Friday, February 24, 2012

The intolerable burden and contrite heart of the miserable offender

prayer-on-my-knees4I think the first step is to get down to the flaws which one does know. I am speaking to Christians. Many of you, no doubt, are very far ahead of me in the Christian way. It is not for me to decide whether you should confess your sins to a priest or not (our Prayer Book leaves that free to all and demands it of none)’ but if you do not, you should at least make a list on a piece of paper, and make a serious act of penance about each one of them. There is something about the mere words, you know, provided you avoid two dangers, either of sensational exaggeration — trying to work things up and make melodramatic sins out of small matters — or the opposite danger of slurring things over, it is essential to use the plain, simple, old-fashioned words that you would use about anyone else. I mean words like theft, or fornication, or hatred, instead of ‘I did not mean to he dishonest,’ or ‘I was only a boy then,’ or ‘I lost my temper.’ I think that this steady facing of what one does know and bringing it before God, without excuses, and seriously asking for Forgiveness and Grace, and resolving as far as in one lies to do better, is the only way in which we can ever begin to know the fatal thing which is always there, and preventing us from becoming perfectly just to our wife or husband, or being a better employer or employee. If this process is gone through, I do not doubt that most of us will come to understand and to share these old words like ‘contrite’, ‘miserable’ and ‘intolerable’.

C.S. Lewis, "Miserable Offenders," God in the Dock (Eerdmans, 1970) 123-124.

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