Friday, August 05, 2005

The Generous Conflict Game

Screwtape writes to his nephew, Wormwood:

Later on you can venture on what may be called the Generous Conflict Illusion. This game is best played with grown-up children for example. Something quite trivial, like having tea in the garden, is proposed. One member takes care to make it quite clear (though not in so many words) that he would rather not but is, of course, prepared to do so out of 'Unselfishness'. The others instantly withdraw their proposal, ostensibly through their 'Unselfishness', but really because they don't want to be used as a sort of lay figure on which the first speaker practises petty altruisms. But he is not going to be done out of his debauch of Unselfishness either. He insists on doing 'what the others want'. They insist on doing what he wants. Passions are roused. Soon someone is saying 'Very well then, I won't have any tea at all!', and a real quarrel ensues with bitter resentment on both sides. You see how it is done? If each side had been frankly contending for its own real wish, they would all have kept within the bounds of reason and courtesy; but just because the contention is reversed and each side is fighting the other side's battle, all the bitterness which really flows from the thwarted self-righteousness and obstinancy and the accumulated grudges of the last ten years is concealed from them by the nominal or official 'Unselfishness' of what they are doing, or at least, held to be excused by it. Each side is, indeed, quite alive to the cheap quality of the adversary's Unselfishness and of the false position into which he is trying to force them; but each manages to feel blameless and ill-used itself, with no more dishonesty than comes natural to a human. [...] Some degree of mutual falseness, some surprise that the girl does not always notice just how Unselfish he is being, can be smuggled in already.
~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)


On this day:

1922 C.S. Lewis received his B.A.

3 Comment(s):

At Fri Aug 05, 11:34:00 AM EST, Blogger Sandicomm said...

Brilliant as usual.

"Grownup children", lol. But aren't we all?

At Fri Aug 05, 03:18:00 PM EST, Blogger Roger Parkinson said...

He writes it very well, of course, but do people really behave like this? I don't thnk I have ever noticed this myself, but maybe I have led a sheltered life.

At Fri Aug 05, 08:03:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

I can believe it, and after reading Warren Lewis's diaries, I wouldn't put it past Mrs. Moore to have behaved this way from time to time. She seemed to be very manipulative if his accounts are accurate.


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