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Who Is Your Real Enemy and What Are His Tactics?

November 10, 2016

nov10-blogIn the aftermath of the recent election, our country and our parishes are divided. Some people are hurt and angry while others are jubilant and hopeful. But although we often square off in opposing corners and stare fearfully at each other, we should remember our common enemy, the Devil. There’s a saying that warring brothers reconcile when there’s a maniac at the door; and the Devil is surely a maniacal and cunning opponent.

One of the key elements in any battle is understanding the strategy and tactics of your opponent. In the spiritual battle of life, we need to develop some sophistication in recognizing, naming, and understanding the strategies and common tactics of the Devil.

A 2011 book by Fr. Louis J. Cameli, The Devil You Don’t Know, can be of great assistance in this matter. In the book, Fr. Cameli breaks the Devil’s tactics down into four broad categories. I highly recommend reading the book, where Fr. Cameli expounds on the topic much more fully than I can do here.

While the categorization comes from Fr. Cameli, the reflections that follow are largely my own, although surely rooted in his excellent work.

I. Deception Jesus says, The Devil was a murderer from the beginning he does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

The Devil attempts to deceive us with many false and empty promises. Most of these center around the lie that we will be happier and more fulfilled if we sin or deny aspects of the truth. Whatever passing pleasures come with sin, they are just that—passing. Great, accumulated suffering eventually comes with almost all sinful activity. Yet, despite this experience, we human beings remain very gullible; we seem to love empty promises and put all sorts of false hopes in them.

The Devil also tries to deceives us by suggesting that we introduce all sorts of complexities into our thinking. He seeks to confuse us and to conceal the fundamental truth about our action from us. Our minds are very wily; we love to indulge complexity as a way of avoiding the truth and/or making excuses. Conniving with the Devil, we entertain endless complications in our minds by asking “But what if this?” or “What about that?” Along with the Devil, we project all sorts of possible difficulties, exceptions, or potential sob stories, in order to avoid insisting that we (and/or others) behave well and live according to the truth.

The Devil also seeks to deceive us with “wordsmithing.” The dismemberment and murder of a child through abortion becomes “reproductive freedom” or “choice.” Engaging in sodomy is called being “gay” (a word which used to mean happy). Our luminous Faith and ancient wisdom is called “darkness” and “ignorance.” Fornication is called “cohabitation.”  The redefinition of marriage as it has been known for some 5000 years, is labeled “marriage equality.”  And thus through exaggerations and outright false labeling, the Devil deceives us. We too easily connive by calling “good,” or “no big deal,” what God calls sinful.

Finally, the Devil deceives us through the sheer volume of information and with selective use of it. Information is not the same is truth, and data can be assembled very craftily in order to make deceptive points. Further, certain facts and figures can be emphasized while other balancing truths are omitted. And thus even information that is true in itself can become a means of deception. The news media and other sources sometimes exercise their greatest influence in what they choose not to report.

We do well to assess very carefully the many ways Satan seeks to deceive us. Do not believe everything you think or hear. While we ought not to be cynical, we should be sober, seeking to verify what we see and hear and square it with God’s revealed truth.

II. Division One of Jesus’ final prayers for us was that we would be one (cf John 17:22). He prayed this at the Last Supper, just before He went out to suffer and die for us. This highlights that a chief aspect of His work on the cross was to overcome the divisions intensified by Satan. Some argue that the Greek root of the word “diabolical” (diabolein) means to cut, tear, or divide. Jesus prays and works to reunify what the Devil divides.

The Devil’s work of division starts within each one of us, as we experience many contrary drives: some noble, creative, and edifying; others base, sinful, and destructive. So often, we struggle within and feel torn apart, much as St. Paul describes in Romans chapter 7:  The good that I want to do, I do not do …, and when I try to do good, evil is at hand. This is the work of the Devil, to divide us within. And as St. Paul lays out in Romans chapter 8, the chief work of the Lord is to establish within us the unity of soul and body, in accordance with the unity of His truth.

The Devil’s attack against our inner unity of course spills out into many divisions among us externally. So many things help to drive this division and the Devil surely taps into them all: anger, resentment, fear, misunderstanding, greed, pride, and arrogance. There is also the impatience that we so easily develop with those we love, as well as the flawed notion that we should seek out other more perfect and desirable people instead. This leads many to abandon their marriages, family, churches, and communities; always in search of the elusive goal of finding better, more perfect people and situations.

Yes, the Devil has a real field day tapping in to a plethora of sinful drives within us. His goal is always to divide us within and to divide us among ourselves. We do well to recognize that regardless of our struggles with others, we all share a common enemy who seeks to divide and destroy us. St. Paul writes, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). Yes, feuding brothers reconcile when there’s a maniac at the door. Step one is to notice the maniac and step two is to set aside our lesser divisions.

III. Diversion For all of us, our most critical focus is God and the good things awaiting us in Heaven. Faith, obedience to the truth, love of God, and love of neighbor lead us on the path toward Heaven. The Devil does all that he can to divert us away from our one true goal.

Perhaps he will do this by making us overly absorbed in the passing things of this world. So many people claim that they are too busy to pray, attend Mass, or seek other forms of spiritual nourishment. They become absorbed in worldly things, which pass, ignoring the lasting reality that looms.

Anxieties and fears also cause us to be distracted. The Devil causes us to fixate on fears about passing things while neglecting to have a proper fear of the judgment that awaits us. Jesus says, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28). In other words, we should have a holy reverence and fear directed towards the Lord. If we do this, many of our other fears will be put into better perspective or will go away altogether. In this matter of fear, the Devil says just the opposite: we should fear the myriad things that might afflict us in this passing world and not think at all about the most significant thing that awaits us—our judgment.

At the heart of all diversion is the fact that the Devil wants us to focus on lesser things so that we avoid focusing on greater things, such as making moral decisions and attending to the proper overall direction of our life.

We must learn to focus on what matters most and decisively refuse to be diverted by lesser things.

IV. Discouragement As human beings, and certainly as Christians, we ought to have high aspirations; this is good. But as with all good things, Satan often seeks to poison them. With our high aspirations, sometimes we lack the humility to recognize that we must make a journey in order to achieve that which is good or best. Too easily, Satan tempts us to impatience with our own self or with others. Expecting to achieve our aspirations unreasonably quickly, we can be uncharitable toward our own self or others. Some grow discouraged with themselves or with others and just give up on the pursuit of holiness. Others give up on the Church because of the imperfections found there, as are found in any institution with humans.

The Devil discourages us with open-ended aspirations. There is always room for improvement; we can always do more. When we can always do more, it is easy to think that we’ve never done enough. And thus the Devil discourages us, sowing thoughts of unreasonable demands within us about we can or should be able to achieve each day.

The Devil also discourages us through simple things like fatigue, minor personal failings, setbacks, and other obstacles that are common to our human condition living in a fallen world with limited resources.

In all these ways the Devil seeks to discourage us, to make us want to give up. Only a properly developed sense of humility can save us from this discouragement by Satan. Humility—which is reverence for the truth about ourselves—teaches us that we grow slowly and in stages and helps us to recognize that we will always have setbacks and that we live in a world that is hard and far from perfect. With humility we can learn to lean more on the Lord and trust in His providential help, which grows in us incrementally.

Here, then, are four common tactics of the Devil. Learn to recognize and name them. In this way, we can start to gain authority over them. Consider reading Fr. Cameli’s book to learn more.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Nick says:

    Satan deceived Adam and Eve, so God sanctified them: Saints Adam and Eve. Satan divided the Apostles, so God reunited them in the Cenacle. Satan discouraged Moses the Robber, so God taught him the law of graduality. Providence takes everything into account; yet pride cannot admit defeat.

    Also, it is said the Devil’s greatest trick is making people not believe in him, but I say the Devil’s greatest trick is His temptations of Christ. He tested Jesus’ Faith, Hope and Love; the Holy Spirit’s Fruits and Gifts; the Beatific Vision and Hypostatic Union; the Body of Christ that is the Church; the Word and Will of God Incarnate; the Lord’s Sonship and Messiahship; and – in short – Satan tested the Theologica and Oikonomia.

    Pride thinks, by knowing Satan exists, it can conquer him, and so thinks the Devil’s greatest trick is making people think he doesn’t exist – thus inflating the ego unto greater pride. Yet how often does God humble us: atheist scientists’ accomplishments, non-Catholic parents’ self-sacrifices, the righteous gentiles in Sheol, the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, etc.

  2. for you says:

    If we and our leaders whoever they are, do not follow Jesus Christ, we will never have the Wisdom and Power necessary to overcome our true enemy the devil to live in prosperity and peace. We are seeing that now in a turbulent world that has increasingly rejected God. Turn back to God who is Merciful and wants to bless us.

  3. t cross says:

    Dear Msgr Pope,
    Your article and video kept on bring to mind the great evils that the devil’s use of contraception has opened up in our world. The silence within the Church around the use of contraception is a striking example of the devil silencing good people out of fear. The silence has made it possible for the devil to move forward on the destruction of the family. It seems that contraception is the seed rooted that is giving life to the culture of death.

    Thank you for giving us these posts. They are so helpful to so many of us striving to live in this world, yet, walk in God’s Kingdom.

    • Rose Solanet says:

      And contracepcion is the origin of many divorces since it is always a perversion of the sexual act purpose of uniting the spouses and the procreation of new life. Not only in this life but also in eternal life.
      The contraception mentality leads to mutual disappontment among spouses and the loss of Faith in God.

    • JL says:

      t cross

      Thank you for seeing and saying the truth about contraception and the destruction of the family. There has been a silence from our Shepherds about this sin. The results are apparent to anyone who chooses to see.
      May we see a flourishing of truth on marriage, love and the family. God Bless you.

  4. Tom F says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful and solid guidance in this post and the book recommendation.

  5. Kristin says:

    Great point about the importance of being patient with spiritual progress. It is amazing how the Devil can use even use good desires and holy ambitions against us, when we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others. I liked the statement about how while it’s always possible to improve, that doesn’t mean our current efforts are necessarily falling short. If we can never be content with ourselves, then we are seriously robbed of one of the great rewards of a holy life, which is joy in living in alignment with God and having faith that He is pleased with your life and what you’re doing.

  6. Adrian D'Costa says:

    Hello Msgr Pope another well written beautiful post by you. I always appreciate your forthrightness and loyalty to the teachings of GOD rather than political correctness. In this election I am surprised and saddened that our Catholic community is divided!! wouldn’t it be our moral duty to support someone who is pro life against gay marriage and supports conservative judges?? Isn’t that what Catholics hold firmly to ?? And if it is the issue of personal behaviour while we all condemn bad behaviour and strive to be holy which one of us is without blame ?? I believe the Church should fearlessly support this view as well!!
    Blessings to all
    Adrian

  7. James says:

    You cannot blame the devil everything….”The devil made me do it”..as Flip Wilson used to quip….FORTY FIVE percent of so called Catholics….(they are not at all)voted for a horrible woman who believes abortion is all right up to nine months! These people have long ex-communicated themselves by voting for Obama 0ver 50% the LAST TWO elections….The Catholic Vote helped put a man that was and is no better than a fore runner of this ANTI-CHRIST that the Bible says will come someday.In his eight years in office some EIGHT MILLION babies were killed.THE CATHOLIC VOTE helped make that responsible.These ex-communicated people now vote for Clinton by 45%… They were not the majority this time but show there is something terribly wrong with THESE so called PEOPLE….PERIOD.Part of it is the non-existence of any leadership from the pope down..(he is more worried about climate change and what’s in our food as well as taking shots at Trump with his “walls” comments…(did he say a word about her nightmare abortion stands)? And this flows down to our timid priests and bishops..who are afraid to speak out for fear of losing the churches tax exempt status.Moral decency.These people have none.The Church is lost..period.And how about the some 80 million dollars the Church is getting from the US government to re-settle Syrian refugees? Ah,follow the money! Of these 10,000 it is said only 50 are Christians!Look at Europe..it is in CRISIS yet the pope wants each Catholic parish to adopt a refugee family.Some day these same refugees will rise up and attack the Church that helped them.Remember ORLANDO.. then at SAN BERNADINO (these good people were kind to these foreigners)but were killed anyhow.Any true Catholic would not support abortion…none…but over 50% of Catholics are not even Catholic..even with poor leaders they should know BETTER!