A Good Man is Hard to Find

I try to read Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” every year. Maybe it’s all the writing I’ve been doing in school, but tonight, I needed to write down my thoughts as I read this favorite story again. And since I don’t have to turn in a paper, I’ll turn in my thoughts here.
This s the first story I’ve read that’s helped me understand two big questions I have about people: If human beings can have moments of pure Christlike selflessness and generosity, why do we revert so quickly and often to our flawed, limited selves? And does the fact that we relapse into old patterns, diminish what we are in our best moments?
O’Connor believes that we can be filled, momentarily, with the kind of grace that revelation is supposed to bring. But I think she also believes that we’re all essentially sinners. She’s saying: Don’t think for a moment that because you’ve had a brief instance of revelation, and you suddenly see yourself with clarity, that you’re not going to sin again three days from now. This condition, of falling again and again from grace, is not a punishment, it is our life challenge.
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

Where O’Connor misses the mark, is the knowledge the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has given us. I’ll let President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explain:

We acknowledge that all have sinned and come short off the glory of God. But we also declare with firmness that repentance and forgiveness can be as real as sin. The atonement of Jesus Christ causes each person to be accountable for his or her individual sin.

We will overcome the consequences of individual sin by claiming the blessings and benefits of the atonement, for salvation cometh to none, except it be through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not repentance, per say, that saves men. It is the blood of JesusChrist that saves us.

It is not by our sincere and honest change of behavior alone that we are saved, but by grace that we are saved after all we can do. True repentance, however, is the condition required so that God’s forgiveness can come into our lives.

Even if we regress and relapse into old behaviors, we shouldn’t write these moments of clarity off. The grandmother in the O’Connor’s story is mankind. We’re prone to murmur, whine and complain about life. We’re all too often the natural man given only brief flashes of our true, divine nature. This brief type of epiphany occurred for the grandmother in the story:

“She saw the man’s face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, ‘Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!’ She reached out and touched him on the shoulder.”

The fact that there’s a brevity in these Christlike moments–the fact that it goes away–might make it seem like we should not make a big deal that it was there at all. But of course we can’t do that. We have to value the moments when a person is everything we’d hoped she would be, or became briefly something even better than she normally is. We need to give these moments the credit they’re due and not diminish them the way The Misfit does in the end of the story:

“‘She could have been a good woman,’ The Misfit said, ‘if it had been someone there to shoot her every minute of her life.'”