Reflections on “Screwtape Letters” 3

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This is the third installment of my reflections on C. S. Lewis‘ classic book. On his third letter uncle Screwtape writes four things that his devilish nephew should work on in his quest to mangle (in a slow and unassuming way) his patient.

His first suggestion is to his nephew is to encourage him to instill only a spiritual outlook importance on his patient. Screwtape says “Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones.” we do tend to do as such as what Screwtape encourages here. We tend to only take the spiritual practices as the most important while relegating the normative life to the corner. Eugene Peterson in his book “Christ plays in ten thousand places” seeks to redeem our perspective to see all of life as spiritual instead of only some. We have to redeem back this picture that all of life is spiritual. Paul the apostle also tells us that, in whatever we do, we do it for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Second, Screwtape tells his nephew to direct the attention of his patient on just the spiritual state of his mother who suffers rheumatism. To just focus on the state of her soul (although I’m not a fan of this designation). According to Screwtape this will instill in his nephew’s mind to pray for someone who becomes more and more not his mother. This is some wonderful insight. In our presumably concern for those we hope to come into the knowledge of Jesus, our tendency is to focus on just one side of the person, which we might call the spiritual state. We somehow degrade the person we presumably care about into something immaterial.

The third suggestion is to use normal expressions that irritate the patient and the mother to springboard some sort of conflict that comes between them. Allow for these things to irritate and make both sensitive to the slightest bit of tone and gesture one has. And on top of that let them only focus on the other and not themselves. Our pride is spoken of here where our focus most of the time is on how right we are and how wrong the other person is. This is the sort of attitude that can somewhat slowly kill relationships.

The last one is on having an oversensitive feel of reading between the lines of every conversation that takes place. Something like what is suggested above. We can always read something that was not meant to mean what we think it means by having a preconceived notion that has judged the other person. Even before a sentence is spoken out in full, our mind sometimes prejudge everything the other person says.

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