The proud monk is one in whom the passions reign triumphant. And this is someone who has plenty of problems but pride makes sure this is never acknowledged to himself lest the mirror crack. So all his inner problems become the problems of others. He sets himself up as superior to others and judges them. His concern is not the mysteries of God because they would challenge the ego and displace it He has eyes only for himself. His concern now is something forbidden to us – to become judges. (Dom Gerard Abbot of Genesse Abbey)
One of the beautiful gifts of living in a Monastery is the wide range of personalities. Each is unique, with different gifts, graces, and yes, problems. However, the gift of community comes with an inherent ‘fly in the ointment,’ which is the problem: the opinions of others In saying this, I know I can be a big ‘fly in the ointment’ for some in the community. I can be a bit of a loose cannon, and others have told me that I can be moody, withdrawn, or the opposite, too loud and at times inconsiderate of others.
I would in no way consider myself an elegant person of elegance or refined, quite the opposite actually. Because of that, I have great respect for those who have gifts, strengths, and, yes, the intelligence and education, that I lack. They encourage me and have insights that I would never even consider. They can also be incompressible to me which can lead to frustration.
When I lose myself in myself, I become quite the narcissist. This will often happen when things do not go my way. It does not have to be something big, or important — it can be a trivial dispute. In situations like this, my pride and self-centeredness come into play. I say this without neurotic guilt since I also believe this is the human situation for most.
How to deal with those who do not do what I want, when I want it? How I deal with these disputes dictate whether my monastic life will live and become stronger or weaker. Choices about trivial matters lead to how I deal with the big life-changing choices.
I will often find myself fighting the urge, which flows from my pride and arrogance, that if things do not go my way, I will ‘take my ball and go home’, as used to happen to children when they still played outside. Jesus asks me to become ‘childlike’, not childish.
My desire to control the environment is very strong regardless of its futility. The more I accept this the more quickly I can resist it the impulse. After all, people are not idiots if they do not agree with me.
It all boils down to the most important aspects of the Christian path, as well as the monastic one: Love God; Love people; Love self. Do I love myself so that I can love others? Do I know myself enough, that I can understand the mercy that is shown me by the Father, as is manifested in the revelation of Jesus Christ?
The more I am critical of others only shows me my own lack of self-love, hence my inability to love others in the way Christ is seeking to lead me to. I go along, kicking and screaming, like a whining two-year-old. Can I love that aspect of myself, so that I can deal with it, and in that, find healing, and my ability to love others, and God with greater inner freedom and purity of heart? I hope so, for I am not there yet.
I live in hope and in the assurance of God’s mercy. In that, I can learn to see that all of my brothers here are seeking to do the same thing.
It is my past, which has a hold on me. How could it not? It is the foundation of who I am today rest upon. It is my past that has started me on my spiritual path. It is my past that has given me certain weaknesses that are as St. Paul calls them, “thorns in the flesh.” My past has also given me strengths for the journey.
I have found that when I gossip about someone, it comes from an ugly place; in gossip, I can do great harm to another, as well as to myself. When I focus on others and their faults, I do not have to look within myself. The more I allow my own inner seeking of placing myself over the community, my brother, and yes the abbot, the deeper the wounds I have, and the further away I move from love of self, God, and others.
The Lord in His great compassion and mercy will allow me to travel down a dark road and to harvest the fruit of my own pride and sinfulness in order to bring me to my senses. For the word of God can only heal fully through my painful growth in knowledge of my own poverty, and only in that, can I grow in compassion for others. Even if I have to show compassion to those who cannot return it.
The coin of the kingdom to love God, others, and oneself, a circle without beginning or end. To step outside of that circle permanently is to spiral eternally downward in the hatred of self, others, and God. There is no shortcut: conversion is a slow journey. I need to learn from those who respond to grace better than I have. I need to allow myself to be led.