C.S. Lewis on Humility

Hi friends,

Sometimes, I cycle between feeling guilty for what I have done wrong and insecure about what I have done right.

I am conscious that I am sometimes bad. But at other times, my repentance and pursuit of God is halfhearted.

The variation between guilt and fear is not a happy way to live.

How can I experience God’s love, forgiveness, and grace?

When this discourages me, I return to Romans 8:1-2,

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Meditating on this promise strengthens my heart.

But I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis, because he has helped me get through this. In The Screwtape Letters, written from the perspective of a demon named Screwtape to another demon named Wormwood, we read:

I see only one thing to do at the moment. 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. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed (The Screwtape Letters, 69-70)

While this wisdom applies to the inevitable struggle between humility and pride, I’ve found it helpful for so many other elements of the spiritual life.

A gentle laugh at my absurd condition - totally beloved yet struggling with guilt, shame, and fear - can help me ‘reset’ my heart.

Doing so reminds me that I am loved beyond my ability to recognize it, to stop worrying so much because God cares for me, and to focus on serving others. I now associate laughing at myself - again, in a gentle way - as a moment to be grateful for God’s love even if I am not as aware of God’s perspective as I want to be.

What do you think of this quote?

What helps you stop self-obsessing, be assured by God’s care, and focus your attention elsewhere?

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