“It Is a Sign of Maturity Not To Be Scandalized…”

“From 15 to 18 is an age at which one is very sensitive to the sins of others, as I know from recollections of myself. At that age you don’t look for what is hidden. It is a sign of maturity not to be scandalized and to try to find explanations in charity.”

–Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, letter of August 19, 1959.

  • LC

    So, so true! This reminds of a time about 10 years ago when I was helping someone go through computer files of a deceased acquaintance (trying to look for signs of a ‘promised’ will for the family, which did not exist), when I came across a lot of porn. I was quite shocked. But, a more mature friend didn’t bat an eye. She saw it as a matter of course for an adult single male … as if we’d found a tennis racket or some such. I learned a lot from her.

  • Peninith1

    So well and gently said: find explanations in charity. So often, we interpret what we see and absolutely do not know what really is going on. On the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel about a man unjustly accused not only because of race, but because of an inability to imagine charity and humankindness, this is a beautiful choice. I’ll write and remember it. Thank you so much!

  • Astarelly

    I love your quotes! You have inspired be big time and your happiness book as really helped me focus on whats important – I have also started a log – not on happiness, but something similar. http://blankcanv.as

  • Kate

    Perfect timing, as I just purchased and am looking forward to diving into the Complete Short Stories of O’Connor!

    • gretchenrubin

      SO good. But my favorite is “Wise Blood.”

      • Kate

        Maybe that’ll be my next purchase!

  • O’Flanfan

    Serendipitous Gretchen again….had just e-mailed a friend about your website and Flannery O’Connor’s writing schedule (3 “inviolate” hours a day) and tuned in to see this lovely sharing.  So grateful!  I’ve read fiction all my life but Habits was my first book of letters, an unexpected gift from a friend – extraordinary, especially her frequent discussions and comments about her catholicism and how it informed her writing (and how ill-informed many of her critics were about it).  And that dry wit, oh my.   Is there humor in Wise Blood?  The funny parts of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” makes O Henry look dull (and “bleak” would be too upbeat a descriptor for its darkness).  She didn’t like reading her own work out loud, incidentally- couldn’t keep a straight face in the funny parts.