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Letters from an Ancient Mind

 My dear young friend,

Yes, it is very discouraging. The remark you hear when you were not supposed to be listening is often a well of sadness. So you have found It is very disappointing to hear one you thought a friend making such a remark

However, take consolation in one fact: this is the way of men. All of us are weak. We seek the approval of others. I do not doubt that your friend thought you at a far distance, and was merely being agreeable to the tenor of the conversation. In your heart of hearts you know that you have done the same; at least I know I have.

Indeed, often we are not merely agreeable; we embellish. It is the nature of man to add a leaf to the branch of rumor. Can you honestly say you have never added to your own achievements, for example? My children know by now who won the war when I was young. By the time you become an old man, your military accomplishments are such that your grandchildren do indeed wonder what the rest of the army did. We are wont to do this for our accomplishments; likewise for the sins of others.

It is a rare thing to find a friend who is pure in heart. Your friend is not really an enemy, just weak in spirit. Only those who are pure in heart keep themselves from such things. Such virtue is exceedingly rare in the young. Perhaps this is why those of my children’s age smile at me when I refuse to be agreeable. They attribute it to old age and simplicity of mind; I think it the result of an old man working to please his Lord with purity of heart.

Take heart. Does your virtue really depend upon the chance remark of a friend? If so, your life will be miserable. To value yourself upon the opinions of others is a grave error. But we each need something by which to measure ourselves. The only sure measure is Christ himself. If you will seek your Master’s approval alone, you will need no other.

Still a friend,

Isaac the alchemist

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