Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chapter 18

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chapter 18

CHAPTER XVIII. On Frivolous Attachments.

SUCH foolish attachments between man and woman without any matrimonial
intentions as are called amourettes,–mere abortions, or rather
phantoms of friendship,–must not, idle and empty as they are, profane
the name of friendship or love. Yet such frivolous, contemptible
attractions often snare the hearts of both men and women, and although
they may end in downright sin, there is no such intention on the part
of their victims, who consciously do but yield to foolish trifling and
toying. Some such have no object beyond the actual indulgence of a
passing inclination; others are excited by vanity, which takes pleasure
in captivating hearts; some are stimulated by a combination of both
these motives. But all such friendships are evil, hollow, and vain;
evil, in that they often lead to sinful deeds, and draw the heart from
God, and from the husband or wife who is its lawful owner; hollow, in
that they are baseless and without root; vain, in that neither gain,
honour, nor satisfaction can come from such. On the contrary, nothing
comes of them but a loss of time and credit, and unreasoning
excitement, mistrust, jealousy, and perturbation.

S. Gregory Nazianzen speaks very wisely on this subject, admonishing
vain women, and his words are equally applicable to men:–“Your natural
beauty will suffice your husband, but if it is exhibited to all, like a
net spread before birds, what will be the end? You will be taken by
whoever admires you, looks and glances will be exchanged, smiles and
tender words, at first hesitatingly exchanged, but soon more boldly
given and received. Far be it from me to describe the end, but this
much I will say, nothing said or done by young men and women under such
circumstances but is perilous. One act of levity leads to another, as
the links in a chain.” They who tamper with such things will fall into
the trap. They fancy that they only mean to amuse themselves, but will
not go too far. Little you know, forsooth! The tiny spark will burst
into a flame, and, overpowering your heart, it will reduce your good
resolutions to ashes, and your reputation to smoke. “Who will pity a
charmer that is bitten with a serpent?” asks the Wise Man; [104] and
with him I ask, Do you, in your folly, imagine that you can lightly
handle love as you please? You think to trifle with it, but it will
sting you cruelly, and then every one will mock you, and laugh at your
foolish pretension to harbour a venomous serpent in your bosom, which
has poisoned and lost alike your honour and your soul. What fatal
blindness this to stake all that is most precious to man! Yes, I say it
advisedly, for God desires to have us only for the sake of our soul, or
the soul through our will, and our will for love’s sake. Surely we have
not by any means a sufficient store of love to offer God, and yet in
our madness and folly we lavish and waste it on vain frivolous objects,
as though we had enough and to spare. Our Dear Lord, Who demands nought
save our love in return for our creation, preservation and redemption,
will require a strict account of the senseless way in which we have
frittered and wasted it. If He will call us to account for idle words,
how will it be with respect to idle, foolish, pernicious friendships?
Husbandmen know that the walnut tree is very harmful in a vineyard or
field, because it absorbs the fatness of the land and draws it away
from the other crops; its thick foliage overshadows and deprives them
of sunshine; and, moreover, it attracts passers-by, who tread down and
spoil all that is around while striving to gather its fruit. So with
these foolish love affairs and the soul; they engross it, so that it is
unable to bring forth good works; their superfluous
foliage–flirtations, dallyings and idle talk–consume profitable time;
and, moreover, they lead to so many temptations, distractions,
suspicions, and the like, that the heart becomes altogether crushed and
spoiled. Such follies not only banish Heavenly Love, they likewise
drive out the fear of God, enervate the mind, and damage reputation.
They may be the plaything of courts, but assuredly they are as a plague
spot of the heart. [105]

[104] Ecclus. xii. 13.

[105] “C’est en un mot le jouet des cours, mais la peste des coeurs.”