The Little Way and Teaching Others

In teaching others, as I have said, I have learned a lot. I saw from the very beginning that everyone has to go through much the same struggle, though from another point of view, there are vast differences between one soul and another; and because they are so different, I can never treat them in the same way.

In some cases I have to make myself very small and not be afraid to humble myself by telling them about my own struggles and failures. It is not so hard for them, then, to make known their own faults, and it makes them happier to know that I have learned all about it from my own experience. In other cases, the only way is to be firm and never go back on anything; humbling oneself would be regarded as a sign of weakness. I want to do my duty, no matter what the cost, and Our Lord has given me the grace to face everything.

More than once, I have heard someone say: “You will have to treat me gently if you want to get anything out of me; if you treat me with severity, you will get nowhere.”

But I know very well that no one is any judge in his own case, and a child naturally makes a fuss under the surgeon’s knife, sure that the remedy is worse than the disease; but he will be delighted at being able to run about and play when he finds, a few days later, that he has been cured.

It is just the same with souls: before long, they are quite ready to admit that they would rather have a little bitterness than sugar. Sometimes the change which takes place in a soul from one day to the next seems like magic. “You were quite right to be so short with me yesterday,” one told me. “I was very annoyed about it at first, but when I thought about the whole matter afterwards, I saw how right you were. As I left your cell, I thought that this was the end and said to myself: ‘I am going to tell our Mother that I will have nothing more to do with Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus,’ but I knew it was the devil who put this thought into my head, and I had an idea that you were praying for me. I grew calm, and light began to dawn. Everything is clear now, so I have come back. I want you to enlighten me.” Then, only too glad to follow the impulse of my heart, I hastened to offer her less bitter food. That was all very well, but I soon saw that I must not go too far; one word too much might undermine the lofty edifice built upon tears. If I were unlucky enough to say anything to mitigate the strictures of the night before, I should find the Sister trying to escape the main issue. When that happens, I take refuge in prayer; I have only to turn to Mary, and Jesus triumphs over everything; indeed, all my strength lies in prayer and sacrifice. They are my invincible arms, and I know from experience that I can conquer hearts with these more surely than I can with words.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, which is available from TAN Books.



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