Responding to Disillusionment with Oneself

Commenting on the third stage of the Way of Purgation, disillusionment with oneself, Father Benson notes: “If a soul has come so far as this, it is extremely rare that sheer pride should be her ruin. The very knowledge of herself that she has gained is an effectual cure of any further real complacency.”

“Yet there are other dangers that face her, and of these one at least may be pride under the very subtle disguise of extravagant humility. ‘Since I am so worthless,’ she may be tempted to say, ‘I had better never again attempt those high flights and those aspirations after friendship with my God. Let me give up, once and for all, my dreams of perfection, and my hopes of actual union with my Lord.'”

“Or her self-knowledge may take the form of despair. . . . ‘I have forfeited,’ cries a soul such as this—a soul which has lost the excuse of pride, but yet clings to its substance—’I have forfeited the Friendship of Christ once and for all. It is impossible that I who have tasted of the heavenly gift should be renewed again unto repentance. He chose me, and I failed Him. He loved me, and I have loved myself only.'”

“And yet, if the soul only knew it, now is the very moment to which all the preceding stages have led. Now is the very instant in which the beloved soul, having learnt her last lesson of the Purgative Way, is fit. . . . Christ can be her all. No longer can pride, whether whole or wounded, keep her from Him.”

“The way of the spiritual path is strewn with the wrecks of souls that might have been friends of Christ. This one faltered, because Christ put off his ornaments; this one because Christ did not allow her to think that His graces were Himself; a third because wounded pride still writhed. . . . All these stages and processes are known. . . . But the end and lesson of them all is the same—that Christ purges His friends of all that is not of Him; . . . for no soul can learn the strength and the love of God, until she has cast her whole weight upon Him.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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