From Kim in Baltimore:
I tend to be a very private person and rarely open myself up to others. Even something like participating in this blog is a step out for me. Then, to top it off, I get this maxim! I had to do a lot of thinking and praying to figure out where to go with this. I’m sure it was providential!
My first thoughts involved how we compare ourselves in a prideful way – like the publican and the Pharisee. I think many of us are able to relate to this story in one way or another. Whenever we judge others we are saying we are better than they are. Unfortunately, I am all too good at making these comparisons.
I also compare myself to others in a different way, though. I feel the need to fit into what is acceptable, what is considered appropriate, what is viewed as normal. I don’t want to be caught being different or not meeting the expectations of others. I don’t want to stand out from the crowd.
This can be a real problem as a Christian. The definition of “normal” or “acceptable” is decided by a society which doesn’t necessarily have the same values and beliefs that Orthodox Christians have. Things such as praying before a meal or crossing yourself in public make you stand out. In this day and age, these are not “normal”. Everyday is a struggle to realize that I do not have to fit into society’s mold. Instead, I need to keep my eyes on God and live the life that would be pleasing to Him rather than to others. I need to truly make my prayer, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner” and look to God alone as my measuring stick.
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.