“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”
“On the contrary, nothing can be stronger proof to if, Elinor; for if there had been any really impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such conviction I could have had no pleasure.”
“But, my dear Marianne, as it has already exposed you to some very impertinent remarks, do you not now begin to doubt the discretion of your conduct?” ~ Sense & Sensibility
If you’ve read Sense & Sensibility, you know that Elinor is “Sense” and Marianne is “Sensibility.” Meaning, Elinor is governed by mind over heart, and Marianne lets her heart lead her mind. As the story unfolds, the reader sees the downfall of the heart when disconnected or blatantly ignoring the mind.
In the above quote, we are near the beginning of the book. Marianne is certain that her heart should be her sole trusted shepherd—Elinor disagrees. If Marianne desires something, it must be the thing to do. And so she does—the consequences of which we live as spectators, alongside Elinor.
The moral of this particular dialogue and the unfolding of the story is one reflected in the Bible. We must not give in to our human desires (sensiblity)—which, unchecked, will lead to our downfall and misery—but harness and guide our human nature by renewing the way we think (our sense) to align with the way God thinks.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? ~ Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12:2 (ESV)
God is the only one who is good, and the only one from which we can derive good sense. Sensibility (feelings) are not bad, they move us to compassion but, unchecked, they can also move us to anger and hatred and unforgiveness. The best way, in my understanding, is to align our thinking with God’s thinking and allow our renewed minds to steer our feelings into rightful actions.