From the lovely Melanie:
For me, this message is something that has been touched upon in other maxims. Creating a balance between two things. My mom, every since I can remember, has always told me about making sure I have a balance. Even though I am twenty-five years old, my mom is still giving me the same steady and true advice. "Just make sure you are balanced about it." Mom, I want to find a new job. . . Well, you can't spend every minute of every day working towards that; just make sure you have a balance of "fun time" and "trying to find a job time."
In yesterday's maxim, we read that we are to be strict with ourselves. We are to rely on a strict daily schedule. We are to accomplish all of our goals for the day and for each day thereafter. It is so hard for me to hear "Be strict with yourself," and then also hear, "Be merciful with yourself and others." Sometimes I feel that being merciful gives me an excuse to goof off, be lazy and procrastinate on the things that I want to do for my life, both spiritual and physical.
Now, I think I see what my mom was trying to really tell me. That it's not just keeping the balance for a while and then letting one thing rule your life. It is about being strict with your time (something I was never good at) so as to include all things that are necessary and important to you but all the while maintaining a balance in your life. If you are not able to accomplish that, then you should be merciful with yourself.
When Emily gave me this maxim, she knew, just as I knew, that this maxim really hits home for me. I think she and I were discussing my various frustrations: my dislike for my job and the difficulties of having a husband that is not Orthodox. I must be honest in saying that much of the time I feel like all the bad things that happen in my life are of my own doing, my own fault.
These two maxims do not cancel each other out. They work together to make each of us better examples of Christ's love. My being merciful with myself should not shadow the fact that I still need to be strict with myself. Just as my strictness should not overpower me so much that I fall out of faith or into the depths of despair to where I cannot see the mercy which Christ has bestowed upon us.
We are called to be merciful, but that mercy does not just end with ourselves. We are called to be merciful with others as well. How can we see when people need us to be merciful? Is it one set time or is it all the time? We are called to have mercy on all, just as we ask God to have mercy on us every time we attend church or pray to Him. Our job is to provide boundless mercy, because it is our endless outpouring of mercy that creates balance in this world that is cold, mean and cruel towards others.
Sisters, I ask that you pray for me as I try to not only be strict with myself, but to also be merciful with my mistakes and not to judge others but to be merciful towards all who are around me.
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.