Envy.

Caleb and I have referred to this passage over and over again. It has brought so much perspective in different interactions, and in looking at our own hearts. It’s a large chunk, but rich and wise. Good ole C.S. Lewis.

The Screwtape Proposes a Toast is the book end to Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis comments on the Christian life through the eyes of two demons or workers of the devil. One writes another, advising on how to draw their assigned human, away from the Enemy–God. This is a long bit, but worth the read through…maybe a time or two.

   “The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you… I don’t mean merely that his statement is false in fact, that he is no more equal to everyone he meets in kindness, honesty, and good sense than in height or waist-measurement. I mean that he does not believe himself. No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept. 

   “And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority. No one must be different from himself in voice, clothes, manners, recreations, choice of food. ‘Here is someone who speaks English rather more clearly and euphoniously than I–it must be a vile, upstage, lah-di-dah affectation. Here’s a fellow who says he doesn’t like hot dogs–thinks himself too good for them no doubt. Here’s a man who hasn’t turned on the jukebox–he must be one of those highbrows and is doing it to show off. If they were the right sort of chaps they’d be like me. They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic.’

  “Now this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new. Under the name of Envy it has been known to the humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it–make it respectable and even laudable–by the incantatory use of the word democratic.

   “Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from it for fear of being undemocratic. I am credibly informed that young humans now sometimes suppress an incipient taste for classical music or good literature because it might prevent their Being like Folks; that people who would really wish to be–and are offered the Grace which would enable them to be–honest, chaste, or temperate, refuse it. To accept might make them Different, might offend again the Way of Life, take them out of Togetherness, impair their Integration with the Group. They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals.

   “All is summed up in the prayer which a young female human is said to have uttered recently: ‘Oh God, make me a normal twentieth century girl!’ Thanks to our labours, this will mean increasingly, ‘Make me a minx, a moron, and a parasite.'”

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