Be watchful of praises

July 6, 2021 • 3 min

From Minor Works of St. Teresa of Avila, page 131
By St. Teresa of Avila

It is needless for me to warn you against the earthly peace which comes from honours, because the poor never meet with much honour. However, unless you are careful, praise from others may harm you greatly, for when once it begins it never ceases, and generally ends in running you down afterwards. This usually takes the form of telling you that you are more holy than others, and such-like flattering speeches which seem to have been inspired by the devil. Indeed, they must be, sometimes, for if they were said in your absence it would not matter, but when uttered in your hearing, what other fruit can they produce but evil, unless you are most wary?

For the love of God, I implore you never to find your peace in such speeches, for they might gradually do you so much mischief that at last you would come to believe them, or to think you had done all you need, and that your work was finished. Never let such things be said of you without strongly repudiating them; you can easily do this if you make it your constant practice. Remember how the world treated our Lord Jesus Christ, yet how it had extolled Him on Palm Sunday! Men so esteemed St. John Baptist as to mistake him for the Messiah, yet how barbarously and for what a motive they afterwards beheaded him! Never does the world exalt any of the children of God, save to dash them down again!

I know this well by experience. I used to regret that people praised me so blindly, but now I laugh as at the words of a madman. Remember your sins, and that, even if there is some truth in what is told you, the good is not your own, but you are only under an obligation of serving God more strictly. Dread lest you should take pleasure in this treacherous kiss given by the world; look upon it as the kiss of Judas; although no harm may be meant by it, the devil is always on the alert and may despoil your soul unless you defend yourself.

Believe me, in such a case you must stand ready with the sword of recollection in hand. Although you may think that no harm is done you, do not trust to that—remember how many who stood on the heights have fallen into the abyss. There is no safety during this life, but for the love of God, sisters, always struggle within your own heart against these dangerous flatteries; then you will come forth with deeper humility, and the devil, who has been watching both you and the world, will be crestfallen.

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