In Favor of Mr. Collins

Mr. Collins is…not a favorite, usually. There is one scene in Pride and Prejudice that is particularly painful to watch, but in which I find Mr. Collins has one endearing quality.

His directness. While he may be awkward and presumptive, he is also admirably direct.

While Elizabeth is dancing with Mr. Collins and talking to her sister Jane about the absent Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins conveys his intentions in the following manner.

“Dancing is of little consequence to me, but it does *interruption*
but it does afford the opportunity to lavish *interruption*
upon one’s partner attentions *interruption*
which is my primary object.”

At this point he stops dancing and stands staring at Lizzie. He finally just gets right to the point. He tells her what he was trying to artfully and romantically say.

“It is my intention, if I may be so bold, to remain close to you throughout the evening.” 

Now if you’ve seen the movie, it’s one of the most awkward interactions and it is clear that Lizzie is having none of it. She literally just walks away.

Now, I think this is how many of us treat the Mr. Collins of the world and why there are so few of them. So few men willing to be direct. We walk away like Lizzie. Or worse we gossip.

Sisters, let’s be more gracious toward the Mr. Collins of the world. When we are not interested let’s tell them directly, kindly and treat them with dignity. Let’s not tell them yes to later text them no, or ghost. Let’s not gossip about how awkward they were or that they asked and we said no. Does anyone need to know? Will anyone be built up by sharing a story of rejecting a man with others? If sharing how to do so kindly without sharing specifics is helpful to a sister, that is appropriate, but let’s abide by Ephesians 4:29.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Let’s honor the men willing to risks and be bold. And let’s agree not to be flirtatious when it becomes more than flirtation for us so that men will be so bold as Mr. Collins.

A note on flirtation.

Flirt. verb
{behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, but for amusement rather than with serious intentions}

There is nothing wrong with flirtation – it is a way of interacting with other human beings for amusement, to test the waters, to show kindness, or interest – it is ambiguous and you can only know your own intentions for flirting. So evaluate your intentions and be wise.

I personally flirt with women, married men, single men, etc. Nearly every human being I meet is flirted with because I am trying to connect with them in a way where we both walk away thinking “that is a nice person, I like them.” When I sense someone I am not interested in is flirting with me, I do not return the flirtation, because that would be mean. While I may not know their intentions, I know my own and adjust accordingly. Flirting for me usually lacks serious intentions, but there are times when it is also a form of testing the waters to see if my flirtation will be returned with a direct expression of interest from a man. And this is perfectly fine! This is called being approachable.

Sisters we can only know our own intentions in how we are flirting. And we need to stop flirting when we are not interested. We usually do so because it gets us attention and it feels nice, but that is mean and self-serving. We also need to stop reading into our brothers’ flirtations; particularly when we first meet them. Unless they are direct, we do not know their intentions for flirting. And since we cannot know another person’s intentions unless they are direct about them, we should not assume.

Finally, there are times where flirtation becomes harmful; when affections are stirred up in off limits situations. As Christian women – with married men, with same sex friends, with platonic friendships where you want more, but don’t know what he wants, etc.

As a woman in circumstances where flirtation has become harmful there are many things you can do and a few you cannot. You cannot change the behavior of the other person, but you can change your own. You can remove yourself from a friendship in which flirtation is unwise, you can stop flirting, you can protect both parties by altering how you spend time together and how you interact with them. And in one circumstance- the platonic friendship where you want more, but don’t know what he wants – you can make those alterations and wait for him to be direct with you. Only you can decide how long you are willing to wait and close yourself off from other men.

Flirting harder or trying to force something will not help you or your brothers and leaves your heart exposed when you have the power to guard it. You cannot change another person’s behavior and believing you can will only lead to misery. Manipulating a person into showing their intentions usually doesn’t bode well either.

So sisters, let’s live in reality, not misery. And let’s help contribute to an environment where our Christian brothers are willing to risk rejection and be as bold as Mr. Collins.

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