A Bit of Borrowed Wisdom

TO EDWARD LOFSTROM: A letter of great encouragement for someone who had been struggling with excessive self-awareness.

10 June 1962

You are of course perfectly right in defining your problem (which is also mine and everyone’s) as ‘excessive selfness’. But per- haps you don’t fully realise how far you have got by so defining it. All have this disease; fortunate are the minority who know they have it. To know that one is dreaming is to be already nearly awake, even if, for the present, one can’t wake up fully. And you have actually got further than that. You have got beyond the illusion (very common) that to recognise a chasm is the same thing as building a bridge over it.

Your danger now is that of being hypnotised by the mere sight of the charm, of constantly looking at this excessive selfness. The important thing now is to go steadily on acting, so far as you can—and you certainly can to some extent, however small—as if it wasn’t there. You can, and I expect you daily do—behave with some degree of unselfishness. You can and do make some attempt at prayer. The continual voice which tells you that your best actions are secretly filled with subtle self-regards, and your best prayers still wholly egocentric—must for the most part be simply disregarded—as one disregards the impulse to keep on looking under the bandage to see whether the cut is healing. If you are always fidgeting with the bandage, it never will.

A text you should keep much is mind is I John iii, 20: ‘If our heart condemns us God is greater than our heart.’ I sometimes pray ‘Lord give me no more and no less self-knowledge than I can at this moment make a good use of.’ Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted—i.e., keep on fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk—don’t keep on looking at it.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Shared from Bible Gateway, C.S. Lewis Daily

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Overcoming Discouragement

I’ve learned from a very dear friend, (you know who you are DC) that often “borrowed wisdom” is the most profound. Therefore, it is with great joy that I share a bit of Rick Warren’s wisdom with you today. I hope you enjoy!

“Then the people of Judah said, ‘The work crews are worn out, and there is too much rubble. We can’t continue to rebuild the wall.’” (Nehemiah 4:10 GWT)

Discouragement is curable. Whenever I get discouraged, I head straight to Nehemiah. This great leader of ancient Israel understood there were four reasons for discouragement.

First, you get fatigued. You simply get tired as the laborers did in Nehemiah 4:10. We’re human beings, and we wear out. You cannot burn the candle at both ends. So if you’re discouraged, it may be you don’t have to change anything. You just need a vacation! Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is go to bed.

Second, you get frustrated. Nehemiah says there was rubble all around, so much that it was getting in the way of rebuilding the wall. Do you have rubble in your life? Have you noticed that anytime you start doing something new, the trash starts piling up?

If you don’t clean it out periodically, it’s going to stop your progress. You can’t avoid it, so you need to learn to recognize it and dispose of it quickly so you don’t lose focus on your original intention.

Third, you think you’ve failed. Nehemiah’s people were unable to finish their task as quickly as originally planned and, as a result, their confidence collapsed. They were thinking, “We were stupid to think we could ever rebuild this wall.”

But you know what I do when I don’t reach a goal on time? I just set a new goal. I don’t give up. Everybody fails. Everybody does foolish things. So the issue is not that you failed; it’s how you respond to your failure.

Do you give in to self-pity? Do you start blaming other people? Do you start complaining that it’s impossible? Or, do you refocus on God’s intentions and start moving again?

Finally, when you give in to fear, you get discouraged. Nehemiah 4 suggests the people most affected by fear are those who hang around negative people. If you’re going to control the negative thoughts in your life, you’ve got to get away from negative people as much as you can.

Maybe you’re discouraged because of fear. You’re dealing with fears like, “I can’t handle this. It’s too much responsibility.” Maybe it’s the fear that you don’t deserve it or the fear of criticism. Fear will destroy your life if you let it. But you can choose to resist the discouragement. Say, “God, help me get my eyes off the problem and the circumstance and keep my eyes on you.”

Talk It Over

  • Rubble is the trivial things that waste your time and energy and prevent you from accomplishing what God has called you to do. What is the rubble in your life?
  • How can you reduce negativity in your life that is keeping you discouraged?
  • On what abandoned goal do you need to refocus so that you can accomplish something God has called you to do?