The Grace & Truth Blog

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“By jove! I’m being humble”

I am currently reading C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, and I am convicted to the core by it.  Lewis writes this book as a series of letters written from Uncle Screwtape (a senior demon) to Wormwood (a rookie demon).  Screwtape refers to God as the Enemy, and you have to reverse everything Screwtape says to make it applicable to yourself as a believer.  I love the irony, the way with words Lewis always has, and the elementary application he makes for us as Christians.  Chapter 14 is Screwtape teaching Wormwood how to keep his “patient” (new believer) from being humble.  Here is a few worthy excerpts for us to dwell on:

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact?  All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility.  Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove!  I’m being humble’, and almost immediately pride-pride at his own humility-will appear.”

“Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be.  No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point.  The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue.  By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools.  And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible.”

“The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another.”

He [the Enemy] would rather the man thought himself a great architect or a great poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one.”

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