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