‘Here we are, fallen into the ditch’

I rather like this:

Of gentleness towards ourselves…

One of the good uses we should make of gentleness, is that whereof the subject is in ourselves, never fretting at ourselves or at our imperfections; for though reason requires, that when we commit faults we should be displeased and sorry for them, yet we must restrain ourselves from having a displeasure which is bitter and sullen, fretful and angry. Wherein many commit a great fault, who, when they have given way to anger, are annoyed at having been annoyed, are vexed at having been vexed, and at having fretted; for by this means they keep their hearts preserved and steeped in anger: and although the second anger may seem to destroy the first, yet it serves as an opening and passage for a new anger on the first occasion which presents itself; and, moreover, these fits of anger, fretfulness and irritation, which we have against ourselves, tend to pride and have no other source than self-love, which is troubled and disquieted at seeing ourselves imperfect.


For myself, if for example I had a great desire not to fall into the sin of vanity, and if, notwithstanding, I had fallen deeply into it, I would not seek to reprove my heart in this manner: ‘Art thou not miserable and abominable, that after so many resolutions thou hast suffered thyself to be carried away by vanity? Die of shame, raise no more thy eyes to heaven, blind, shameless that thou art, traitor and disloyal to thy God!’ and such-like things; but I would rather reprove it in a reasonable and compassionate manner: ‘Well! my poor heart, here we are, fallen into the ditch which we had made so firm a resolution to avoid; ah! let us arise and leave it for ever; let us implore the mercy of God and trust that it will help us to be more steadfast in the future, and let us place ourselves again on the path of humility; courage! henceforth let us be more on our guard, God will help us, we shall do well enough.’

St Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, translated by Allan Ross


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