatever the reason, I met one of my good friends, Elizabeth, through the words of Jane Austen.
It’s funny. I’ve hears that some people are still baffled at how Jane Austen’s books have reached so many people for so many years. Personally, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she wrote from life. She wrote what she knew – and she knew the rules and quirks of her society very well! She wrote with wit and humor. She wrote with detail and yet obscurity. She wrote to bring you into her world. To allow you to feel what the characters felt.
Were you mortified along with Elizabeth and Jane when Mrs. Bennet started embarrassing her whole family at Mr. Bingley’s long-anticipated ball?
Were you seething with anger at Mr. Darcy for the actions that he had taken to separate Jane and Mr. Bingley?
Were you reading with your mouth wide open as Mr. Darcy approached Elizabeth to declare his undying love for her?
Did you run the gauntlet of emotions with Elizabeth when you read Mr. Darcy’s letter to her when he had the opportunity to explain himself?
Did you feel your heart beating more rapidly and your excitement heightening when you read those final words of book 2 “To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go”?
I know that I feel all of these emotions and more every time I dive into these pages. I am transported to experience things I never would have experienced otherwise.
But the more I read this book, the more I realize: I am a lot like Elizabeth in so many ways and I can learn a lot from Elizabeth, too!
Elizabeth was so quick to let her first impression of someone shape her entire opinion of them. So many times, she let information she received from others play into her misconception of another person. Be honest here: How many times have you done this? I know that I have!
The first lesson to learn from Elizabeth is to not be hasty in judgement. It is so easy to form opinions of others before you get to know them. Instead, get to know someone without allowing your preconceived notions of them or other’s reports of them to form your opinion before you even speak with them.
Elizabeth deeply loved and valued her friendships with her sisters and close friends. Over and over throughout the pages of the book you can see how Jane and Charlotte mean the world to Elizabeth and she will go to great lengths to protect, build up, and cherish those friendships. Elizabeth even walked miles to Netherfield to see Jane when Jane was ill – risking what others thought of her just so she could be there for her sister.
The second lesson to learn from Elizabeth is to cherish good friends. Many times a 3 mile walk through the mud won’t be required to see and talk with a good friend, yet I want to be the kind of friend that would do something crazy like that if I needed to.
Elizabeth’s heart was open and ready to forgive. You can see this in her conversations with Charlotte when Charlotte decides to marry Mr. Collins. You see this in her demeanor and in her conversations with Mr. Darcy. She may not get things right the first time, but she was willing to admit where she made mistakes, to forgive and be forgiven.
The third lesson to learn from Elizabeth is to have an open heart. Where I have been wrong, I want to make amends, if possible. I want to have a heart willing to forgive and receive the forgiveness of others.
It’s one thing to read about lessons that others have learned from books and it’s an entirely different thing to read those books for yourself with a heart and a mind open to make new friends and learn new things.
My dear Friend, if you have never had the opportunity to meet Elizabeth Bennet, I cannot recommend to you highly enough to take some time and meet her through the words of Jane Austen. Your life may never be the same.
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Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.