Friday with Screwtape 3 (series)
Wormwood’s patient lives with his mother, and his relationship with her is not altogether good. This opens the door for the demons to create even more discord and do damage to the spiritual health of the patient. In this letter, Screwtape is instructing young Wormwood how to twist the patient’s prayers to create all sort of evil distortions in his relationship with his mother. Let’s listen in…
It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayer innocuous. Make sure that they are always very ‘spiritual’, that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. In the first place, his attention will be kept on what he regards her sins, by which, with a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself. Thus you can keep rubbing the wounds of the day a little sorer even while he is on his knees; the operation is not at all difficult and you will find it very entertaining. In the second place, since his ideas about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to make the imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother — sharp-tongued old lady at the breakfast table. In time, you may get the cleavage so wide that no though of feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will ever flow over into his treatment of the real one. I have had patients of my own so will in hand that they could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned prayer for a wife’s or son’s ‘soul’ to beating or insulting the real wife or son without a qualm.
So here we see one of the great tricks of the devil in our lives: keep us so focused on the spiritual needs of ourselves and others, that we deceive ourselves into thinking we are showing real compassion for others, and all the while we harbor bitterness, envy, and strife.