My Dear Wormwood,
I am very pleased by what you tell me about this man's relations with his mother. But you must press your advantage. The Enemy will be working from the center outwards, gradually bringing more and more of the patient's conduct under the new standard, and may reach his behavior to the old lady at any moment. You want to get in first. Keep in close touch with our colleague Glubose who is in charge of the mother, and build up between you in that house a good settled habit of mutual annoyance; daily pinpricks. The following methods are useful.
1. Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the state of his own mind - or rather to that very expurgated version of them which is all you should allow him to see. Encourage this. Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office.
2. It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always very "spiritual", that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. In the first place, his attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, with a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself. Thus you can keep rubbing the wounds of the day a little sorer even while he is on his knees; the operation is not at all difficult and you will find it very entertaining. In the second place, since his ideas about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to make that imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother - the sharp-tongued old lady at the breakfast table. In time, you may get the cleavage so wide that no thought or feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will ever flow over into his treatment of the real one. I have had patients of my own so well in hand that they could be turned at a moment's notice from impassioned prayer for a wife's or son's "soul" to beating or insulting the real wife or son without qualm.
3. When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurable to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother's eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy - if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.
4. In civilized life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face. To keep this game up you and Glubose must see to it that each of these two fools has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother's utterances with the fullest and most over-sensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: "I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper." Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offense is taken.
Finally, tell me something about the old lady's religious position. Is she at all jealous of the new factor in her son's life? - at all piqued that he should have learned from others, and so late, what she considers she gave him such good opportunity of learning in childhood? Does she feel he is making a great deal of "fuss" about it - or that he's getting in on very easy terms? Remember the elder brother in the Enemy's story.
Your affectionate uncle,
"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:2-5).
1. What part of this week's reading stuck home to you the most? Why?
2. If the patient acts according to Screwtape's goal above, will God judge him in the way he judges himself or in the way he judges his mother?
3. Give advice to the patient, using examples from your own life.
a) What could he do if his mother has unkind intentions behind her words?
b) What could he do if his mother misinterprets something he has said and reacts angrily?
4. Screwtape wants the patient to focus on his mother's sins and irritations, while ignoring his own duties and flaws.
a) Where does Jesus say our focus should be?
b) What will happen in the patient's life if he follows Screwtape's advice.
c) What will happen if he follows Jesus' advice?
d) What might happen if the patient began to habitually respond to irritations by praying, "Lord, my mother is probably damaging a lot of her relationships, and that must hurt her. Please help her to grow. In the meantime, give me patience to love her as You love her and the wisdom to see her as You see her. Show me where I do the same thing and help me overcome it."