Five New Screwtape Letters… #5 (Pain)


My Dear Wormwood, 

Your patient has suffered any injury. This is very interesting, but once again you have missed the point—the details of the injury are irrelevant. It is what you do with the pain that matters. Please keep your focus on the task at hand. 

In many ways, what you must see about pain extends from what I wrote in my last letter. The idea of chastity depends on an acceptance of pain—that the creature will have desires that cannot be fulfilled, and that in obedience to a higher calling the creature will willingly forego fulfillment of the desire for some sense of what is greater. Any time this happens we are on immensely dangerous ground. Pain is of course double-edged—it drives the human creature to focus quite powerfully on the present moment. This, for us, is bad. But if we can distract the patient, then some good can be wrung from the situation. 

What you must do is to work up in your patient the sense, first of all, that pain is an injustice. Massage his self-pity. Remind him, not of previous pains, but of previous times he felt bad for himself. Work the sense that he doesn’t deserve it. Never let him think of all the times he’s been pain-free and didn’t give it a second thought—never even a word of gratitude!—for the gift of painlessness. Use this sense of grievance to drive away the opportunity for the Enemy to slip in and offer comfort. 

If available, get the patient to medicate himself by whatever means possible. Again, being pure spirits, we have no real concept of what these human medicines do to the creatures, but we know their spiritual value. Not, of course, the value provided in healing or reprieve, but the value of escape from pain. Combined with a sense of injustice, this can be quite deadly. What I mean is that the human who is convinced that he does not deserve pain, under any circumstances, can be induced to any number of destructive behaviours. He can be led to drink, or take pills, or smoke cannabis—at first for ‘medical’ reasons (however legitimate), but in time for the mere sake of not having to feel any pain. This self-medication establishes a wonderful trajectory which can lead, in certain regions, to the patient willingly ending his own life on the pure logic of, “I don’t deserve pain.” Brilliant! 

The thought you must keep from his mind is any idea that pain is part of his animal nature. Certainly, you must keep him from recalling that the Christ willingly endured pain, and even rejected the opportunity to relieve it—an episode that has troubled our Lowerarchy for thousands of years. What must be kept from him no matter what is the idea, present throughout the church, that pain is always linked with glorification, and that the Enemy has reserved some of His highest rewards for those of His servants who endure pain with the greatest patience, courage, and grace. Keep him, in other words, from any study of those so-called “saints” of the church! 

Your affectionate uncle, 


Previous Letters:

Letter 1 (The Spirituality of Covid)

Letter 2 (The Allure of Acceptance)

Letter 3 (Prejudice)

Letter 4 (Sexuality)

One comment on “Five New Screwtape Letters… #5 (Pain)

  1. Janice Sigston says:

    Another suitable complaint from Screwtape. I have enjoyed this series Jeremy; I looked forward to each instalment. Thank you.


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