My struggle with pride
The proud monk is one in whom the passions reign triumphant. And this is someone who has plenty
of problems but pride makes sure this is never acknowledged to himself lest the mirror crack.
So all his inner problems become the problems of others. He sets himself up as superior to others and judges them.
His concern is not the mysteries of God because they would challenge the ego and displace it He has eyes only for himself.
His concern now is something forbidden to us – to become judges.-Dom Gerard Abbot of Genesse Abbey
One of the beautiful gifts of living in a Monastery is the wide range of personalities. Each unique, with different gifts, graces, and yes, problems. So the gift of community comes with a built-in ‘fly in the ointment’. Which is the problem, the aspects of others. In saying this, I know I can be a big ‘fly in the ointment’ for some in the community. I can be a bit of a loose cannon, and others have told me that I can be moody, withdrawn, or the opposite, too loud and at times inconsiderate of others.
I would in no way consider myself a person of elegance, nor of refinement: quite the opposite actually. Because of that, I have great respect for those who have gifts, strengths, and yes the intelligence and education, that I do not have. They encourage me and have insights that I would never even consider. They can also be incompressible to me which can lead to frustration.
When I lose myself in myself, I can become quite the narcissist. This will often happen when things do not go the way I would like. They do not have to be something big, or important, but rather it can often be a ‘tempest-in-a-teapot’ kind of situation, as the saying goes. However, a tempest in a teapot is still a tempest. It is in situations like this that my own innate pride and self-centeredness come into play. I say this without neurotic guilt since I also believe this is the human situation for most. How to deal with those who do not do what I want, when I want it. Or if the liturgy or something else about the Monastic life does not go my way. For me, from my experience, how I deal with these ‘tempest’ will dictate how my monastic life will live and become stronger, or weaken, and eventually die. Little choices lead to how I deal with the big life-changing choices.
I will often find myself fighting the urge, which flows from my pride and arrogance, that if things do not go my way, I will ‘take my football and go home’, as often happens with children, or at least it did, when most children actually played outside. Jesus asks me to become ‘childlike’, not childish.
Giving in to this impulse, only makes it easier to take my football and go home more and more often when things do not go my way. My desire to control the environment is very strong, as futile as that desire is. The more I understand its futility, the quicker I can even in the midst of the struggle, understand that I need not follow what it is trying to dictate to me. I can have all the right reasons, at least in my own mind, which is not often that in touch with reality or the fact that there may be other ways at looking a any given situation. People are not idiots, or crazy, if they do not agree with me, or do things differently than I would do them.
To judge others in a negative, overly critical manner has to be grown into, just as the opposite is true. However, it is easier for me to sink rather than swim. Though to sink brings with it a load of problems, and pain.
When in the liturgy for example, if I overreact because it is not going the way I want it to, in order for me to keep that anger up, I have to downplay the discipline and actual sacrifice that those who cantor do for us all. This leads to many failures in justice, as well as charity. I become judge, and jury, and executor. It is about control, so that my own deep anxieties can be calmed, which will manifest as anger.
It all boils down to the most important aspects of the Christian path, as well as the monastic one, which are inseparable. Love God,-Love people-Love self. Do I love myself, so that I can love others? Do I know myself enough, that I can understand the mercy that is shown me by the Father, as is manifested in the revelation of Jesus Christ? The more I am critical of others, only shows me my own lack of self-love, hence my inability to love others in the way Christ is seeking to lead me to. I go along, kicking and screaming, like a whining two-year-old. Can I love that aspect of myself, so that I can deal with it, and in that, find healing, and my ability to love others, and God with greater inner freedom and purity of heart? I hope so, for I am not there yet. I live in hope and in the assurance of God’s mercy. In that, I can learn to see that all of my brothers here, are seeking to do the same thing.
It is my past, which has a hold on me. How could it not? It is the building block of who I am today rest upon. It is my past that has shown me my spiritual path. It is my past that has given me certain weaknesses that are as St. Paul says: “thorns in the flesh”. My past has also given me strengths for the journey.
I have found that when I gossip about someone, it comes from a place of ugliness, for in gossip I can do great harm to another, as well as to myself. When I focus on others, and their faults, I do not have to look within myself. The more I look down on others, for any reason, the more trouble I have found myself in. Gossip, contempt for those around me, are great sins, which are often downplayed and overlooked. The more I allow my own inner seeking of placing myself over the community, my brother, and yes the abbot, the deeper the wounds I have, and the further away I move from love of self, God, and others.
The Lord in His great compassion and mercy will allow me to travel down a dark road and to harvest the fruit of my own pride and sinfulness, in order to bring me to my senses. For the word of God, as well as God’s mercy and love, which are the same, can only heal fully through my painful growth in self-knowledge of my own poverty, and only in that, can I grow in compassion for others. Even if I have to show compassion to those who cannot return it.
The coin of the kingdom, is again, to love God, others, and self. One circle, without beginning or end. To step outside of that circle permanently is to spiral eternally into further fragmentation and the death of our humanity, until what only remains is the hatred of self and others, and God. We should not downplay what our lives, all lives, are about. We are all bought at a great price. There is no shortcut, conversion is an often slow journey for most us; those who respond to grace better than I, need to be observed and allow myself to be led.--BrMD