Saturday, March 29, 2008

20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.

Happy midpoint, ladies! The following is from Megan:

Many of the maxims make us cringe because they contain concise little lessons that cut to the core of what we do not want to change about ourselves. This one, right in the middle, number twenty out of forty, reminds us not to engage in idle talk. Not to gossip, or even speak more than necessary. As women, we almost universally hate to hear this, and yet as Orthodox women we almost universally are working on it. It is not a surprising admonition; simply one that makes us put our heads down and sigh.

But a warning not to think about things more than necessary? Did that word think accidentally slip in there? Isn’t thinking like prayer or like love: the more the better?

I guess not.

Fr. Hopko could have easily prescribed that we worry no more than necessary, and certainly this maxim does allow for that interpretation. But the word think is purposely paired with talk, and we are certainly to take meaning from that. Just as we are not to engage in idle talk, whether it be gossip, lies, or simply unnecessary chatter, we are to refrain from idle thoughts. This would include the banishing of gossipy thoughts, where we indulge and flatter ourselves by thinking ill of others. It means an end to idle speculation, daydreaming, lustful thoughts, dwelling on worries and fears – the end to any thoughts other than what is necessary.

Wow. I don’t think I can do that. Thank goodness we have the Saints to help us out.


Emily said...

Meg, this was painful to read. You've spoken clearly and wisely, but extraneous thought is one of my very favorite vices, and it's going to be a hard one to root out!

How often do we convince ourselves that thinking and analyzing something to death is a healthy, "natural" thing to do? Clearly, there are times when careful thought will lead us to the right decision, but there are many more when thoughts can be poison, causing us to doubt God's provision for us.

Maybe the problem with thinking is that it causes us to believe that we can figure things out. Instead of thinking about things, I'm going to try to lift them up in prayer -- acknowledging that only God can lead me on the right path.

jocelyn said...

As an obsessive creature, I definitely can sympathize with a reluctance to limit my thinking on things. The more time I give myself to think on something, the more I get the feeling of control (however illusory). Overthinking things is a symptom of wanting extreme control over my life.

Luckily, I have a little one in my life to distract me from overthinking things too much.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this is a goodie, all right. The lawyer/legalistic mode definitely kicks in -- so how much can I think and talk about it until it becomes "more than necessary?"

Thinking and/or talking about things too much without inviting the Holy Spirit's guidance might lend a sense of control and self confidence. But I've found that this is when God sometimes allows the unexpected, unpredictable to happen that throws my scheme out of whack, rendering at least some portion of it useless.

It always comes back to something simple: remember God. Commit your ways and thoughts to Him, and He'll direct your paths.

Megan, I honestly hadn't thought of asking the Saints to help me on this one; I'm still growing in that area. Are there any in particular that come to mind as helpful for this maxim, or is it more a reference to the cloud of witnesses, or our patron saint...?

Thanks for a great post!
p.s. Sorry for being a windbag!

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.