Chapter 6 – Renounce Inordinate Affections
VI Renounce Inordinate Desires (click to download pdf)
Hear what Jesus, our Master, says: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” And again, “Take up My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart; and you shall find rest to your souls.” Yes, my dear child, little follower of Jesus, this is a lesson for you –and indeed, for us all. If we wish to follow our Saviour we
A boy was once riding a young horse. The horse was proud and wild, and not yet fully broken. You know how such an animal will act when there is somebody on his back riding him. So this horse, too, would throw up his head, and then bend it stubbornly; he would take a start as if to run; and then, again, he would stop, and go a few steps back, and turn crossways on the road.
But the boy was not afraid: he had courage. He sat firm in the saddle; the horse could not throw him off. With a steady hand he held the bridle reins; the horse could not break through and run away with him. Young, and big, and stout as the horse was, he felt that the boy was his master, and he had to let himself be governed. So you see, by his firm will, and steady determination, and undaunted courage, this boy mastered and even tamed the young, wild horse, that was, maybe, four times as large, and more than four times as strong as he was.
Now you can more easily understand, I suppose. There are different kinds of affections, and desires, and passions in our hearts; and they are called inordinate when they are opposed to reason—common sense—and to the law of God. They are, therefore, bad; and if we are not on our guard, they will mislead us, and bring us into sin. To preserve ourselves from ruin, we must let God’s grace and our own reason and conscience hold the reins tightly on us: we must govern ourselves, check our evil inclinations, overcome our passions, and thus avoid sin. That is what is meant by “renouncing our inordinate affections, denying ourselves, and following Christ.”
What do you think? Quite a difficult task, isn’t it? A continual warfare; a lifelong struggle. Ah, yes; but this life battle against ourselves is a most glorious thing, and if persevered in faithfully to the end, will bring us a great reward. You cannot be a follower of Jesus unless you undertake this life struggle against yourself. Open the “Lives of the Saints,” and point out to me, if you can, one saint who did not fight this battle—denying himself, renouncing his inordinate affections, taking up his cross and following Jesus.
Well, then, what must you do? First, you must learn to know yourself. You cannot renounce your inordinate affections and evil passions if you do not know them. Therefore you ought to examine yourself every day; and because, maybe, you could not, after all your examining, find out your evil inclinations, passions, and bad habits yourself, it would be well to get your parents, or those who take your parents’ place, to help you. Ask them, and they will tell you; for they know—or, at least, ought to know—what bad traits you have.
Let us suppose you have a hasty temper. You get angry at every little thing; and then you say harsh words, and you quarrel and call names; and, maybe, you will even strike your brother or sister, or playmate, and push them away from you. Do you see? This is one little enemy already that you must fight with and subdue—your evil temper.
Or you have too fine and too great an appetite for eating and drinking. You frequently take too much. More than once you got sick from eating half-ripe fruit and berries. You always ask for dainties; and what does not suit your taste, you let stand and will not touch. You also got into the habit of taking things on the sly—sugar, cakes, jelly, and so on. “Johnny,” a mother once asked her little son, “did you take the piece out of this pie?” “No, ma’am.” “Then, how did this hole get into the pie?” “Oh!” said Johnny, drawing his sleeve across his face, “I s’pose it got ‘wore’ in.” So this inordinate appetite is another enemy you must overcome; and I know he will give you enough to do.
I might go on and count up for you a great many more of such enemies, as pride, self-will, deceit, envy, laziness, and so on.
Undoubtedly, pride and anger are our greatest enemies, and the hardest to subdue. Therefore, Jesus says: “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble.”
Set to work earnestly, now. Find out what are the evil inclinations and passions in your heart, and then say with a firm will: “Out with them! Jesus, help me!”
“It is by resisting the passions,” says Thomas à Kempis, “and not by serving them, that true peace of heart is to be found.”