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Following Christ's Example in the World – Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (c. 1418)

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Chapter 5

We aren’t in a position to count on ourselves much, because apart from a rare grace, we haven’t enough perception; our faculty of insight is a very limited one, and is easily lost if we once get careless about it. Quite often we’re unaware of our own blindness, and make a bad action worse by the dishonest excuses we offer for it—we lose our tempers, for example, and put it down to zeal, or we pounce on slight faults in our neighbors so as to have an excuse for ignoring more serious faults of our own. How quick we are to reckon up our grievances against other people, how slow to notice what a lot they have to put up with from us! And yet a man who sees himself as he really is hasn’t the heart to criticize the next man.

2. It’s a sure sign that you’re living an interior life, if in your own view you are Problem number One; something which has to be tackled seriously, so that you don’t feel inclined to discuss other people. Don’t gossip about their affairs, be content to watch yourself, or you’ll never be a man of prayer and recollection.

God and yourself—that’s the subject to keep in view; mere outward happenings oughtn’t to make much impression on you. How your thoughts roam about when you’re not recollected; how little ground they’ve covered when you haven’t kept yourself in view! No, if you really want peace, really want to be integrated, you must leave everything else on one side, and keep one thing under observation—yourself.

3. The passing shows of time, how you grow in stature if you can banish these from your thoughts, how they belittle you if you pay attention to them! Let nothing impress or overawe you, nothing charm or captivate you, except God and what comes straight from God; the satisfaction you get out of creatures must count for nothing. The soul that loves God despises everything else, as being less than God; he only, the Eternal, the Infinite, can fulfill every desire, can bring balm to the soul’s wounds, and true joy to man’s heart.

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