Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Nasty People

Dear Mrs. _______

I am sorry things are not better. I am very puzzled by people like your Committee Secretary, people who are just nasty. I find it easier to understand the great crimes, for the raw material of them exists in us all; the mere disagreeableness which seems to spring from no recognizable passion is mysterious. (Like the total stranger in a train of whom I once asked "Do you know when we get to Liverpool" and who replied "I'm not paid to answer your questions: ask the guard"). I have found it more among Boys than anyone else. That makes me think it really comes from inner insecurity--a dim sense that one is Nobody, a strong determination to be Somebody, and a belief that this can be achieved by arrogance. Probably you, who can't hit back, come in for a good deal of resentful arrogance aroused by others on whom she doesn't vent it, because they can. (A bully in an Elizabethan play, having been sat on by a man he dare not fight, says "I'll go home and beat all my servants"). But I mustn't encourage you to go on thinking about her: that, after all, is almost the greatest evil nasty people can do us--to become an obsession, to haunt our minds. A brief prayer for them, and then away to other subjects, is the thing, if one can only stick to it.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters To An American Lady, Letter of March 10, 1954 (1967)

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