1925) Who is the Real You?

By C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

     We may begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness.  We begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are.  

     This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case.  When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed.  And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; and I was caught off my guard, I did not have time to collect myself.

     Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts:  they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated.  On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he really is.  Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth (the real ‘me’).

     If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding.  In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.  The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

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Proverbs 14:29  —  Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

Proverbs 15:1  —  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Romans 7:15…24-25  —  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Psalm 51:10  —  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

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Set a watch, O Lord,before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips.

Lord, keep my tongue from evil, and my lips that they speak no guile.

Treasury of Devotion