Our Condition and Other People

20 May 2022

‘People benefit from or are harmed by their own condition. Nobody harms other people’ (Abba Dorotheos).

The easy answer to the problems of life is that other people are to blame. They don’t understand us, they don’t agree with us, their ambitions conflict with our gifts and our prospects, their interests prevent them from seeing life the way we do (and, usually, we’re right) and, at times their obtuseness and sheer badness distress us greatly.

In reality, as the ascetic tradition of our Church makes clear, no-one can harm someone else spiritually. It’s our own state that engenders passions and keeps them alive. Others might provide the kindling, so that there’s anger, frustration, a sense of rejection or futility in our soul. The same may be true of the circumstances of our life. Strange as it may seem, it’s not these in themselves which make life difficult, but our inability to withstand them, or our lack of ‘mental resilience’ as scientists would have it.

The obvious question is: ‘But aren’t there any difficult circumstances? Are there no other people who mess us up and cause us problems?’. Clearly, this happens. In reality, however, the damage is transitory and superficial. It shakes the sense that we’re in control of our life. But it’s an opportunity for self-examination. To see where we’ve invested and how we’ve behaved so that it’s come to a rupture in relations. How do we react to these ruptures? Even more so, however, how much trust do we have in the will of God, not so that we can justify our behavior but so that we can forgive and make a new beginning? In the end, our justification will become apparent if the way we look at life is the right one. But have we learned to put up with difficulties or have we succumbed to complaining or shifting the blame onto others, which will prevent our inner healing.

Faith isn’t defeatism. It’s not about letting our head droop and passively receiving blows as if nothing were happening. Faith is the articulation of our position, our complaint, our difficulty. Apart from active engagement, however, it’s simultaneously a tool for the management of trials and tribulations. We don’t need to have the final word. On the contrary, if we’re clear as to what we believe, let’s learn to accept other people with love and forbearance. We’ll pursue what’s ours, but won’t pine if we receive less. The ego isn’t the key for us; love and patience are.

In human relations, in every struggle, there are two sides to the coin. Let’s look to ourselves. Let’s look at the expectations we place on people, on dreams, on intentions, and let’s correct our mistakes, however much hard work this may involve. Because our expectations touch upon the freedom of the other person, even if they’re close to us, even if they’re our children or spouse. And, in any nurture we provide, let the root be prayer and trust in God and his will, so that we aren’t hurt by the differences which make it certain that life will not always go our way. Let’s free ourselves from perfectionism, which we may like to parade, and let’s welcome the little that other people might have to offer us.

Source: themistoklismourtzanos.blogspot.com