Wherein Flannery O'Connor Calls Me A Whiny Teenager

And she's not wrong.

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.

That's from Sally Fitzgerald's wonderful collection of her letters, "The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor," and it really stung me when I read it for the first time. But since I'm a "Misery Loves Company" kind of guy, I'd just like to point out that she's actually calling pretty much everyone on the InterWebs a whiny teenager.

And she's not wrong about that, either.

It is a sad fact of life that the Internet reverts, collectively, to a much lower maturity level than that achieved separately by any number of its constituent parts. The ability to be scandalized (and the stubborn refusal to assume the best of one's opponents) is all too common, but should we really be surprised by that? Avoiding scandal (when none is truly given) and finding a charitable explanation for another's actions is hard in the best of conditions, but doing it in the shallow and besmirching pool of the InterWebs? That's basically impossible.

O'Connor's words are tough love, though. Just as she does in her stories, she leaves me with the seeds of mine own salvation, implicit in her warning: Find an explanation in charity. Force yourself to do it. Settle for nothing less.

It's the mature thing to do.

Attribution(s): "Wise Flannery with 'Wise Blood'" courtesy of Getty Images, which allows the use of certain images "as long as the photo is not used for commercial purposes (meaning in an advertisement or in any way intended to sell a product, raise money, or promote or endorse something);" "Angry Example of Flannery's Favorite Fowl" (source) was found on Visualhunt.com and is provided via CC BY-NC; "Stunning Version of Flannery's Favorite Fowl" (source) was found on VisualHunt.com and is provided via CC BY-SA.