Mr Bennet’s guide to surviving social shame and human folly

Human folly- it is everywhere! It can be frustrating to deal with the foolishness of others, to cope with their uninformed opinions and unsolicited, even cruel advice.  The way that other people act towards us, or even simply how they act, can trigger feelings of embarrassment and humiliation. And then there’s our own folly! Parents can be haunted with images of themselves utterly humiliated, in public, as parents. We parents stumble.  We make mistakes.

But what if we stumble out there in the big wide world, with an audience watching?

What if we find ourselves in public with a screaming baby, breast half out, hair streaked with poo? 

What if we find ourselves in public with a foot stamping toddler, her face contorted with rage, all eyes on us as she yells and yells and will not stop?


What if the doctor, or the dentist, or our mother in law, or an old friend decides we’ve erred as a parent, and slaps us on the wrist for it?

Ironically, our fear of social humiliation can trick us into ignoring our own parenting values. We may find ourselves, in public, parenting in a way that we hope will please others, either to fulfil their expectations or to please them with a quiet child.

The truth is, you will make mistakes, and some of those mistakes will be witnessed and judged. In fact, some of what you are most proud of as a parent will be judged as shameful by others. You will find yourself in humiliating situations and you will find yourself, at times, on the receiving end of shaming social judgements.

So, how do you survive? How do you keep going, remembering your own values?

When confronted with social shame, judgements and general human folly, I try to remember Mr Bennet, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr Bennet, the beloved father of the main character Elizabeth Bennet, watches social judgement and folly, even his own, with a gentle amusement and teaches his daughter Lizzie to do the same.

I often recall a particular quote, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

With the right outlook, human folly is, as Mr Bennet says, a delight worth savouring. Even when that folly is ridiculous advice, or unkind social judgements, or our own glorious and public mistakes.

Pause just a moment, and remember to giggle.

Then, as Mr Bennet does, go right on doing just as you would like.

Apply it in your life:  Remember to savour the delight of human folly, even your own.

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One Response to Mr Bennet’s guide to surviving social shame and human folly

  1. Rachel 7 April 2016 at 6:52 pm #

    That social pressure can be so tricky can’t it! And make us do things we don’t want to do. No wonder our kids make mistakes with it too. Thanks for getting me to think about it Koa!

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