Advent with A Kempis VIII

Chapter 8: Guarding Against Too Much Familiarity

“Do not open your heart to everyone”

I just saw a powerful film at Shattuck Cinemas with a Canadian friend that I met in Palestine. I was most moved by the final scene when a broken man confesses what Kempis would call a “mortal sin” to his wife. His tear-stained confession is met with her tearful embrace. A guilt-ridden soul on the brink of collapse begins a journey towards forgiveness and wholeness due to the warm arms of a loving woman.

In this same chapter, Kempis writes, “Do not be familiar with any woman but, in general, commend all good women to God.”[1] There is some wisdom in this since men often get themselves in trouble when they grow too “familiar” with certain women (especially their brother’s wife), as the film successfully portrays. However, women have a surplus of compassion that most men lack and if it were not for their forgiving embrace, many men would fall towards destruction and perhaps bring others with them. In my experience, I have found much more safety and acceptance in opening my heart and confessing my soul to women than to men.

“Do not open your heart to everyone.” There are many with whom it is better to not share our heart and with whom it is better to not even share a friendship. “We must have charity toward all but familiarity is not necessary.” Kempis encourages us to be wise about those that we choose to hear and hold our failings. Confessing our souls to those who lack compassion will often lead towards deeper darkness and misery for everyone involved. The challenge is to be wise in choosing our close friends while also growing in compassion so that others may feel safe in confessing to us, even if they are confessing “mortal sins.” I think it would actually help if men became more familiar with women and with the compassion that they naturally exude.

[1] Here Kempis is quoting from Sirach 9:1-13


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