On Love & Compassion: Lessons From Downton Abbey

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On Love & Compassion: Lessons From Downton Abbey
Whether it is 1921 or 2013, love is a powerful promoter of the best impulses of the human spirit.

The episode's emphasis on connection and compassion is even more obvious when it comes to Lord Grantham.  Last episode, while estranged from his wife, Lord Grantham became so miserable and spiteful that he was reduced to barging into a luncheon in his wife's honor and announcing that everyone must leave at once so that they are not engulfed in scandal through their willingness to eat food that has been prepared and served by a former prostitute.  Lord Grantham's wife, mother and daughters all reject his petty perspective and his efforts to shut down the luncheon are a total flop.  Lord Grantham spends the rest of the episode fuming about one son-in-law's desire to face the economic reality of the estate's future, his other son in law's rightful decision to baptize his daughter by the Catholic Church, and his unmarried daughter Edith's reasonable desire to write a newspaper column.  Without his dearest Cora, Lord Grantham becomes the show's most un-evolved and unpleasant character.

Fortunately, Granny Violet intervenes and helps Lady and Lord Grantham reconnect.  As they rebuild their marriage and grieve the tragic loss of their daughter Sybil together, Lord Grantham becomes far more likable.  Sure, he initially resists Matthew's efforts to do what is necessary for Downton to have a sustainable future, but he allows Tom to convince him to come around.  By hinging his willingness to modernize Downton on the condition of Tom's participation in the annual cricket match, the endearing aspects of His Lordship's personality finally return.  He gives Edith permission to write her newspaper column and he allows his wife to convince him to accept baby Sybil's catholic christening.  Sure, he takes a stupid jab at the Catholic church likening all of the "crossing and bobbing up and down" to a "gymnastics display", but when Tom reminds him that Sybil would have wanted him to attend and loved him "with all her heart" Lady Grantham gently explains that Tom's point is unarguable and Lord Grantham agrees to attend and support the christening.  He even poses for a photograph with his granddaughter and the Catholic priest! 

By far the most important demonstration of how love and re-claimed connection inspire Lord Grantham's compassion occurs when Bates pleads with Lord Grantham to allow Thomas to keep his job in spite of his sexuality.  Lord Grantham sounds completely evolved and secure as he hysterically replies:

"I mean if I shouted blue murder every time someone tried to kiss me at Eaton, I would have gone horse in a month!"

When Alfred makes a pathetic last-minute attempt to have Thomas arrested for being gay, Lord Grantham makes an moving case for compassion:

"I am not asking you to abandon your beliefs...just to introduce a little kindness into the equation...Thomas does not choose to be the way he is.   And what harm was done, really, that his life should be destroyed for it? Well, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  Are you without sin Alfred?  For I am certainly not."

Article contributed by
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Elisabeth LaMotte

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Social worker, psychotherapist, blogger and author of "Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce"

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