The temptation that had caused so many repeated downfalls throughout Walter’s life was insidious: it was not one of the obvious temptations; to commit overtly evil acts such as the crimes reported on the evening news; nor was it the temptation to commit evils against himself by chain smoking, drinking to excess or becoming dangerously obese. He congratulated himself that he had never been remotely tempted in those directions.
He wasn’t xenophobic or racist in any way, and, despite not being quite at ease in the company of his gay or lesbian friends, he wasn’t in the least homophobic. That was merely the awkwardness of not being entirely sure of the customs and social mores of their society.
He pondered how easy it was to label a killer or rapist as an evil beast and a devil incarnate, when other much more subtle evils were just as demonic in their effect, and in a man’s lifetime might do incalculable harm to hundreds.
But then, if one was to believe the writer C.S.Lewis, that was how the devils liked to work, mis-labelling one’s habits in the dark recesses of one’s mind and dressing them up in acceptable clothing.
For instance, he thought, to make endless trouble for others by only wanting a tiny bit of food perfectly prepared, was just as much gluttony as was constantly over-eating, or putting others out by insisting on one’s slimming diet when it was most inconvenient.
But that wasn’t his problem, he’d always said he would eat what was put before him – always excepting the two or three foods which refused to go down his throat even for politeness’ sake.
No, his love was the problem, his love, or rather the lack of it. Love could be so destructive. Love was held up to society as the primary desire and the ultimate virtue. And, set higher still on a great and glorious pedestal, the love of children.
How demonic that demand for love could be, and how many thousands of people were living crippled lives because they were not able to satisfy their parents’ desire to be loved? How many children were being starved of love while watching their parents lavish it on other people’s children? And of course, if one couldn’t show endless, uncritical love for children – any children, all children – one was instantly suspected of evil, or labelled as a sub-standardan emotional cripple.
‘How could I be expected,’ he asked himself, ‘to be able to love freely and naturally without having received free and natural love? How could anyone be expected to love consistently and faithfully if consistent and faithful love was never given to them?’
Oh now . . . hold on a minute, they’d done it again, those demonic forces – turned his serious consideration of his life’s subtle evils into a condemnation of others’ failings! This was the one all pervasive evil of society, seen and heard from cradle to grave the world over, the demonic desire to blame others.
‘He made me do it!’
‘It’s her fault, she didn’t give me my rights!’
‘They failed in their duty to me!’
The endless cries of the victims who were now delighting in the vision of the punishment about to be meted out to those who had, in their turn, become the victims of their vengeful rage.
Walter stopped and returned to his original intent, a full and truthful assessment of his own evil and its consequences, with no blame attached to others.
He could not persevere in loving! He supposed that it was similar to the inability to concentrate from which some suffer. They had a short concentration span, he had a short perseverance span.
But no . . . labelling it as an inability was just another demonic strategy! He’d always had a choice and must accept his responsibility for the choice he’d so often made not to bother – ‘They know I love them, they won’t mind’ – and the damage he’d done to those who relied on his demonstration of that love.
He let down his friends and aquaintances every time he failed to do something he’d promised, every time he omitted those acts of friendship which others seem to find so easy and natural.
Why was it so hard to send birthday cards to his friends? It wasn’t as if he forgot them!
Why was it something to joke about if he hadn’t sent them Christmas cards again this year? Why did he think it didn’t really matter?
Were his friends not hurt, were they not grieved that he didn’t seem to care for them?
How many hundreds of wounds had he given to innocent friends by his apathy and carelessness? Far more than he cared to think about – but this time he wouldn’t give in to the temptation to ignore the truth, nor would he turn away from it in embarrassment. He must not avoid the confrontation with himself, but face up to it.
He could not persevere in loving! For years beyond counting he had blamed his busyness and refused to take the time and trouble to learn perseverance. Now was the time to say the necessary words – ‘It was my fault’, and tell the demon whispering into his ear that his tactic had failed, for he had unmasked his evil, he had named it, and with God’s help he would amend his ways.
Today he would go and buy some cards and send them to his friends!