Can I manage on my own?

17 December 2021

‘We need help, we need people who, after God, will supervise us’ (Abbas Dorotheos)

Our culture provides us with those things which create the illusion that we’re self-governing. That we don’t need anyone else and that our own will is sufficient. Apart from anything else, we have unlimited access to so much information that we can form an opinion on anything at all. And there’s no need for any filtering, because we consider ourselves well able to shape our own view. We’re experiencing the debunking of everything. We have no inkling that we’re following an old philosophical principle: generalizing the particular. Philosophy says that such an effort is almost always far from the truth, since nothing can stand alone as a general principle but must be supported on other sides. We, however, call upon science to demolish God, using some scientist or other, whom we then identify with science. Others use God to demolish science, quoting a particular passage from Holy Scripture. Others again use their experience from a particular event to draw an arbitrary conclusion: ‘Given that he’s like that, they’re all good/bad/corrupt/ dangerous/indifferent or useless…’.

If we transfer this way of viewing things to human relationships, we see one of the main causes of their degradation and the crisis in which they find themselves. Our bad thoughts about other people torment us. And, apart from the particular thing that’s made us censure, condemn or deny, that bad thought leads us into generalizing: we judge other people as regards their intentions. We condemn and reject them, which makes our co-existence with them very difficult. This may sometimes be unavoidable, as in the relationships between parents and children or those in the work environment. But generalization of a judgement in a particular instance leads to discontent, displeasure and frustration. The same is true regarding the satisfaction of our wishes. A bad thought is a repetition of the attitude of Eve towards the fruit in paradise. Its apparent attraction became an inner dialogue about God, who, supposedly, wouldn’t let them enjoy everything. From being a gift to be exercised, freedom became a right and a cause of rebellion. And then, even destructive desires have to be satisfied.

The spiritual tradition of our faith requires us to have God and certain people to whom we can refer.  Faith in itself isn’t enough for us to be able to refer to God: we have to be aware of his will if our decision to trust him is to have any effect. In other words, we have to obey the Church and then a spiritual guide who can show us the paths to follow in order to avoid being overcome by the self-assuredness of the ego. The criterion for the final decision, however, must be our freedom. In our daily lives we need people we can trust, that is people in whom we can humbly decide to confide our thoughts, good or bad. People who are a reference for us and who can help us filter our inner world. Not for us to be oppressed, but so that we can function with truth as our criterion. As for the world, may our trust in the internet be subject to a critical search.

Trust is the path of humility. Redemptive, though, and essential.