A Little Help from Jane Austen


A few years ago I read a magazine article where a woman wrote about the realization that she was making some of her life decisions based on whether her childhood authority figures would approve or not.  She said she had probably passed over some excellent opportunities due to her concern about what her father, her childhood pastor, and her favorite teacher might have thought about it.   I’ve heard others admit  they also think of those people, but purposely do things that would shock them – an “I’ll show them” attitude.  

All of us can fall into childish behavior now and then, but we need to be particularly cautious of this as we pursue God’s purpose for our life.  We need to be conscious about who we allow to influence us. 

There are plenty of people who have strong opinions about the what/where/how of my pursuit.  But I am the one who chooses whose views hold weight with me.   There are those who I admire, those who are subject matter experts in what I pursue, those I ask questions of and seek advice from.  But I choose who will actually influence my course.   It’s hard not to be swayed by the thought that someone you admire might disagree with you and you risk losing support or respect.  It’s also hard when someone you don’t even know well (or at all) belittles you and your choices. 

In the past I have had painful experiences of allowing people to emotionally control me, whether they were figures from my past that I allowed in my brain, or people who I gave too much weight to (they may or may not have been aware) or, sadly, those who stepped clearly into  manipulation.  I have been awake in the wee small hours of the morning, questioning my abilities because I’ve replayed their  words and opinions in my head. 

Oddly, what helped me is a discourse held in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where the character Elizabeth Bennett wearies of the  interference of other people outside her appropriate sphere of influence.  She finally states:

 “I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to YOU, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

This statement helped me construct a filter that I use when I feel overwhelmed and begin to question my calling.
  • What “constitutes my happiness”?  My answer is always:  Following God
  • Who am I “referencing” in my current thoughts?  Whose opinion/attitude has brought these thoughts about?
  • Is that person “wholly unconnected with me”?  Should this person have any influence at all in the pursuit of God’s purpose in my life?
  • In what manner should I be “resolved to act”?  If I am resolved to act to follow God and, if they should have no influence in this part of my life, I leave it behind.
How do you handle or recover from unwelcome influences in your path?  Let me know in the comments section.


“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters.  Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”
(Colin Powell)


Image from http://valleydalechurch.wordpress.com

Author: Pamela J. Dickey - Burn Bright Coaching

I'm a speaker, writer, personal and career coach, organizational advisor/consultant, and training facilitator. I own Burn Bright Coaching, and draw on my background as a personal and career development coach, certified corporate trainer, and ordained minister to equip my clients and audiences to discover and pursue their life’s purpose — personal, professional, and spiritual — to help them Burn Bright.

4 thoughts on “A Little Help from Jane Austen”

  1. Arnold Palmer once observed that excellence in anything really comes down to practicing a few small things repeatedly until you do them well consistently.

    I’m going through this process in my own life right now. It’s why I’m off Facebook. Too many voices and too many opinions from people I really don’t have a relationship with. Some have tried to manipulate, some just want to help in the only way they know how. But in the end – it’s too much input and I spend too much time filtering it all. When I return, it’s going to be different. I envision a smaller set of voices. Hopefully those who really know me and have my best interest at heart.

    Thanks for writing this.

  2. I was recently in retreat with some folk that were quite happy to tell me who I was and what I should do… The problem was that there reckoning was based on a past that I was not a part of. The accusations were severe. I was lead to look at the fruit of my life that I didn’t plant intentionally and I am currently healing, though the opinions of others has been a great distraction from hearing God’s voice…
    Now I’m hearing Him

  3. Thanks for sharing, MacF. It shows a certain depth of character to use even severe/unfair criticism to examine yourself and move forward in God’s purpose. “Declawing” other’s opinions is so important.

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