Carla Harris from California has a few thoughts for us today:
It is amazing how fitting this maxim is for me. I have begun the process of launching a new business and have often come face-to-face with how far I fall short of the qualities, abilities, talents, knowledge, and wisdom I need to be a good businesswoman. I begin to wonder if I have made a huge mistake and should just give up.
In my Lenten readings, there has been one particular thing that struck me very deeply and which I have gone back to and thought about much. It is Fr. Schmemann’s discussion in his book Great Lent about the prayer of St. Ephrem that we encounter often in this season.
The part that struck me so sharply was what he said about sloth: It is that strange laziness and passivity of our entire being which always pushes us “down” rather than “up” — which constantly convinces us that no change is possible and therefore desirable. It is in fact a deeply rooted cynicism which to every spiritual challenge responds “what for?” and makes our life one tremendous spiritual waste. It is the root of all sin because it poisons the spiritual energy at its very source.
If we become overly discouraged about ourselves, our faults and our sins, we can move into the place where we see everything in a negative light, where we give up on being transformed by the love and mercy and power of God. When I read this, it startled me and made me shudder. The thoughts of discouragement with myself that I conveniently put in the category of humility, were actually prideful and sinful and very dangerous to my soul. Wow. What a wake-up call.
There is also “other side of the coin” of this reaction which is to defend ourselves, getting angry with whomever might have pointed out our sins to us. (“How could they? Who do they think they are!?”) Again, a response of pride.
Recalling an earlier maxim, it is a temptation to believe that we must be extraordinary. Then when we realize we’re not, we react, either in discouragement or in indignance. If we embrace the maxim “Be an ordinary person, one of the human race,” we can begin to see ourselves as we truly are. And then, serenely enduring our faults and humbly confessing them to God, we receive His forgiveness and can live in the midst of His love and mercy that will transform our lives.
May God help us in this effort.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
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.