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Intersection of Life and Faith

How Jane Austen's Spiritual Wisdom Can Guide Today's Women

  • Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2012 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
How Jane Austen's Spiritual Wisdom Can Guide Today's Women

Editor's note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Lori Smith's new book, The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, (Skirt! Books, 2012).

Many modern women enjoy the classic romance novels written by English author Jane Austen in the 19th century, because Austen’s astute understanding of human nature have imbued her stories with a timeless appeal. Austen, who has come to be considered a sort of patron saint of romance, was a Christian whose faith is reflected in the spiritual lessons that her novels and the story of her life can teach readers today.

Here’s some advice Austen might give you if she were alive today:

Live your dreams as much as possible. Bravely take whatever risks are necessary to follow your dreams, as God leads you. Don’t let other people’s expectations prevent you from nurturing your dreams. Cherish the people who believe in you and support your efforts to follow your dreams. Don’t let a desire to be rich derail you from doing the type of work that you most love to do. Don’t give up when you encounter setbacks or delays; keep working persistently toward your goals. Keep your expectations realistic. Work hard and be grateful for whatever success you achieve. Put your God-given gifts to use by sharing them with the world.

Become a person of substance. Invest time and energy regularly into getting to know yourself better and seeking God’s help to become the person He wants you to become. Rather than occupying your mind with silly, foolish thoughts, think about substantial topics that will help you learn and grow. Value people for the quality of their moral character instead of traits that don’t have eternal value, such as how rich or popular someone happens to be. Be willing to do what’s right, even when it hurts to do so. Learn how to be a good conversationalist. Keep trying to grow in holiness and relying on God’s grace. Enjoy life, and nurture a sense of humor along the way.

Think wisely about romantic love. Approach romantic relationships with wisdom. Don’t take romance so seriously that you can’t enjoy it and laugh about it. Don’t place too much faith in the “love at first sight” initial physical attraction you may feel to someone. Be open to changing your mind about a man once you get to know him better. 

Examine your motivations and beware of pride or vanity, which can impair your judgment. Don’t choose a man based on your friends’ advice; instead, make your own decisions. Consider as potential romantic partners only men who have strong character that you truly respect. Remember that real romance isn’t like a fairy tale; be realistic. Keep your hope of finding romantic love alive, even as you grow older. Don’t overanalyze romance but embrace the mysteriousness of it.

Make wise decisions about sex.  Don’t let your passion overcome your values. Realize that men who want to have sex with you may not actually love you. Expect to encounter unfair romantic situations and be prepared to protect yourself from mistreatment. Think through your own beliefs about sex, as well as the reasons why your beliefs are important to you. Approach romance with your head as well as your heart. Recognize that true love can be both passionate and gentle.

Search for a good man. When looking for a romantic partner, look for someone who is attractive to you personally (in every way, from spiritually to physically), despite other people’s opinions. Prepare to be surprised in your quest. Don’t hesitate to have high standards, but don’t become preoccupied with the idea that there’s only one right man in the whole world for you. While you’re searching for the right man, become the right woman by working on your character. Be patient and wait for God’s timing.

Recover from a broken heart. If you’ve been heartbroken, don’t ignore your pain, but invite God to heal you. Be discreet and empathetic when discussing your heartbreak with your friends. Find joy in other parts of your life. Embrace the gift of time alone to learn more about your heart.

Marry well. Make sure that you love the man you marry, and don’t base your decision to marry someone just on the whims of your feelings, but really think it through. Hope for joy in marriage, but don’t expect your marriage to be perfect. Learn how to take and give correction, and to respect each other. Be grateful that remaining single is a valid option if you never find the right man to marry.

Cherish your family and friends. Choose to love your family and friends, despite their imperfections. Make an effort to be there for them when they need you and, also to spend as much time with them as possible. Encourage each other regularly. Keep in mind that your family’s problems don’t have to define you if you pursue healing and make better choices in our own life. Invest your time and energy into nurturing deep friendships with friends who can become as close to you as family members.

Save and spend your money wisely. Keep money in the proper perspective: while you do need money to survive, you can be happy without being wealthy. Be careful about the financial risks you take. Thank God for whatever income you have, and always be willing to give generously to help people in need.

Approach fame and success wisely. Recognize that your worth isn’t dependent on whether or not others consider you famous or successful; what makes you important is that you’re God’s child. Don’t hesitate to choose substance over celebrity and live quietly doing whatever God has uniquely called you to do.

Live well as a single woman. Fully enjoy your life while you’re single, and treasure the relationships you have with family and friends rather than getting upset or depressed about not being married. Use the freedom you have as a single person to invest your time and energy into developing and using your talents.

Endure suffering well. When you inevitably encounter suffering in this fallen world, be honest about your feelings, but don’t dwell on the negative and direct your energy in positive ways as much as you can. Don’t despair about your suffering; do your best to overcome it and let it shape you into a stronger person. Gratefully accept help from others when you need it.

Enjoy humor. Don’t take life too seriously. Take advantage of opportunities to have fun and to laugh.

Live a principled life. Follow an ethos that reflects the values you believe God is leading you to develop. Ask questions, learn, listen to your conscience, think for yourself, get to know your motivations and actions well, and aim to become the virtuous woman that God wants you to become.

Adapted from The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, copyright 2012 by Lori Smith. Published by Skirt! Books, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CT, www.SkirtBooks.com.

Lori Smith is an adorer of Jane Austen and a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She feels connections to Austen on many levels -- as a writer, a single woman, an Anglican, and as someone struggling with a mysterious chronic illness. For her last book, A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith, Lori spent a month in England tracing Austen's life and works. Readers voted to give that book the Jane Austen Regency World Award for best nonfiction, and it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Visit her website at: http://www.writerlorismith.com/.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles, at: http://angels.about.com/. Contact Whitney at: angels.guide@about.com to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.

Publication date: June 7, 2012