A man told Elder Paisius:
― I sleep the whole day.
To which the Elder replied:
― There is nothing bad about it, while you are sleeping, you do not sin.
What amazing people these saints are: even mistakes, sins and extravagances that we reveal to them, they turn into a good idea, because they are humble. Humility gives them an opportunity to look at everything gracefully, to bow their head and to not behave arrogantly, like us, saying:
― Listen to what I have to say! Leave this alone! Fix that!
No, the saints do not say anything like that to you, nor do they seek or demand anything from you, but from themselves only. They reproach, punish themselves, and struggle. They love all other people and adore everyone. I was impressed by the words of St. Nephon of Constantinople, “When you look at someone, mentally fall at his feet and bow.” Can you bow? Can you bend over like wheatears do? When a wheatear grows and stores the grain, it becomes heavy and bends. Looking at it you say:
― There is grain, there is content.
If you have content, you bend. If you do not, nothing pulls you to the ground and you fly in the clouds. But you want to see yourself, you want to be different, like a wheatear at the beginning of its growth, say, in its infancy. Such, for example, is a young man who is handsome, but selfish, who is reluctant to reconcile, because he has high opinion of himself, he is obtrusive, and wants to be noticed and heard…
Therefore, it is a great thing to have humility, to ask the Lord for humility, to bow to the Lord, so that He may see us as humble and bless us. Let us be very careful, because pride is, after all, our greatest problem.
For me, the biggest problem is my selfishness. What are you saying? Is it the same for you as well? Yes, I know that. I realize that this also applies to you. If you really think about my and your problems, you will see that selfishness is actually at fault in everything, literally.. Perhaps you will object:
―Okay then why is it my fault that I fell ill? Can I really fall ill due to my selfishness?
No. Perhaps you are not ill because of your selfishness, although selfishness does affect the body as well, but that protest against the illness that is in you is, again, a manifestation of selfishness. Because if you were humble, you would perceive your disease in the right way. Do you understand it? For there is no problem in the illness itself; the question is how one perceives it, interprets it, and whether one accepts it.
Your “ego” is always to blame. If you are finding fault in everything, if you are complaining, if you are discontent, if you grumble at your life, if something is missing and you grieve, that is all because you lack Christ and humility. You lack humility, but have a lot of egoism.
Some people ask:
― How could this happen? Where is such a misfortune from?
Anywhere. One may fall into the abyss of selfishness from anywhere. No one will show you the safe route. Trouble can come from anywhere. Just as the train can go off the rails to the right or left alike, such is our soul too. Thus, it is said that in life, we go through many traps, and thus we sing during the Lent: “My soul, my soul, arise! Why art thou sleeping?” Temptations come and throw you into the webs of egoism.
The Devil most of all wants to entangle us in the trap of selfishness, like he once entangled our progenitors, forcing them to value themselves greatly and to consider their own opinion the only true one. So we, too, still repeat after them:
― It should be as I say! What I have in mind is right! It should be so! That’s it! I don’t want to discuss this. I insist on my opinion – end of story!
We all, in fact, suffer from our own egoism, even more so from secret selfishness, which is sneakier and more dangerous, because it is invisible. Hidden pride harms the person the most. Because what may a sinner be proud of? Even if they are selfish, then, if they realize their sin, it is as if they say: “I‘ve become a laughingstock. Everyone in my neighborhood knows me. Everyone knows that we quarrel all the time at home, that I use drugs … Everybody knows how bad a person I am.”
Unlike that person, you are considered nice. Nice people have more insidious selfishness, for it does not manifest itself openly. Someone who desperately sins in front of everyone, ends up despised and shunned, and that is their chance. Because when people turn away from you, God loves you. Do you understand this? God loves the sinner, whom you turn away from.
When you see someone openly sin on the street, you are indignant and say:
― Look what we have come to. What kind of society is this? What’s with you people?
With your contempt, you pour a tub of dirt over that person and thus humble them. You lose and that person wins. You lose because you turn away from somebody whose egoism is visible. You lose because you turn away from a person who has some visible pride. And when will you see your own hidden pride? Pride that no one else sees. Only you know about it. And the Lord. Perhaps, your spiritual father knows; if he ever has time to tell you something, lightly touching upon what you dislike hearing about, upon those areas where it hurts.
People despise sinners, turn away from them, and with this human contempt the sinners wash themselves of their sins. Do you know though, whom should hidden egoists – the so-called “nice people” – turn away from?
From themselves, and that shall be their washing. For by turning away from your selfishness, you will wash your soul. Then you will be able to tell yourself:
― See, people consider me a good person. Yet I am ashamed of myself! I feel disgusted, looking at myself! They call me a good person, but I know what a liar and hypocrite I am. They simply do not know, they cannot know about my passions, my infirmity, about my vices, my secret life, my words, my fantasies, about life in my house and how I treat my loved ones… I am not what seem like. I am a bad person.
If you are not ashamed of your hidden deeds before the people around you, it means that you like your deeds. Therefore, you repeat them. Some people complain to their spiritual father:
― You know, Father, your words have hurt my pride. You‘ve hurt my selfishness.
However, there is nothing wrong with having your pride and selfishness hurt. Do not worry about them. When your brother is insulted, go and help him. But when your egoism is insulted, forget it, abandon it.
― But how can I do it?
Leave your wounded “ego” be, leave it for dead. Let it die completely, and do not try to reanimate it afterwards. Do not go to your spiritual father to have your your wounded egoism caressed, but rather go to kill it off. Do not strive to tell him how unfairly you have been treated, but say, “I am in the wrong!”
For if you seek excuses, how can you resurrect your soul?
From «When Christ Becomes Everything to You»,
Translated by Kirill Nikolaev.