“My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.” So says Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy to Miss Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Pride & Prejudice.
It has been a staple of my library since I was 16-years-old. I read it three to four times a year and not always from the beginning. Like an old friend, I can pick up from where I left off without feeling like any time has passed between.
Mr. Darcy’s quote has always been nothing more than an insight into his personality for me — that is, until a recent girl’s movie night when I discovered it’s a fault he and I share.
My mom has been eager to share the mini-series Lost in Austen with me. A program that would appeal to any Austen-addict, it portrays what would happen if a present-day, Austen-obsessed young woman traded places with Elizabeth Bennet. The concept intrigued me. So my mom, sister, and I settled in for a heavy dose of the Bennets, Bingleys, Mr. Darcy, and the rest.
For me, the most surprising part of the mini-series was the way it twisted the original plot and characters. Instead of a conniving villain, Wickham ends up a misunderstood and misrepresented young man. It was eye opening to watch Amanda Price, the main character of the movie, discover that her preconceived ideas of Austen’s characters were false. She had to allow for individuals to be different than she had judged them to be.
Amanda’s struggle caused me to realize that I too have the fault Mr. Darcy confessed. Like him, “my good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”
I recognized how easily I define people in my life by past circumstances and how loath I am to let that opinion go.
Obviously, I can see that this has an impact on my relationships with people who have wronged me or made poor decisions in their life. It wasn’t until a few days later, however, when I read the story of Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark in Acts that I realized the impact it could have on another’s future.
In Acts 12-13, Barnabas and Paul set out on their first missionary journey. Barnabas takes the lead as he mentors Saul. Barnabas chooses to bring his cousin, John Mark, along with them. Unfortunately, after just a couple of stops, John Mark separates from the missionaries and heads home for Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). There is no mention made of why this split occurs, but from Paul’s future behavior towards John Mark, I assume it was not a mutual decision.
While preparing for their second missionary journey, Barnabas wants to give John Mark a second chance. He once again invites him along (Acts 15). Paul isn’t too keen on the idea. Acts 15:38 says, “Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.” This disagreement between the two men proves to be enough to separate them into two missionary parties — Barnabas and John Mark going to Cypress and Paul and Silas traveling through Syria (Acts 15:39-41).Barnabas chose to remain loyal to his kinsman and not judge him based on the past.
Paul, like many of us, wasn’t willing to risk trusting someone who had previously disappointed him.
The story doesn’t end there, however. Years later, from a Roman prison cell, Paul wrote the following to the Colossians:
Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him) … these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me. (Colossians 4:10-11).
Additionally, when writing to Timothy, Paul gives these instructions: “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Paul encourages the church to welcome John Mark and describes him as both an encouragement and useful! This shows that not only were Paul and John Mark reconciled to each other, but also that Paul exhorts the churches to honor and respect him. What a wonderful example of the impact that loyalty and second chance can have on a person’s life. Not only did John Mark go on to prove his worthiness as a fellow worker with Paul, he eventually became one of the four authors of the gospels. This man, who was judged to be untrustworthy and useless by Paul, was reclaimed by the loyalty of his family member.
How many people in my life have I hindered from reaching their God-given potential by not providing them with a second chance?
It seems arrogant to think that I could affect God’s plan for someone by my disloyalty to them, but that doesn’t negate the truth of the idea. An even more important question is how many people have had to give me a second chance in my lifetime in order for me to be the person I am today? To borrow a phrase from Jane Austen, “it is a truth universally acknowledged” that everyone in my life will hurt or disappoint me at some point.
The choice I have to make is whether to remain loyal to them and believe in who they are or to let that situation define them, holding them to that moment, frozen in time.
In Pride & Prejudice, both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet change their opinions of each other from the beginning of the book to the end. Having recognized my Darcy-esque fault I too desire to see a change in myself that I will remain loyal to people and choose to see the good in them. I want my good opinion to stick around.