How influenced are we by being part of something that seems so good, so wonderful and/or so important to us? As a result of our sense of belonging to something that seems so good and special, are we susceptible to being compromised in subtle ways? Are we naive or blind to the fact that our loyalty might be taken advantage of?
In my comments in the last year to friends and officials of the Catholic Church, I have referred to what I have called “the Glazing Syndrome,” which is a reference to how the eyes of Catholics glaze over when thinking and speaking about the clergy and the leadership in the Catholic Church. The glaze keeps us from seeing, or from refusing to see, aspects of the Church that are seriously wrong and in need of purification and change.
In a recent article by Rod Dreher, he sets forth an excerpt from C. S. Lewis in which Lewis describes what he calls the “Inner Ring,” which seems to identify the manner in which personal integrity can often be compromised. I thought this description was so thought-provoking that I wanted to share it with you. Here it is:
One last thing: read C.S. Lewis’s speech about the “Inner Ring” — that is, his identifying the desire to be inside the circle of those in the know, those in power, as a dominant motivator of human action. Could it be that the man, the friend of Cardinal Law’s, was partly motivated not to see the truth in front of his nose, not just because it would force him to recognize something terrible about his friend the cardinal, but also because it could push him out of the Inner Ring? Lewis said to his audience:
And the prophecy I make is this. To nine out of ten of you the choice which could lead to scoundrelism will come, when it does come, in no very dramatic colours. Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear. Over a drink, or a cup of coffee, disguised as triviality and sandwiched between two jokes, from the lips of a man, or woman, whom you have recently been getting to know rather better and whom you hope to know better still—just at the moment when you are most anxious not to appear crude, or naïf or a prig—the hint will come. It will be the hint of something which the public, the ignorant, romantic public, would never understand: something which even the outsiders in your own profession are apt to make a fuss about: but something, says your new friend, which “we”—and at the word “we” you try not to blush for mere pleasure—something “we always do.”
And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel.