When Things Are Badly Done

Remember the scene in Emma when Mr. Knightly scolds our eponymous heroine for her tactless diarrhea of the mouth at the Box Hill picnic? Apparently, the “Box Hill debacle” is the subject of literary commentary that analyzes various levels of gossip (I stopped reading after the fifth level) that I may or may not have the inclination to one day investigate fully. But the point is that I hate this scene, if only because it reminds me that I’ve been on the receiving end of “badly done.” I double-HATE the feeling of disappointing the one I love most, probably because it usually means I have to admit that I’m wrong. Ugh.

I don’t have chronic diarrhea of the mouth, but when I slip up occasionally, it can be disastrous. After it’s too late to take it back, the Mr. Knightly in my life gently reminds me of my error, and I experience the following phases on the path to recovery:

1) “I Hate You-You Are So Completely Out of Line!” Phase, during which I momentarily fantasize about buying a one-way plane ticket to one of two places: Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland because it’s the most remote place I can think of, and since I have never actually mentioned it, he would never suspect it, OR, my parents’ house, which is in an equally remote locale in Alaska. This phase is short lived, but immediately transitions to the next phase, the duration of which has historically lasted five minutes to 12 hours.

2) “I Still Hate You And I’m Done Making You Sandwiches!” Phase. In this stage, I make a mental checklist of things I do to make his life that much easier/more enjoyable—make lunch, go to work, refrain from feeding the squirrels, fold laundry—and resolve to quit doing all those things.

3) The “Remember The Time You Did _________ And I Didn’t Say Anything Critical About It Whatsoever” Phase can’t be helped at this point. I should just skip this phase and go to the next one, but when my pride is fragile, it’s inevitable. I try to recall my mental catalog of his faults and congratulate myself for not having any of those problems.

4) On a good day, I can go from phase 1 to phase 4 within half an hour. Phase 4 is “Hmm, Maybe You Were On To Something,” and I warm up to the possibility that perhaps I deserved to be put in my place after all.

5) When I hit the “Ok, I Really Do Love You” Phase, code for, “I Don’t Want To Live With My Parents,” I’m ready to apologize and make his sandwiches again.

You would think that cycling through these phases for years would make me more sensitive when, for once in a thousand years, it’s my turn to gently remind him that something he did/said was “badly done.” But I’m not. And I’d like to be better.

So I found this from one of my all time favorite messages of Marvin J. Ashton:

Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.

Most of us are already well aware of the areas in which we are weak. What each of us does need is family, friends, employers, and brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we’re trying to do the best we can, in spite of our weaknesses.  

And guess what? I’m teaching Relief Society on Sunday, which is hilarious, because the title of the lesson is “The Power of Kindness.”

How do you handle criticism from loved ones, or from anyone in general? Why is it so hard?!

8 thoughts on “When Things Are Badly Done

  1. I love this so. much. My husband and I have this Emma/Mr. Knightly thing going on at times. (Not that he’s perfect or patronizing, but I won’t out his follies here; it’s that I am often screwing up in Emma-like proportions.) Sometimes I drive my van to the grocery store parking lot and sleep in the last row until I can deal with the fact that I’m wrong and he’s made a good point. Or until I am too cold, hungry, or in need of a bathroom. Or my phone battery dies.

  2. You show the way to handle criticism here, in your post, wonderfully and practically, by considering human feelings through Austen/Emma’s eyes: by “seek[ing] ye wisdom out of the best books.” And you go further by introducing us to others’ reflections on the stories we tell ourselves, including these brilliant comments by the critic to whom you’ve linked us: “It is perhaps only in fiction, or possibly history, that people we imagine hold still long enough to reward our interest dependably. And there, at least, we can do them less harm. For these reasons a novel can be a good place to practice sympathetic attention, to refine our interest and consider its implications.”

    Well done, Sarita.

  3. I am glad to know I am not the only wife who frequently, but momentarily, considers running off to Greenland and leaving that jerk behind. And I too have sat in my car in a parking lot, considering all the things he has done wrong. Until I humble myself and remember that he is not a jerk, I love him, and I am the one (usually) that needs to make the change.

    The first thing I said to my husband after our first child was born (literally seconds after his birth) was, “Well, know I can never divorce you.” My children also humble me daily and remind me that I am the one that needs to repent, change, and do better.

  4. Thanks for putting yourself out there like this. I love Segullah because it reminds me that we are all human and make mistakes while simultaneously motivating me to be a better person. And it also inspires and uplifts! Thank you!

  5. hmmm… I actually kind of like that scene because to me, Mr. Knightley chastises Emma out of love, though it hurts her to hear it. I mean, I can feel that he loves her so much and thinks so highly of her that he takes the risk of causing momentary pain to help her mend a grave error. But I also love how he admits at the end that he feels bad about “lecturing” her and acknowledges her real superiority to him.

    This is my opinion, and maybe you won’t agree, but I would far rather have someone who loves me correct me clearly and directly (and privately) than have that person blab about my fault behind my back (perhaps for fear of offending me but needing to let off steam). And let me add more options: I’d rather the person speak up than stew about it, pretend nothing is wrong when it really is, or blame himself when it’s really my fault. Those options just mess up the relationship and prevent true communication/understanding. (All of this applies, of course, to real issues and not insignificant, nit-picky things.)

    Yes, my Emma moments do hurt (they don’t happen that often) but that hurt is soon soothed by a feeling of esteem and respect because I know the motive for correction was love. And that love in turn motivates me to make the hard necessary changes.

  6. I think all too frequently, I jump over step 4 and go straight to step 5. It could be because my husband takes me to task more often than I think necessary, but I should probably reflect a little more about the things he feels like he needs to bring up. He probably is on to something, even if it isn’t always quite the something he thinks it is.

  7. Thanks for your comments everyone!
    Margaret, thanks for adding the other perspective that I missed when I wrote the post. I also love this scene for the reasons you mentioned but didn’t have time to express the thoughts as eloquently as you have. Now that you’ve done that for me (thanks!) I would add that it’s a beautiful scene because it’s an expression of Matthew 18:15 and D & C 121:43, in which the Lord explains how He expects us to handle ourselves when we find reason to correct others.

  8. Loved this list of reactions to being reprimanded. Oh, pride! How it makes the perfecting thing more painful!

    I’ve never thought of Greenland, just somewhere else. But it passes and I remember love.

    It’s good to know I’m not the only one stumbling.

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