Shun acquaintance of people


In Thomas Kempis ‘Imitiation of Christ’ I read ‘do not open you heart to everyone’ or ‘shun acquaintance of people’ can someone explain why ? Sounds strange to me


What chapter?



I believe he is speaking to a couple of things - as he does throughout the book.

One is that your heart should belong to Christ - first and foremost. If you aren’t married, leave it there. Otherwise you will get caught up - too caught up - in the affairs of someone else and be distracted. Not that we shouldn’t be concerned and love others…but that we can too easily be caught up in someone else’s problems and end up being their ‘confessor’ or ‘go to’ person for all their problems - Spiritual and otherwise, and spend all our time figuring out how to help them and ignoring our own relationship with Christ. “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Speaks to more than just material things.

Second is the value and emphasis placed on silence. Silence of the heart, and silence of the mind - as this is where Christ speaks to us. If our heart is troubled with someone else problems, or what someone else has confessed to us - that intimacy is robbed of us. Again - not that we shouldn’t be concerned and pray for others…the point is that our heart is first and foremost open to Christ, and that it remains there, open to Him, so that He can reign in it as King. That is the goal.

It is through Christ reigning in our hearts that we are able to love others, as it is the Love of Christ shining through us that accomplishes this commandment. First love God above all else - then you will be capable of loving your neighbor in kind.

I think somewhere in there Thomas says that the passage “Seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness, and all things will be added to you” is one of the most important passages towards understanding and accomplishment in the spiritual life.

Not only is this practice (that of leaving others to themselves) good for us - it is good for them, as they will be more inclined to use the people and processes open to them for the things that would otherwise be dropped on you, and they also will be taking the majority of their problems where they belong - to God. As it is only through complete and utter Faith and Trust in Him that any progress is made in the spiritual life. This is the thrust of the whole book, and the meaning behind “Seek first…”.

Hope this makes some sense




Detachment is one of the basic requirements of Catholic spirituality.

Our Lord himself said several times about how He came to divide relationships and how His followers must come to “hate” their families, etc., if they want to be His disciples.

That said, this comes in degrees. We must be willing to sacrifice relationships that are spiritually harmful to us. Sometimes, when we think we’re having a relationshp with a person in order to help bring that person closer to God, we’re actually backfiring and impeding that person. It takes shunning the acquaintance to draw that person closer to God.


At the very begining, don’t get it with me now. Will update tomorrow, sorry


Yes, it does…


SOOOO true…

Quick synopsis: my mother in law spent 3 months with us when our first child was born…in a nutshell, she and I were at eachother’s throats and we sent her back to Florida. When she got there, being upset, she launched into a tirade (via email) attacking members of my family (really, really nasty things). Since then (18 mo’s ago) she and I have buried the hatchet, and my wife would like her to live with us for a few months now that our second child has been born (6 wks ago!). I am all for it, but my family is dead set against it, and have really harassed me about it, threatening to never come to our house, my mom is telling me my wife should apologize to her for even suggesting her “terrible mother” come back…so I am at odds with most of my family…because I am turning the other cheek, forgiving (the first of the 77 times I guess!), and being the peacemaker…

So I am learning first hand about division when you try to do what Christ wants you too…


I was thinking about it more, still have some problems. Does it mean that I shouldn’t help people to get closer to God ? Many people whom I meet make simple intellectual mistakes, are far from God because very simple missunderstandings. Quality of catchesis is actually very low in many places of the world. Will I impede people trying to educate them or refer to right sources ?


[quote=Imitation of Christ]The Eighth Chapter
Shunning Over-Familiarity

Do not open your heart to every man, but discuss your affairs with one who is wise and who fears God. Do not keep company with young people and strangers. Do not fawn upon the rich, and do not be fond of mingling with the great. Associate with the humble and the simple, with the devout and virtuous, and with them speak of edifying things. Be not intimate with any woman, but generally commend all good women to God. Seek only the intimacy of God and of His angels, and avoid the notice of men.

I suppose we could also apply this to public posting on a forum, where you will get a large variety of answers, and some of them will not be the best advice for one’s spirituality. In other words, take opinions with a grain of salt. :wink:

Some people use reference sources to back up personal opinions that are sometimes pulled out of context, so it pays to be wary. If the advice brings a certain peace and inward conviction from the Holy Spirit, it could be the Lord speaking through the person for your benefit. In doubt, always contact a confessor.

Back to your question. The author was writing from a monastic viewpoint since by vocation, he was called out of the world. Some of the chapters need to be viewed in that light, for he may have addressed his book primarily for monks, rather than lay persons, even though many of us in the world have benefited much from his writing.

In the Introduction of this classic, it states that in talking about the avoidance of “personal friendships,” Thomas is advising the monks to avoid what spiritual writers call “particular friendships” among persons living in community – those friendships that would be so exclusive that they would freeze others out and thus be a great hindrance to the charity that ought to exist among all.

I read in St. Faustina’s Diary a corollary to Kempis’ advice:

553 But I want to speak immediately of a second rule; that is, speech. Keeping silent when one ought to speak is an imperfection and sometimes even a sin. And so, let all the sisters take part in recreation, and the superior should not dispense them from this except for a matter of great importance. Recreation is an opportunity for getting to know one another. Let each sister speak her mind in all simplicity for the edification of the others and not in a spirit of superiority nor, God forbid, in a quarrelsome manner, for that would not be in keeping with perfection and the spirit of our vocation, which should be especially characterized by love.

It all depends on our purity of intention as to why we would avoid the company of others, or why we go among them. Best to leave it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, because solitude or companionship can both be used improperly.


Book I, Chapter 8

Now back to the original question. I have a hunch that some of the author’s admonitions were written primarily for people in the religious life, who have dedicated their lives entirely to God. For them, particular friendships can be a hindrance to their espousal to Christ.

That’s not to say that the author’s words don’t have value for the rest of us. We just have to adapt them to our state in life. For us laity this can mean not telling our life story to everyone who comes along; being prudent in choosing those with whom we will entrust private details; putting God ahead of everyone else; listening more than speaking; confiding in God before we confide in others; maintaining interior silence that leaves our souls available to God, etc.

Of course not. “Instructing the ignorant” and “admonishing the sinner” are spiritual works of mercy to which we are all called.


As Christians, we are supposed to be “in the world, not of the world”. There is always the hope that if Christ’s light shines through us, we may help to bring others to Christ.

Having said that, there are some people whom I may avoid because they generate only negative energy in me and may even be an “occasion of sin”. I don’t think this is the same as shunning. In addition, we need not subject ourselves to those who are abusive in any way–emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually.


Hope you’ve learned the valuable lesson that it is NOT ok to pass on stories of ill will. Meaning, your family is clinging to their negativity but my guess is that they learned of the negative issues from you. The greatest shame is that a toddler and newborn are exposed to divisive feelings within the family. SO SAD. If all of the adults would recgnize that, then maybe all will agree to move on. Issues of discord that affect you and your wife should stay with you and your wife - unless you want to find a professional counselor to assist both of you.



That may very likely be the case, I don’t know. But it may also be that the extended family in quuestion have witnessed this stuff firsthand.

My parents have a lot of good qualities. But they are both highly anxiety ridden, OCD people who will not receive help for their problems. They have a “Frank and Marie Barone” kind of relationship, constantly bickering with each other. In their minds, they have a wonderful marriage.
When my wife and I were engaged, her family and her friends were mortified by my parents’ behavior that happened right before their eyes.

As for the second part of your comment, it depends upon what the issues are. If the “family issues” aer merely personality conflicts, you’re right . Kids should be kept out of it as much as possible. But if it’s a serious moral issue, or an issue of safety, or somethign that threatens the parent-child relationship itself (e.g., a grandpaernt who is fundamentally determined to undermine the parents’ authority), then kids should have some level of understanding of what’s going on.

If Uncle So-and-so is a threat to the kids’ safety, the kids need to know that. I have a relative who is a pedophile. I always felt uncomfortable around him as kid. As I got older and mor eknowledgeable, I had my suspicions. Several years aog, I was applying for a job near where he lives, and my parents said, “If you move there, stay away from so-and-so.” I siad, “Why?” Dad said, “Let’s just say I don’t want anything happening to my granddaugthers.” I said, “He’s a pedophile, isn’t he?” He said, “How’d you know?” I said, “I’ve suspected since I was a little kid, and I just took for granted that he wasn’r or that you didn’t know, or you wouldn’t have let me be around him!”


Keep in mind that Thomas a Kempis was a member of a quasi-monastic community called the Brethren of the Common Life, so this and similar remarks should be seen in that context.


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