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LETTER XXIII. Sensitiveness under reproof the surest sign we needed it.

I greatly desire that you may have interior peace. You know that it cannot be found, except in lowliness of mind, and lowliness is not real, except it be produced by God upon every proper occasion. These occasions are chiefly when we are blamed by someone who disapproves of us, and when we experience inward weakness. We must accustom ourselves to bearing both these trials.

We are truly lowly when we are no longer taken by surprise at finding ourselves corrected from without and incorrigible within. We are then like little children, below everything, and are willing to be so; we feel that our reprovers are right, but that we are unable to overcome ourselves, in order to correct our faults. Then we despair of ourselves, and expect nothing except from God; the reproofs of others, harsh and unfeeling as they may be, seem to us less than we deserve; if we cannot bear them, we condemn our sensitiveness more than all our other imperfections. Correction cannot then make us more humble than it finds us. The interior rebellion, far from hindering the profit of the correction, convinces us of its absolute necessity; in truth, the reproof would not have been felt, if it had not cut into some living part; had death been there, we should not have perceived it; and thus the more acutely we feel, the more certainly we know that the correction was necessary.

I beg your forgiveness if I have said anything too harsh; but do not doubt my affection for you, and count as nothing everything that comes from me. See only the hand of God, which makes use of the awkwardness of mine, to deal you a painful blow. The pain proves that I have touched a sore spot. Yield to God, acquiesce in all his dealings, and you will soon be at rest and in harmony within. You know well enough how to give this advice to others; the occasion is important, critical. O what grace will descend upon you, if you will bear, like a little child, all the means God employs to humiliate and dispossess you of your senses and will! I pray that he may so diminish you that you can no longer be found at all.

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