George MacDonald wrote many wonderful stories, but my favorite by a country mile is The Wise Woman and the Lost Princess. It’s full of gentle humor, thoughtful advice, and reflections on the nature of this vast adventure known as life. My copy has so many underlines that I think I spent almost as much ink reading it as the printer did printing it! (it’s rare that to find so many sparking gems in a single book, much less an 80 page short story).
I’ve been writing so much, it’s ages since I put up a quote here, but a friend recently finished reading my copy of MacDonald’s Collected Short Stories. And as I was leafing back through it before returning it to the shelf, I just had to glance through some of my favorite passages and one in particular caught my eye so I thought I’d share it.
Oh those foolish people…
Some foolish people think they take another’s part when they take the part he takes.
This quote illustrates something I often see. In fact, these days, I see it more than ever. Perhaps because it is in fact more common, or perhaps because I’m getting older, I’m not sure. But it is this: when people decide all that matters is approval—that you should never dare oppose someone who is pursuing what they love even if it’s candy for breakfast every day and in ten years their teeth fall out.
“You be you,” is the mantra of the moment.
But what if “you” is mean and vengeful and self-centered?
Why do we think we are doing someone a favor by not mentioning the enormous giant pothole they are about to step into or have already stepped into?
I know it’s not easy to stand up for what’s right. You’ll probably lose some friends if you do. Some people don’t much seem to want any help. And of course we don’t always need to speak up on every little thing. But sometimes silence does more harm than good and sins of omission do more damage in the long run than being kind but honest.
So consider just how the part you’re taking will actually look dressed up along all those other skeletons in your friend’s closet before you take it.
You might just be doing your friend a favor.
And if he’s a real friend, one day he’ll thank you for it.