TO HARVEY KARLSEN, who seems to have written Lewis about a habit of masturbation: On the remedies for sexual temptation—frequent and regular prayer and communions, monthly confession, avoiding discouragement, not exaggerating nor minimizing one’s sins, avoiding either trains of thought or social situations that lead to temptation, and applying the brakes, gently and quietly, while the danger is still a good way off.
13 October 1961
Your letter did not reach me till to-day. Of course I have had and still have plenty of temptations. Frequent and regular prayer, and frequent and regular Communions, are a great help, whether they feel at the time as if they were doing you good or whether they don’t. I also found great help in monthly confession to a wise old clergyman.
Perhaps, however, the most important thing is to keep on: not to be discouraged however often one yields to the temptation, but always to pick yourself up again and ask forgiveness. In reviewing your sins don’t either exaggerate them or minimise them. Call them by their ordinary names and try to see them as you would see the same faults in somebody else—no special blackening or whitewashing. Remember the condition on which we are promised forgiveness: we shall always be forgiven provided that we forgive all who sin against us. If we do that we have nothing to fear: if we don’t, all else will be in vain. Of course there are other helps which are more commonsense. We must learn by experience to avoid either trains of thought or social situations which for us (not necessarily for everyone) lead to temptations. Like motoring—don’t wait till the last moment before you put on the brakes but put them on, gently and quietly, while the danger is still a good way off. I would write at more length, but I am ill. God bless you.
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.