“A proud man, at the time when other people are speaking of any other person’s virtues, is wickedly afraid lest this person should be superior to him in virtues, and should eclipse him, for the proud man considers himself above all, and does not think it possible to find similar or higher virtues in others. The rivalry of others is a great misfortune to him.”
(St John of Kronstadt) This quote of St. John was posted on the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross’ Facebook page earlier, and it’s been eating away at me. Dostoevsky’s quote seems to go along with this quote from St. John, too.
I have struggled most of my life with trying to win the approval of others. I always feel like I fall very short because their scales, their method of measurement, are so very different than mine. I have tried to approach things with their perspective, but just cannot seem to do so. At various times in my life, I was far removed from religion. I certainly did not practice the Christian virtues in any way. In those times, I was more in step with those who judged me, because their perspective seems more in tune with worldly values and accomplishments. When I chose a different lifestyle and chose to become a different person in my life, it became apparent we lived very disparate lives. As I have aged, and hopefully matured, I realize that comparisons are rather silly. I can never be those who look at me; those who judge me….they are on the outside of the person I am and they are pursuing their own desires, their own answer to the same questions we all have: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is life for?” “Is there a greater power guiding all this? “Is there a God?” And I recently have been able to reflect, and to let it all go. I am no longer comparing myself to others who seem to be exceeding their own expectations. I am no longer in the same race; I took a step back and stepped out of it! And that is a humongous difference and a huge weight off my shoulders. I can honestly say that since I have become more in tune with the peace of God in my heart, deeply felt within me, I have given up participating in their race. I run my own race; my personal race to eternity.
We keep the goals we are after in front of us, always, to spur us on in our journey. For example, we are relocating near our oldest son. I keep a photo montage on our refrigerator of his family and my visit with them in January. When I get down or disgruntled with how this move is progressing, I go and look at my grandson, at my son and his family. It keeps me focused on where we are going and why! Our mantle had family pictures on it. As we decorated for Christmas, I packed them away. Once Christmas was over and that was packed up, my mantle was bare. So I relocated our Icon corner to front and center on our mantle. For me, it keeps my eye on the prize. And quite honestly, the noise, the clutter, the chaos that others bring to my life through their judgements and their opinions, are fading away. They no longer concern me, guide me, or inform me, because I realized that it is just…opinion. Using their methods of judging me, I will never measure up. I will never be the perfect daughter, sister, mother, friend. But I can be the perfect Child of God, because God loves me no matter what, and uses no scale to measure me against other Christians. The only measuring I am concerned with is how God perceives me, how God wants me to be. And I believe that if I can mirror the message of Christ effectively, all these other scales and issues will fall by the wayside, because Christ’s message is of perfect love for others. (“This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12) He gave His life for me, and for each of us who heed His message. He did not come to save everyone, because many, many people choose not to heed His message. For those who opt to live their lives for the moment, for the fullest enjoyment that this life can offer, that is what they can find – here. I pray that when they meet Christ at their death, their repentance is sincere and they choose wisely; they choose eternity with Christ.
“As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)I know that many of my extended family and some of our friends feel that since we have become Melkite Greek Catholic and have embraced an eastern viewpoint on theology, that we sort of “went off the deep end.” Still others appreciate the insight, the “breath of fresh air” we share with them, breathing through our eastern, Byzantine lung. Still others do not accept what we share or what I share here, because it is old, and it is Catholic or Byzantine, or Orthodox. They do not accept the authenticity! All of that makes me sad. Christ came 2,000+ years ago and the “deposit of faith” is so immense, there is room for all these wonderful things to be shared. There is also room in the House of God for many viewpoints. Christ’s message of forgiveness should reach to other points of view, but quite often, in matters of faith, it does not. Today I am sharing that I have been illuminated in a profound way, that what I am being shown is making me a better person and I believe that light can be shared with others, and they, in turn, will be lit with this Divine Knowledge, and changed; changed for the better. This is not said out of pride, out of some haughty place where I think I am correct and feel sorry for everyone who does not think like I do. Far, far from it. I have been told over and over again, by a protagonist in my life, “I know I am right; prove me wrong and we can discuss it. Until you do, you need to accept that I am right.” And for them, it is for every subject you can broach with them. Every subject. That is a very difficult position to deal with, because with their own personal scale, I can never be right. Empirically or emotionally! And so I am choosing to step away from the argument, the contest, or whatever it is supposed to be and I am allowing myself the Peace, the Grace of God to comfort me. I acknowledge my own ineptitude, my own weakness, my own lacking in certain areas, and I opt to forge ahead, as poor a specimen as I am. I choose to allow the Grace of Christ to inform my conscious, to form my spirituality, and to be the sole judge of who I am. I let go of the rest of it. Whew….such a relief. I truly cannot express how incredibly freeing this viewpoint is. I feel like I can choose for me and mine and there are no repercussions, because my sole judge is God. I leave you with these thoughts, expressed so well, by St. John of Kronstadt:
“Our soul, as a spiritual, active being, cannot remain idle; it either does good or evil, one of the two; either wheat grows in it or tares. But as every good comes from God, and as the means of obtaining every good from God is prayer, those who pray fervently, sincerely, from the depths of their hearts, obtain from the Lord grace to do good, and, before all, the grace of faith; whilst, those who do not pray, naturally remain without these spiritual gifts, voluntarily depriving themselves of them by their own negligence and spiritual coldness; and as the wheat of good thoughts, inclinations, intentions, and works grows in the hearts of those who labor and pray fervently to the Lord, so in the hearts of those who do not pray, the tares of every evil grow, smothering the small amount of good that has remained in them from the grace of baptism, chrism, and subsequent penitence and communion. Therefore, we must most carefully look after the field of our heart, lest the tares of evil, slothfulness, luxuriousness, self-indulgence, unbelief, avarice, envy, hatred, and others, should grow within it; we must daily weed the field of our heart–at least, at morning and evening prayers, and refresh it by salutary sighs, as by healthful winds, and water it with abundant tears, as by early and late rain. Besides this, we must by every means implant in the field of our heart the seeds of the virtues, faith, hope in God, and love for God and our neighbor, fertilize it by prayer, patience, good works, and not for a single hour remain in complete idleness and inactivity, for in times of idleness and inactivity the enemy zealously sows his tares. “While men slept, the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.” We must also remember that it is impossible to do good works without efforts. Since our voluntary falling into sin the kingdom of God cannot be taken otherwise than by “violence, and the violent take it by force.” Why is it that only the narrow way and narrow gate lead to life? Who makes the way of the chosen narrow? The world oppresses the chosen, the devil oppresses them, the flesh oppresses them; it is these that make our way to the kingdom of heaven narrow.”