9 - YOUR SELF AND THE OFFENCES
By H.H. Pope Shenouda III
The following is a collection of articles entitled, "The Release of the Spirit" written by HH Pope Shenouda III for the Sunday School Magazine from the year 1951 before starting his monastic life.
These articles were published in the form of a book in the year 1957 including some of his poems which were published in the magazine as well..
It was his first published book and it gained the approval of many and was reprinted many times.
9 - YOUR SELF AND THE OFFENCES
My beloved brother, unless you are released from your "self" which you worship in place of God, and which you exalt and elevate in front of people, you will never attain the eminence of the release of the spirit...
Perhaps you sometimes like to be praised by people.. and we have discussed in a previous article what you ought to do when others praise you.. Now, in this calm meeting I'd like to ask you,
'What do you feel and how do you behave when others offend you or mistrust you?'
Perhaps you would think that you are insulted.. and perhaps you would be much concerned about your dignity and the awe and respect due to you.. This would make you angry and furious.. You may avenge or defend yourself.. I do not deny you this right, for I am in the flesh like you and have experienced all such feelings or rather have been tempted by them... But come, let us discuss the matter together..
What benefit does anger avail you?.. It disturbs you, and destroys your nerves.. Moreover it deprives you of the peace of heart and of comfort.. Do you not remember the words of St. James the Apostle,
"For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. " (James 1:20)
Getting angry for the sake of your self is no doubt that kind of anger meant by St. James the Apostle.. I hear you saying that such anger relieves your sorrow and gives vent to the agitation suppressed within you! But why do you have such suppressed agitation which needs to come out? Of course the reason is obvious which is that you are much concerned about yourself! Be released, my beloved brother, from this self and you will have comfort..
If anyone insults you, do not think of yourself being insulted, but of the person who insulted you.. He is your brother.. and you-being a spiritual person full of love ought to think what can you do for that brother who sinned against you..
Of course, you do not want his precious soul to descend into hell, or that your insult stand in the way of his salvation.. Therefore you have to ask God not to count that sin on his behalf or punish him for it.. You have to pray that God may deliver him of such sin so as not to commit it again against you or others..
When you think of the brother who insulted you, try to find out the reason which led him to do so.. Perhaps he was ill, or nervous, his mind agitated or his strength exhausted or overloaded with social, scholastic or financial problems.. Consider what you can do for him.. Perhaps you can arrange for him a nice journey or a picnic or try to provide him with some means of amusement or entertainment.. If you find yourself unable to do anything for him, at least show compassion for him and ask God to give him special help..
People, my dear brother, are not wicked by nature, because when God made man, "God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good". As for evil, it comes to people from without; it is alien to them...
There may be other reasons which led that person to insult you.. He might have misunderstood you.. In such a case you can argue with him to convince him gently and lovingly..
However, there may be some persons who insult others merely because they like to do so, depending on their tolerance, to make of them a subject of their jokes and fun.
Avoid dealing with such persons, or address them, in a severe and firm but polite way to show them their faults and warn them against falling in such faults again..
This, you have to do not with purpose to avenge yourself or to retain a personal dignity but out of love for the person at fault. This would give him no chance to repeat the fault or fall again and destroy himself...
There is a great difference between blaming a sinner with a desire to take vengeance in such a way as to arouse his wrath against you, and blaming him out of love in a firm but calm way so that he may feel that you love him...
This concerns your attitude towards the person whom you feel has insulted you.. but let me go a little deeper into your self to argue concerning your inner feeling..
1. Why do you consider the words of the others an insult or an abuse? Why do you not consider such an insult - as you take it to be - a plain word useful to reform yourself
If you get annoyed due to this, that is because you like to be praised and want all people to speak well of you.. You ought to rejoice, my brother, when people criticise and rebuke you.., because this is for your good. It purifies and benefits you in your coming life..
When someone criticises you, you thank him, for perhaps his voice is the voice of God..
I mean that God who loves you may have sent such a person to you to guide you and reveal to you your wrongdoing so that you may stop doing it.
2. Perhaps God is punishing you with such insults for other sins which you have committed in the far or near past.. When David the Prophet heard an insult, he said humbly, "Let him curse, because the Lord has said to him: 'Curse David?"
(2 Sam. 16:10)
(2 Sam. 16:10)
My beloved brother, when someone insults you, remember your past sins and know that you are not perfectly pure so as to be beyond reproach...
3. Sometimes, God performs a successful act through you, but you take such success as a weapon to vaunt and right yourself with, feeling self-righteousness. So, God fearing that you may fall through pride, permits someone to insult you.. This may make some equilibrium within your feelings and eliminate your pride a little. Many of the persons who are insulted by others are proud.. while the Bible teaches us that the meek are raised by God from the dunghill and seated with the princes of their people (Ps. 113:8)
4. Perhaps your conduct has offended others though you are not aware, and so they insulted you... Therefore it is good to know the point of view of the person who insulted you for he may be right..
5. Such an insult may be a lesson for you to teach you love and long-suffering.. One of the spiritual fathers said about some monk who lived in seclusion not mixing with the brethren, 'Being with the brethren in the assembly is necessary for a monk, because if he cannot endure the quarrels of the brethren, how can he endure the wars of the devils in his solitude as St. Isaac says!!'
6. What harm is caused to you if someone judges you wrongly or thinks you are at fault? Would this hinder you from attaining God's Kingdom or would God judge you according to what the people say!
7. Or do you like to be praised and favoured by human beings who are created of dust like you? My friend, remember that your Master, ".. was oppressed and was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth." and, "He was numbered with the transgressors." (Is. 53:7,12).. He accepted that cross..
8. Lastly, my beloved brother, when you are insulted and when you feel annoyed and resent the insult though you are a sinner like myself, remember then how we insult God and how He endures patiently, loves us and accepts us! How great our compassionate God is! He has no likeness among gods...
The Release of The Spirit
By H.H. Pope Shenouda III