Sunday, April 28, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.14 - Judging others is reckless

Judging others is reckless

Look out for what you are doing yourself, and watch out that you are not judging what others do. In judging others a man's efforts are blocked, often wrong, and generally sinful. Turn to yourself for judging and critiquing, and that effort always brings a good result. As things seem to our heart, so we judge them; we easily lose true judgment because of our own personal feeling. If God were always the pure object of our desire, we would not be so easily troubled by the resistance of our feelings. 

There is always some secret thought within us, or even joining it from without, that pulls us off course. Many secretly seek their own goals in things, without realizing it. They seem to have good peace of mind so long as things go the way they want. But because of different feelings and opinions, there often arise disagreements between friends, between countrymen, between religious and godly men.

An old custom is difficult to let go, and no one is easily led to see beyond themselves. If your own reason is your greatest resource or your own efforts, more so than the strength of being under Jesus Christ, you will rarely be an enlightened person, because God's will is for us to be wholly under him and to transcend all reason through a burning love. 

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.14. 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

(I haven't forgotten section 1.13, but it is particularly long and will need to wait for another day.)

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.12 - Adversity is a tool

The usefulness of adversity

It is good for us that we sometimes have sorrows and obstacles: often they are calling a man back to his heart, knowing that he is in exile, not placing his hope in any worldly thing. It is good that we sometimes endure people speaking against us, with bad and ill feelings toward us, even when we act well and with good intentions. That helps us to be humble, and protects us from glorying in the world's empty wins. Because that is when we seek what is better -- the inner witness of God -- when we are held in contempt, and given no credit for good.

Therefore it's necessary for a man to strengthen himself completely so that he has no need to seek after so many consolations. When a man of good will is troubled or tempted or afflicted with evil thoughts, then he understands God as greatly necessary to him, and he can witness that he can do nothing at all without Him. He mourns and prays over the miseries he suffers. He gets tired of life, even wishes for death to come so that he could go be with Christ. Through these trials he understands better: in this world there can be no security or fulness of peace.

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.11. 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.11 - Spiritual proficiency

Seeking peace of mind: enthusiasm for spiritual proficiency

So much peace is possible if we decide not to trouble ourselves with what other people said or did which is not our own care. How is it possible for someone to remain peaceful daily, who mixes himself into other peoples' concerns, who seeks things outside himself, who seldom or rarely collects himself internally? Blessed are the simple-hearted, for they shall have much peace.

Why were some of the Saints so perfect and so contemplative? Because they studied how to cut off all earthly desires, and so were able to hold fast with their whole heart to God, and freed themselves to focus. We are too self-absorbed with our own passions, too wrapped up in things that don't last. It's rare for us to entirely conquer even a single vice, and we pay no attention to our daily progress. So we remain cold or lukewarm. 

If we were watchful of ourselves rather than focused on other things, then we too could have divine wisdom, and experience something of heavenly contemplation. The biggest thing that gets in our way is that we are not free from our own passions and desires, nor do we try to enter into the perfect way of the Saints. When even a little adversity occurs, our hearts are divided and we are diverted to human comforts.

If we stand like strong men in battle, then we shall see the help of the Lord from Heaven. For those who strive and struggle, those who hope in his grace, he stands ready to help. He provides us occasions to strive so that we may conquer. If we track our progress in religion by outward observances and forms, our devotion will soon come to an end. But let's put the ax to the root of the problem, our desires that control us, and clearing those away we may possess a peaceful mind. 

If every year we conquered one vice, we would soon be perfect. But on the contrary, we often feel that we were better and purer in the beginning of our conversion than after many years have gone by. Our feeling and progress should increase daily, but now it seems great to keep some small part of that first feeling. If we used that first feeling to attack our vices, then afterwards we could do everything with ease and joy.

It is a hard thing to let go of something we're used to doing, harder still to go contrary to our own will. But if you do not overcome small and easy obstacles, how will you overcome more difficult ones? Resist your inclination from the first, and unlearn a bad custom, or it may lead you little by little into worse difficulties. If you were aware how much peace you would bring to yourself and how much happiness to others by tending to your inner good, I think that you would be more concerned for your spiritual progress. 

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.11. 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.10 - Peers of mind and spirit

Overflowing with words

Watch out for the babble of men; for it really gets in our way to focus on crude things, even if the conversation started out innocently. Quickly we find ourselves getting into the dirt and caught up in something foolish. How often have I wished I had kept quiet, that I had not been out among people. 

But why do we speak so frequently and trade stories amongst ourselves, since we rarely return to silence without some injury to our conscience? We talk so much because we hope our conversations will bring us some mutual comfort, and we hope that a variety of thoughts will relieve our hearts. And we are so glad -- when it comes to things we love, or things we want, or things we dislike -- we are eager to talk and think about them. 

It is usually pointless and purposeless. This outward consolation is no small loss to the inner divine consolation. So we must watch and pray that the time does not pass by uselessly. If it is right and helpful to speak, then speak things which are constructive. Bad habits and careless conduct leave our mouths unguarded. It helps more than a little for our spiritual development to have a devotional contribution of spiritual things, most of all when peers of mind and spirit associate with each other. 

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.10. 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art