the emotional intelligence of long experience

Reading this for reasons unrelated to our current kerfuffles, I came across an interesting passage:

As it turns out, scientific research bears out this Confucian insight: “One thing is certain: Emotional intelligence increases with age.” Fredda Blanchard-Field’s research compares the way young adults and older adults respond to situations of stress and “her results show that older adults are more socially astute than younger people when it comes to sizing up an emotionally conflicting situation. They are better able to make decisions that preserve an interpersonal relationship…. And she has found that as we grow older, we grow more emotionally supple — we are able to adjust to changing situations on the basis of our emotional intelligence and prior experience, and therefore make better decisions (on average) than do young people.” Other research shows that older adults seem particularly good at quickly letting go of negative emotions because they value social relationships more than the ego satisfaction that comes from rupturing them. In short, we have good reason to empower elderly parents in the family context — to give them more voice, and let them decide in moments of emotional conflict — because they are more likely to have superior social skills.

This may help to explain why cancel culture is driven by the young: perhaps they don’t have enough life experience to understand the long-term costs of “rupturing” relationships. Maybe not even the short-term costs either.

Samuel Johnson had a young friend named George Strahan, who at one point thought he had said something to offend Johnson. The older man’s reply is one of the most glorious things he ever wrote:

You are not to imagine that my friendship is light enough to be blown away by the first cross blast, or that my regard or kindness hangs by so slender a hair, as to be broken off by the unfelt weight of a petty offence. I love you, and hope to love you long. You have hitherto done nothing to diminish my goodwill, and though you had done much more than you have supposed imputed to you my goodwill would not have been diminished.

I write thus largely on this suspicion which you have suffered to enter your mind, because in youth we are apt to be too rigorous in our expectations, and to suppose that the duties of life are to be performed with unfailing exactness and regularity, but in our progress through life we are forced to abate much of our demands, and to take friends such as we can find them, not as we would make them.

These concessions every wise man is more ready to make to others as he knows that he shall often want them for himself; and when he remembers how often he fails in the observance or cultivation of his best friends, is willing to suppose that his friends may in their turn neglect him without any intention to offend him.

When therefore it shall happen, as happen it will, that you or I have disappointed the expectation of the other, you are not to suppose that you have lost me or that I intended to lose you; nothing will remain but to repair the fault, and to go on as if it never had been committed.

Maybe something of this wisdom applies not just to friends, but to fellow citizens, co-workers — in short, our fellow human beings.

three stories to reflect on

Ross Douthat:

The sexual ethic on offer in our own era should make Catholics particularly skeptical. That ethic regards celibacy as unrealistic while offering porn and sex robots to ease frustrations created by its failure to pair men and women off. It pities Catholic priests as repressed and miserable (some are; in general they are not) even as its own cultural order seeds a vast social experiment in growing old alone. It disdains large families while it fails to reproduce itself. It treats any acknowledgment of male-female differences as reactionary while constructing an architecture of sexual identities whose complexities would daunt a medieval schoolman.

From the Economist, “An entrepreneur brings professional grieving to eastern Congo”:

Deborah Nzigere, a 65-year-old Congolese woman, is nervous when she sits down for her job interview. Her hands are clasped tightly together, her words are slow and deliberate; she is blinking too much. “What inspired you to pursue this career?” asks one of the two people on the interview panel. Her answer is garbled, she mentions money. When asked to give a demonstration, she giggles awkwardly and leaves the room. She comes back in crying.

“Bettina,” she howls and throws herself to the ground. “Bettina, Bettina, why did you leave us?” She thumps the floor with a flattened palm, her body convulses with sobs as she moans and wails. The interviewer’s eyes fill with tears. Mrs Nzigire has got the job.

Christopher Mims in the WSJ:

Through Papa, college-age young people can sign up to help seniors by going to the store, doing housework or just hanging out. For these “pals,” Papa works on the same gig-economy model as Uber or Postmates. Ten hours a week of Papa service is covered for members of Humana ’s Medicare Advantage insurance who are in a pilot program in and near Tampa.

Ms. Sumkin’s Papa pals take her on trips to the store since she can no longer drive, and they also help combat her loneliness. Ms. Sumkin says that, aside from occasional visits with her children and grandchildren, her only regular human contact is a bi-weekly stretching class and time with those insurer-provided friends. “They’re all very nice and, you know, I’ll converse with them and find out what they’re doing and studying and so forth,” she says. “It’s for me a very important service.”

I must admit to going back and forth on the topic of the New Homophiles. Apostolic celibacy is a great good. The struggle to be faithful Catholics is a great good. Trying to identify with Christ is exactly what we are all called to do. Spiritual friendship could be a good thing though I worry they envision something like Charles Ryder reading scripture with Sebastian Flyte. Can we accept them on their terms? I do not know.

— The New Homophiles: A Closer Look | Crisis Magazine. What, indeed, are we to do? We are not under judgment; we judge. We need not worry about acceptance, we only have to decide whom we will, or will not, accept. We keep the gates; we decide who is or is not worthy of admission. We instruct; we have nothing to learn.

It must be awesome to be “we.”

loneliness and hospitality

As a student of family life from the outside, I’ve come to a conclusion that family life, as opposed to celibacy, is a life of high highs and low lows. The high is that you are loved by someone who has promised never to leave you. You are needed by children who are utterly dependent on you, and who return your smiles. The low is that you may lose those people to death, or they may at some point reject you.

The single life is more moderated and less risky. The high is that my will is never crossed. The low is that my will is never crossed. Another low is that I am lonely. But at least I don’t have another person who is directly responsible for my loneliness.

“All the Lonely People”: On Hospitality, Again | Spiritual Friendship. Please read the whole post, in which Betsy Childs manages the enviable feat of being charitable to the uncharitable.

When Christians sell books and preach sermons encouraging non-married people to embrace their “singleness” as a blessing, we are promoting the destructive effects of the sexual revolution. “Singleness” as we conceive of it in our culture is not the will of God at all. It is representative of a deeply fragmented society. Singleness in America typically means a lack of kinship connectedness. This was not the case, for example, with Jesus who was not married. He never lived alone. He went from the family home to a group of twelve close friends who shared daily life with him until he died (followers who would have never left off following him). His mother and brothers were also still involved in his life and are often mentioned. Jesus’ mother was there at his darkest hour when he died. In contrast, singleness in America often refers to a person who lives alone or in non-permanent, non-kinship relationships.

— Karen Keen (via wesleyhill)