Editor’s Note: The Screwtape Letters is the title of a book by C.S. Lewis in which an older demon gives advice to a younger tempter through a series of letters. Needless to say, the advice given is exactly what we should guard against as Christians. This article is written in the style of a Screwtape letter, addressing the subject of young women. “The Enemy” refers to God, and “Our Father Below” is Satan.
My Dear Wormwood,
I have wasted no time in responding to your request for advice regarding your assignment. As a matter of fact, I have quite a few suggestions that have proved invaluable in times past. I feel from your letter that you are worried about your Christian young woman’s progress. I must say, I understand your concern; she is fast becoming a model of Proverbs 31. We must prevent what Christians call “growth” at all costs.
First, I have a few suggestions about her home. It disgusts me to write this, but when the Enemy is allowed to have full sway in a home, nothing but peace, joy, and love abound. Surrounded by this sickly atmosphere, even our most disheartened patients reject our blighting influences and begin to exhibit a spirit of cheerfulness that drives one mad.
Therefore, the more strife you can stir up the better. Do your best to create friction between each member of the household. Let your patient feel that her household duties are irksome and menial. Be sure that she feels unappreciated and undervalued. Remind her that her brothers turn up their noses at her cooking and that her sisters constantly leave clothes strewn about their room. Do your best to point out every reason there may be for discontent and annoyance.
Also, don’t forget to keep her from ever confiding in her mother. Our fellow fiends have been most successful in this matter. Most girls have already accepted the idea that mothers cannot be confidantes. Remind your patient of any time that her mother has treated a confidence in a casual way. Keep a feeling of distrust or self-consciousness in the back of her mind. For the final member of the family I have special instructions. Keep the father distant. If a daughter doesn’t receive attention and confirmation from her father, she will often go to other male sources. Keep your patient disconnected from her father, and she will be ripe for the series of attacks that I will discuss in the next paragraph.
I have found that due to the emotional sensitivity of most young women it is very easy to distract them with constant thoughts of young men. In this case, the more handsome, considerate, and humble they are, the better. Obviously, a Christian girl will be strongly attracted to a young man who exemplifies every virtue of their religion. Therefore, whenever possible distract your patient with thoughts about the Christian young men around her. I rejoice to say that I have found this one of my most effective tools. If a young woman’s mind can be kept busy with thoughts about a young man, she will be so occupied with thinking and dreaming about him that she will have no time to think of anyone else.
I need not tell you, Wormwood, that insomuch as the Enemy was a servant to the human vermin he claims to love, he wants those creatures to be servants to each other. Thoughts about a young man will distract an ordinarily kind and selfless girl so much that she will begin focusing on her own appearance, feelings, and dreams at the expense of others. Many times I’ve sipped the heady wine of a broken-hearted, disillusioned girl. I tell you, Wormwood, it is more delectable than the famed “nectar and ambrosia” of the Greek myths we inspired. If you wish to sip this delicacy, heed my instructions well.
You’ve written that your patient is well regarded at her work for integrity and diligence. Since these are firmly established as habits, I suggest you turn your attention toward more vulnerable areas. As I’ve touched upon already, after a long day’s work divert her attention from helping and serving her family to her own fatigue. Don’t let her realize that her mother may be exhausted after teaching all day and making supper for her family. Keep her annoyed when her brothers tease her. If her dad asks her to make him coffee, make sure she suddenly remembers letters, essays, or practicing she needs to finish. Also, if there are any young men at her workplace, make her very conscious of that fact. She may even be led to subtly display her work ethic or proficiency when the young man is close by.
My sincere wish is that you strictly follow my counsel regarding your patient. I can attest that my methods have rarely failed. Rest not a moment, my young tempter, and you will feast on the most tainted devils’ brew that hell has to offer.
Your affectionate uncle,
P. S. Above all, Wormwood, never let your patient grow into the habit of joyfulness. It pains me to write this, but once reaching the plain which the Enemy calls “godliness with contentment” the apelike creatures are scarcely ever reclaimed. Beware!