By Roland Worth, Jr.
Even though people will not always practice what they know to be right, most people are intelligent enough to realize that they are doing wrong.
The adulterer may justify his sin by appealing to the “Playboy Philosophy.” The war criminal may claim that he was just “obeying orders.” The assassin may bemoan the evils of society. In spite of such rationalizations, most people, in the depths of their heart, know that such acts are corrupt and evil. However the reason such rationalizations are made is quite simple: In order to soothe their conscience they must find an excuse to engage in these things.
One of the more popular rationalizations (and it is just that-a rationalization rather than a justification) is that, “I’m just as good as other people” or, if they are especially upset, “I’m just as good as you. “
C. S. Lewis wisely points out in an essay of his that such a person is admitting far more about himself than he may ever realize. Lewis has the fictional devil, Screwtape, lecturing the new devils in tactics to use in subverting mankind. Screwtape strongly urges them to cultivate in their potential victims the very attitude that we have just mentioned:
“The first and most obvious advantage is that you thus induce him to enthrone at the centre of his life a good, solid resounding lie. I don’t mean merely that his statement is false in fact, that he is no more equal to everyone he meets in kindness, honesty, and good sense than in height or waist-measurement. I mean that he does not believe it himself. No man who says `I’m as good as you’ believes it. He would not say It if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept” (C. S. Lewis, “Screwtape Proposes A Toast,” in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York: 1960, pages 60-61).
Sometimes people say far more than they realize. Especially when they are trying to find excuses for their sin.
Truth Magazine XIX: 49, p. 777
October 23, 1975