Counterfeit Consolation

white mask over full face - image by Leandro De Carvalho from Pixabay

We need Ignatius’s first set of rules for discernment because desolation is a common experience. We need his second set because of another unwelcome fact: consolation isn’t always what it seems. Sometimes it’s false consolation that the evil spirit uses to deceive us. False consolation can blind us to things that need to change; it can lead us to make bad decisions. That’s so, writes Ignatius, because “it is a mark of the evil spirit to appear as an angel of light.”

This shouldn’t be surprising. The enemy of our human nature isn’t stupid. If you’ve been sincerely trying to lead a virtuous life for a while, you’re not likely to give in to a temptation to do something blatantly wrong. To throw you off track, the evil spirit disguises things. You’ll find credible explanations for bad behavior (“I was tired,” “That’s the way she is,” “He had to get it out of his system”). You’ll find plausible excuses for dangerous complacency (“I need a break,” “I can handle this,” “I’ll get to that some other time”). You’ll find reasons to keep silent when you should speak up, and reasons to intervene when you shouldn’t. You might make bad decisions because you’re excited about something you want to do or possess, and you think the excitement comes from God.

Ignatius puts it this way: “It is characteristic of the evil one to fight against [true] happiness and consolation by proposing fallacious reasonings, subtleties, and continual deceptions.” The evil spirit produces false consolations, not the real thing. The devil may be smart, but he’s wicked, too. He doesn’t have the capacity to give us genuine consolation—only God can do that. Counterfeit money is never perfect; a close look can always find the forgery. The second set of rules for discernment is about exposing counterfeit consolation for what it is.

—Excerpted from God Finds Us by Jim Manney

Image by Leandro De Carvalho from Pixabay.

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  1. This is an excellent book; in fact I’m gifting it to a grandchild receiving Confirmation this week.
    I find this notion very helpful:
    Counterfeit money is never perfect; a close look can always find the forgery.


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