Tag Archives: Passions

Starving the Ego

They said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became, as it is written, a god upon earth, because, just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults which he saw, as though he did not see them; and those which he heard, as though he did not hear them.

Currently I am employed in a call center trouble-shooting the point of sale equipment of various customers. One of the major factors which determines how we are evaluated is our solve rate; the ratio of calls that we are able to resolve over the phone to those which we must dispatch field technicians.

The result of this however is that there are people who will do whatever they can in order to solve a call out, even if it means cheating, lying or any other of a number of shady actions.

Now I am not perfect, and on occasion I deviate from the straight and narrow in order to ensure my numbers remain reasonable, but the blatant abuse of some here really irks me. I catch myself increasingly often engaging in conversations with others and talking about these blatant abuses and those who are doing them.

As I continue to grow in Orthodoxy, these conversations become visible to myself;  they  become the “beam in my own eye” and I realize that it’s not my place to judge these people; it’s not my place to talk bad about what they might be doing here when I myself have so many faults that at times I wonder why God would even listen to my cries to Him.

This is something in our fallen nature that plagues almost everyone: the tendency to feel slighted by others, to want to talk bad about people we perceive to be doing wrong, and the desire to feed our ego with a self-righteous attitude through the faults of others.

This is one of the passions which I’ve decided to focus on bringing under control and I recently came across the above saying by Abba Macarius to help me remember this. I wanted to share it with you all in the hopes that you might receive some edification from it as well.

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The things that come from within are what defile.

In my opinion the entire Orthodox doctrine of warfare against the passions finds an excellent jusification in the words of Christ Himself when he was speaking to the Pharisees. In Mark 7:14-15  we can read:

He [Jesus] summoned the crowed again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from the outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

Now, in context here Christ is speaking against the Pharisees’ strict legalistic and external practices, and in the verses above He is referencing the idea of unclean foods. He is telling the Pharisees that external sources, such as food as they believed, are not what make a person unclean in the eyes of God. Rather, it is what comes from within the person; how they act, what they say, what they prioritize, their feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and opinions.

This is why the Orthodox Christian is called to a life of struggle and deprivation. We are called to struggle in this lifetime and deprive our passions the excesses they desire so that we can purify ourselves for the life to come. In Russian the word for a spiritual struggle as such is ‘podvig,’ in Greek it is ‘askesis.’

Metropolitan Anthony of the ROCOR put it thus:

Christianity is an ascetic religion, Christianity is a teaching about the gradual extirpation of the passions, about the means and conditions of the gradual acquisition of virtues; these conditions are internal, consisting of podvig, and given from without, consisting of our dogmatic beliefs and grace-giving sacraments which have only one purpose: to heal human sinfulness and lead us to perfection.

So, let’s strive to throw off our passions, to heal our souls, to take up our cross and struggle for Christ. Let us fight for what we want instead of naively thinking that the prize will just be handed to us.  Let us stop blaming outside sources for our failings and recognize that before we can live for our Almighty King in the manner which He requests, we must die to ourselves.