Fear and Confidence

by | Jun 18, 2024 | Prayer, Society, Teachings

“Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable states of mind” ~ The Screwtape Letters, pg. 75.

In his masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis explores the perspective of a demon tempting a man towards hell. The book takes place amidst World War II, when England was caught in the crossfire. Screwtape is a devil counseling his “nephew” on how to guide a young man to hell. The line above is in response to there being a “lull” in the war. Screwtape’s advisers help the man into a mental state of tortured fear or stupid confidence.

Past and Future.

A devil’s task is to make us focus on the Past or the Future. The Past is written in stone. We can’t do anything with it anymore. Mistakes and choices have been made. Hurts have been caused. Living in the Past means refusing to move forward, refusing to forgive. The Future is out of our hands and worry does nothing for it. These two states of time and mind are perfect for a demon trying to distract us from God.

“For the Present is the point at which time touches Eternity” pg. 75.

Screwtape explains that God wants us to focus on the Present, or on Eternity. The Present is what we can control, and also where we can execute our free will. Using our free will is what makes us human, in His image and likeness. The Present “touches” Eternity because we can only be fully human and free in the present. Looking to the Past or the Future is to step away from that free nature, and away from God.

The Future and Eternity cannot be confused with each other. Eternity is the place outside of time. It begins when our life on earth ends. Eternity could be in five minutes or fifty years. The focus on Eternity, in the Present, is to remember that we are not living for ourselves. Every choice we make in our Present will effect our Eternity.

Fear and Confidence.

So what then is the role of tortured fear and stupid confidence? Both can relate to the Past and the Future, but neither the Present nor Eternity. Stupid confidence relates to either carelessness for our sins, or a presumption of the consequences. Either nothing was wrong to begin with, or everything will be fine without rectification. Tortured fear relates to scrupulosity of the past, or pain of the future. Either everything we’ve done is too wrong to recover from, or everything to come will be too much to bear. Neither a mindset of fear or confidence lets us live freely in our Present, or turn towards our Eternity with God.

What fear or confidence are we holding onto? How can we release it to remember our purpose of Eternity?

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Michelle C. Martin

Michelle graduated from Texas Tech University with her husband, Joshua, in May 2021 and married him in June on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She has a degree in Communication Studies and has loved growing in knowledge of healthy and authentic relationships during her time in college and adulthood. Michelle and Joshua currently reside in Lubbock, TX where he works as an architect and she loves life as a stay-at-home wife and mother to their children, Peter and Cecilia.

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