Dear New Year’s Readers,
Everyone knows New Year’s is a time for reflecting upon the last twelve months and finding ways to improve ourselves in the upcoming year. However, before getting started, we at The Front Porch People have some inspired advice on this process! Before choosing your resolution this year, we suggest that you read the novel, Emma, by Jane Austen. There are two lessons about resolutions that Emma can teach us:
Don’t be overly ambitious!
Focus on your own transformation.
From the very beginning of the novel, we read about Emma’s good intentions of pursuing learning. She creates an extremely long list of very renowned classic literature, intending to read each title. However, because the list is so daunting, she quickly forgets about it and gives up on her reading goals:
It is always good to hope for some improvement, especially in education, but Emma’s goal is so lofty that it seems unattainable. Maybe consider following my mother’s example; one year she read a “worthwhile” book each month. While a list of 12 books is not quite as impressive as Emma’s book list, it is actually attainable. Make sure you set goals for yourself that you can achieve in 2017!
Another point about resolutions which we can take from Emma is to create goals for ourselves. Emma very happily pursues a friendship with Harriet Smith, a peer in age but not in social standing. Emma hopes to teach Harriet how to behave in order to improve her social status and enable her to marry a suitable husband. Emma condescendingly changes several of Harriet’s behaviors, and she even begins controlling decisions about her love life. This creates a total mess of Harriet’s affairs. We see in the following video adaptation that Emma uses her powers of persuasion to guide Harriet away from a desired marriage to Mr. Martin, which later leads to much misery for Harriet:
The lesson to be taken is one that has been around for centuries, and is summed up pretty well by the famous Bible verse: “How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Mt. 7:4). Emma should have monitored her own behavior and learned her own heart before plunging into the details of another’s. This year for New Year’s, make sure your resolution focuses on changing yourself rather than a friend or loved one.
Maybe this year, you can learn from Emma’s mistakes. Look back on your year for your successes and failures. Decide where you most need improvement, and then set a realistic goal toward progress. In doing so, double check to make sure you are working to modify your own behavior—you certainly don’t want friends like Harriet's!
The Front Porch People
P.S. For more Jane Austen fun, check out our Sense and Sensibility podcast: