Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday's Quote: Domestic Hatred

I'm currently reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and I thought I would share with you a little of it.  If you haven't read it, this book is a series of letters supposedly written by a senior devil to his nephew giving him advice on how best to tempt his "patient," the man he is assigned to.  Of course, everything is reversed:  the Enemy is Jesus Christ, vices are good things, and virtues are bad.

In this quote, Screwtape tells Wormwood how to take advantage of our natural proclivities to take offense at meaningless trifles, specifically comments between two people who live together such as a man and his mother, in this case.
In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face.  To keep this game up you and Glubose [the devil assigned to the "patient's" mother] must see to it that each of these two fools has a sort of double standard.  Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother's utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention.  She must be encouraged to do the same to him.  Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent.  You know the kind of thing:  "I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper."  Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offence is taken.
Have you ever had a fight or "discussion" like this one?  I know that I have with John, where he said something that I immediately took offense at, even though he didn't mean it that way.  Reading this passage reminds me to be careful even with little comments because the little things can turn into big ones.  May we turn this passage around and strive to take the other's words at face value while judging our own tones and contexts.

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