Sympathy For The Devil

“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

“I’m basically a good person.”

I cringe at this self-delusion. I once believed this lie. It led to a sense of entitlement, a sense that life’s little inconveniences and larger tragedies were unfair to me in particular. It led to a sense that if everyone were to adopt my basically good principles for living, all would be well with the world. It led to phrases coming out of my mouth like:

Coppo di Marcovaldo, The Hell

Everyone should …

If only everyone understood …

If only people were more educated …

If only people weren’t so stupid …

If only those people didn’t exist …


“We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

I was often polite and took this for goodness. In ways I didn’t even notice, I controlled others because I feared their differences and labeled them dangerous (because I alone understood goodness since I was basically good). I feared evil in a personal way, a selfish way. I worried about being buried alive by stupid people taking orders from powerful leaders with wrong ideologies.

“The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

“Hatred is best combined with Fear. Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painful–horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember; Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear. The more he fears, the more he will hate.” The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

It’s taken me a long time to realize that Jesus never ordered us to go around impressing people with how little we sin. What he said was to love others because we are first loved by God (despite how awful we think others are and how awful we can sometimes be).

Loving without controlling requires trusting and I can find no reason to trust without first trusting God. Trusting plain old humanity or any living thing within this system seems the height of foolishness.

Loving the unlovable others in our lives or on TV is so much more challenging than virtue signalling or joining a group of like-minded political junkies…

Yet I’ve noticed only recently that in those rare moments when I abandon self-will and open myself to loving without assurance of receiving it in return I become free — of resentment, fear and despair.

“When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

In my NOVELS and in my life I do feel a certain sympathy for the devil because indeed he is in you and me.

And so my friends, how do you deal with the devils in others? How about the ones lurking in yourself? Is your struggle to love as hard as mine is?

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out,
“Who killed the Kennedys?”
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeahBut what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste. Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah


 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

FEATURED IMAGE:Jerome Witkin, The Devil as a Tailor (1978)

3 responses to “Sympathy For The Devil”

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