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Let a Man Not Trouble Himself with Worthless Opinion

Sep 1, 2020

‘Let a man do right, not trouble himself with worthless opinion; the less he heeds tongues, the less difficult will he find it to love men’
George MacDonald

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

‘Let a man do right, not trouble himself with worthless opinion; the less he heeds tongues, the less difficult will he find it to love men.’ I realize it has been some time since I last wrote one of these letters. Please forgive me. I have been somewhat preoccupied with trying to maintain regular contact with individual people and use my communication systems to do this. I also had the ‘joy’ of a lap-top breakdown that took some time and a lot of ingenuity to restore. The ‘joy’ of this was to discover that I am not as technologically inept as I thought I was!

The quotation with which I introduced this letter is from a collection of extracts from the writings of George MacDonald (a 19th Century Scottish divine) which appears in an anthology published by C.S. Lewis in 1946. My access to this is the latest in my ongoing study of C.S. Lewis, the ‘Inklings’, and other related subjects. If you remember, this whole process began with my reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan, back in March, and my subsequent study of Joy Davidman’s life and writing and her relationship with Lewis, whom she eventually married in 1956.

It is in my nature to be a talker – one who does not hesitate to express opinions and one who enjoys the platform afforded a preacher and a writer. I have been, I think kindly, described as a ‘man of the word’ – perhaps even ‘Word.’ Of this I am proud and I am grateful for the opportunities afforded me to ‘speak my mind.’ I try hard to honor this and to avoid
incautious remarks and statements. Undoubtedly I often fail to live up to this standard, for which I have many regrets.

In light of a lifetime’s experience of offering and receiving opinions, I find this period of enforced silence fortuitous – if only because it provides time to step back and think more deeply and carefully about what one is hearing and how one might respond. The occasion for immediate and rapid response is less available and the value of ‘second thoughts’ and considered reflection is more clearly seen.

Our access to ‘media’ talk is limitless – but we can be justifiably reticent about what we hear and how we want to respond or react.

Perhaps George MacDonald’s words are worth taking time to absorb in our present ‘chattering’ environment. Perhaps there is a renewed wisdom in seeing love in this context.

Blessings and Peace – my prayer is always for your well-being and safety and that of those you love.

P.S. George MacDonald wrote Phantastes and other supernatural and magical stories that were powerfully influential in the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and many others of that ilk. W.H.Auden described him as ‘one of the most remarkable writers of the 19th century.’

From The Rev. Canon John Bolton

Canon Chaplain for Clergy
(404) 402-7599