Miss Manners on Sacrifice

 Posted by on 14 July 2005 at 8:10 pm  Uncategorized
Jul 142005

This is the most amazing Miss Manners column ever. If you are at all interested in the psychology of altruism, you simply must read it. Here’s the letter:

Dear Miss Manners:

Please help my friend see how rude and wrong she has been.

Jean’s husband went blind from an illness. She was wonderful in the situation. She always wore perfume since he couldn’t see her. Arranged the house for his convenience. She read the paper to him every day and they did the puzzle together.

When he died, I knew she would be perfect for a male friend of mine who is also blind. She overreacted and said she would never go through that again. She had let her appearance go since he couldn’t see her, and she liked to read the paper to herself.

But taking care of her husband brought out the best in her, and that is when people are really happy. So I invited my blind friend over to try Jean’s home cooking. She is really a spectacular cook. I brought all the ingredients and then invited Jean over. When she arrived and found Zachary here, she said, “Oh, no” and walked out.

How do you think that made him feel? My husband and myself had made plans to go out so they could be alone, so we had to ask Zachary to leave.

When I scolded Jean the next day, she jumped on me for making him go home alone and without any dinner. She claims Zachary was our guest, not hers. But we invited him for her because they would be good for each other. Now she won’t talk to me at all.

Why is it that those who try to make the world a better place end up unappreciated?

Here’s the reply:

Could it be because they have no compunction about grossly insulting and humiliating their guests under the guise of doing them explicitly unwelcome favors?

Miss Manners can hardly count the etiquette atrocities you committed. She tries to remind herself that you meant well, but frankly she can’t manage it. If you had given your friends’ feelings any thought at all, you would never have done this.

You attempted to trap a guest into a blind date she wished to avoid and into cooking dinner when you had invited her.

You led another guest to believe his company would be welcome when you knew it was not, and you threw him out of the house hungry.

Worst of all, you made it clear to supposed friends that the outstanding characteristic of one was his blindness, and of the other her sacrifices — discounting that they were done for love of her husband rather than a love of sacrifice — so it didn’t matter whether they really had anything in common.

And you call them unappreciative?

The pushy, demanding altruism of the writer defies belief, particularly given the context of a romantic relationship. Yet Miss Manners manages to undercut it in just a few words about the motive of love of husband rather than love of sacrifice. I’m in awe.

Crossposted to The Egosphere.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha