Quite often in our lives we are going to meet Satan, either in other people or in ourselves. We don’t realize it because we often fail to recognise him. Here is an example from a time when smoking was just a social habit and not yet known to be a killer: A certain heavy smoker did find some adverse symptoms and he recognised quickly that it was due to smoking. He resolved to give it up and managed to maintain this for several months. His cigarette-smoking colleagues at first tried to break his resolution; failing to do so they began to respect him. But then he made the fatal mistake of beginning to preach to them. “Why can’t you give up the filthy habit, you know it is bad for you, it’s disgusting and it only wants a strong will, haven’t you got the will-power to give it up?” His hearers’ mild resentment began to seethe. One of them, or something in one of them, devised a plan. The next time the lecture began he said:
“You haven’t given up”.
“What do you mean, I haven’t touched it for nearly six months in spite of great temptation.”
“No, you haven’t really given it up because you are still terrified of it and that’s not giving it up.”
“Well, what do you mean? What is giving it up then?”
“Giving it up would be if now, in front of me, you could have one and then throw it away when you are halfway down and never touch it again: that would be giving it up.”
“No, while you are frightened of it you have not given it up.”
So to prove something, he was not quite sure what, the ex-smoker accepted the challenge and lit the cigarette. And then, as he said afterwards bitterly, the avalanche was on. He was once more a heavy smoker like the rest of them.
The friend who told this just to one or two people said reflectively after a while: ” You know, I think when I saw that chap lighting a cigarette to show he wasn’t afraid of it, I realised the satisfaction Satan must have when he looks at us and says, “What fools these humans are.” He later remarked that having played the part of Satan himself he could recognise him more easily. And when he himself was about to do something that he knew would be very wrong he was sometimes aware of a voice saying, “What a fool this human is!” and quite often that checked the action as he recognised he was being manipulated.
© 1998 Trevor Leggett