Keten

Bedoelingen kun je niet scheiden van de handeling en niet van diens invloed op de externe wereld, idealiter gesproken. Er gaat veel mis natuurlijk… Bij zender én ontvanger. Dorotheus van Gaza droeg een radicale oplossing aan als je je gekwetst weet door een ander geheel in lijn met het Evangelie maar ook even onpopulair (inclusief bij mij!): zoek de fout bij jezelf. Hieronder zijn preek:

About Blaming Oneself

Brothers, may we study, how it is that at one time a man hears an offence and lets it pass without being stung, as if he had barely heard it, and at another time he hears and is straightaway troubled. What is the reason for this difference? Is there but one reason or are there many? I see many causes for this state, but there is one item, one could say, which is the underlying cause of all of them. First, it happens when a man is praying or spiritually resting and being as one might say, in a good state he suffers his brother and is not troubled. Again it may happen that he has a special devotion for the one who attacks him and for this cause he will endure without harm anything that that person does to him. Then there is the one who hates the one who wants to give him pain and hates what he does, and does not treat him as a man or give any meaning to what is said or done by him. I will tell you about an incident of this type which will amaze you. There was a brother dwelling in the monastery before I came there and I never saw him bothered. Even though many times I observed many of the brothers cursing him and treating him poorly. That younger one endured all that was done to him by all as if no one were bothering him. So I used to be amazed at his remarkable forbearance and desired to understand how he had obtained such virtue. Once I led him aside and gave him a deep bow and begged him to relate to me what thoughts were regularly in his heart, either when he was reviled or when he was mistreated by someone, that he could show such patience. He answered without shame, “Oh, I only have to look at them as trifles, and endure it as a man endures the barking of a dog.” Having heard this I lowered my eyes and said within myself, “Has this brother discovered the way?” And crossing myself, I went away praying that God would guard both him and me.

It may happen, as I stated, that a man may not be disturbed through scorn. This is clearly a loss. Being angry with a brother who is bothersome to us happens since we are not always in a good state or because we have a deep dislike for him. There are many reasons for this which can be explained in a variety of ways. The basic cause of these troubles, if we are to study it closely is that we do not condemn ourselves. So we have all these troubles and we never find rest. One should not be amazed when we hear from the holy fathers that there is no other way but by this, and we observe that no one at any time used another way and found rest. We think to find peace of soul and to make a straight road to it, but we never come to the point of condemning ourselves. This is not true? If one were to discipline oneself in a myriad of ways and not take this way, he would never stop disturbing others or being disturbed by them, and he would squander all his efforts. How much delight, how much peace of soul would a man not have wherever he travelled, as Abba Poeman says, if he was the one who regularly accused himself? Because if anything happened to him, some punishment, a disgrace, or any sort of trouble, he would accept it as if he deserved it and would never be bewildered. Such a one would have complete liberty from anxiety.

But one will declare, “Suppose a brother bothers me and I study myself and discover that I have not provided him any reason, how can I accuse myself?” If a man truly studies himself, with Godly fear, he will almost always find that he has given a reason for the insult, either through word or deed or by his disposition. But if through examining himself, as I said, he observes that he has provided no reason in any of these ways at that time, it is likely that at some other time he has offended him either in the same circumstances or by others, or maybe he has scandalized another brother and he would want to suffer because of that, or for some other misdeed. If, as I was saying, he studies himself with the fear of God and looks carefully into his mind, he will always discover the reason. Again there is the example of one who is minding his own business, sitting peacefully and quiet and when a brother approaches and says a troubling word to him, he is disturbed by it. And from the situation he supposed that he is rightly angered, and he speaks against the one who bothered him, saying, “If he had not come and talked to me and irritated me I would not have been to blame.” This is an illusion, and incorrect thinking. Because it was not he who spoke and put him in a bad mood. He only demonstrated that it was already in him, so that he could, if he wanted, make amends for his fault. But the one referred to above is as clean-looking winter wheat, externally good and ready for use, but when somebody crushes it, its corruption is uncovered. He was sitting peacefully, as we were saying. He had this anger within him and he did not realize it. One word against him from another and the corruption hidden inside him jumped out. If then he were prepared to ask forgiveness and to humble himself before that brother, he would be purified and would progress in wisdom and see that he should rather thank the brother who had been an occasion of spiritual help to him. Temptations would no longer burden him in the same manner, but in proportion to his advance in this manner he would find that they became easier to carry. Because to the degree that a soul progresses it becomes stronger and has the power to carrying anything that happens to it. In the same way if your mule is strong and you put a heavy burden upon it, it bears it well. And if he does happen to stumble, he gets up rapidly and does not seem to see its fall. But if he is a weak animal the same cargo weighs him down. If he falls it takes considerable help to revive him. So also with the soul. If it continues to sin it becomes sick. If sin makes a man weak and unhealthy on account of it, the smallest thing that occurs will burden him. But if a man is progressing regularly what occurs becomes less and less burdensome to bear in proportion to the ground he has gained. And thus this habit of accusing ourselves will work out well for us and bring us peace and considerable profit and nothing else that we can do will make this happen. Before all else may we be persuaded that nothing can happen to us without the will of God.

But consider someone who says, “How can I not be disturbed if I need something and I don’t get it? Do you understand that I am asking for it out of necessity?” But even here he has no cause for blaming anybody or getting angry against anyone. Because even supposing there is a true need as he claims and yet he does not obtain it, he should say, “Christ, Our Lord, knows better than me if I should be satisfied. He is the one who is to take the place of this object or this food for me.” The Sons of Israel had manna in the desert for forty years and the manna looked the same for each, because for each one it became what he needed. If a man was in need of something bitter, then it was bitter. If he was in need of something sweet, then it was sweet. In summary, for all it became what was most fitting for his state. So also when a man desires an egg but gets only vegetables, he tells himself, “If it were good for me to have it, God would surely have sent it. Besides, these vegetables have the power to do me as much good as an egg.” And he might depend on God, for he becomes a witness to God.

If a man is indeed worthy of rest, God will persuade the hearts of the Saracens that they should deal mercifully with him according to his needs. If he is not deemed worthy or if it is not beneficial, even if He make a new heaven and a new earth he will not be able to find rest. Do not worry that a man at times finds more rest than he requires and at times not even what he requires. It is God, who is merciful, and gives everyone what he requires, who is building him up when he provides him more than he requires, and in so doing he demonstrates the abundance of his love for men and teaches them to give thanks. When he does not provide him his needs, he compensates him for the thing he requires by the working of his mind and instructs him in patience. For it is our duty to give heed to the supernatural part of things, if we suffer good or evil from anyone, we should look at everything supernaturally and give thanks for all things which happen with us, always blaming ourselves and saying, as the father used to, “If anything good happens to us it is by God’s providence. If anything bad, it is on account of our sins.” And indeed everything we endure is the result of our sins. Because the saints of old, whatever they endured, they endured for God’s name, either to show their virtue and so to aid all others, or to gain a greater prize from God. But we wretched souls, what can we say about these things? Everyone of us goes on sinning and we endure what we deserve. We have departed from the straight road of blaming ourselves and taken the crooked road of accusing our neighbor. Each of us is very careful, on each occasion, to cast the blame on his brother, and to hit him with its weight. Each one of us is apathetic and observes none of the commandments, and we ask in return that our neighbor observe all of them.

There came to me one time two brothers who were always fighting, and the elder was saying concerning the younger, “I organized for him to do something and he gets disturbed and then I get disturbed, thinking that if he had the faith and love towards me he would receive what I tell him with full assurance. The younger was saying, “Pardon me, holy father, but he does not tell me with the fear of God, but instead as one who wants to give commands. I think that this is why my heart does not have full assurance, as the fathers say.” Imprint on your minds that each one accuses the other and neither one blames himself, but both are annoyed with the other, and even though they are seeking the pardon of each other, they both continue unconvinced for, “he does not show deference and so I am not convicted, because the fathers say that he should.” And the other states, “Because he will not have full confidence in my love until I demonstrate to him deference. For my end, I do not have full confidence in him.” Dear God, do you see how crazy it is? Do you see their twisted means of thinking? God knows how sorry I am about this, that we use the sayings of the fathers to justify our self-will to the ruin of our souls. Each of these had to cast the blame on the other. One states, “I cannot truly be seeking forgiveness all the time where my brother is involved, so God does not give him full confidence in me. The others states, “I am unable to be reconciled in love to my brother before he asks forgiveness, and for that reason God does not grant him full confidence in me. What they really should do is just the opposite. The first one should say, “I speak with presumption and so God does not grant my brother confidence in me. And the other should think, “My brother gives me orders with humility and love, but I am disobedient, and I do not have the fear of God.” Neither of them discovered that way of blaming themselves, but each troubled the other.

Do you see that this is why we cannot make progress, and why we find we have not been aided towards our goal? We continue fighting against each other, grinding one another down, for each thinks himself correct and pardons himself, as I was saying earlier. But all the while he keeps none of the commandments yet he demands that his neighbor keep them all. This is why we do not obtain the virtues, for if we treat them as a small matter we burden our neighbor with them and blame him saying he should not do such a thing and why did he do it. But we should not do such a thing and why did he do it while we instead study ourselves concerning the commandments and accuse ourselves for not obeying them? How did that elder respond when asked, “What do you find most important in this manner of life, father?” He answered, “In all things to blame oneself. And the inquirer concurred with him about this, saying, “There is no other path but this one.” Likewise Abba Poemen used to say with sighing that all the virtues come to this house save one, without which a man remains working.” They asked him which one it was, and he said, “That a man continue to blame himself.” But St. Anthony used to say that the right daily labor for a man is to cast his poor state before God, and to expect temptation until his final breath.

In all the writings we find the fathers observed this rule speaking everything to God, even the smallest things, and they found peace. Such was the saintly man who was ill and his brother, who instead of honey, poured linseed oil on his food, a foul thing that it is. Still the old man said nothing but consumed it all in silence and even took a second helping to gratify his need without accusing his brother or saying that he had done it will an evil intent. Not only did he say nothing, he was not even irritated with him in his mind. And when the brother learned what he had done and began to grieve over it saying, “O Father, I have killed you. And you have placed this sin on me because you said nothing.” How humbly he answered, “Do not be troubled, my son. If the Lord wanted me to eat honey he would have forced you to put honey on it.” And straightaway he bore the matter to God. “But what does it have to do with God, dear old man? The brother has erred, and you say, ‘If God wanted.’ What does this have to do with God?” And he insisted, “Yes, if God had desired me to eat honey the brother would have put honey on it.” The fact that the old man was so ill that day and that he could take no food did not make him angry with his brother, but instead he deferred the whole matter to God, and the old man spoke well, “If God had desired that I eat honey he would have changed the oil into honey.” But we, for each small thing, go and condemn our neighbor and blame him as if he were evilly going against his conscience. And if we hear a word we immediately twist its meaning and say, “If he did not want to bother me he would not have said it.” What about the case of the saint who said about Shimei, “Let him curse, because the Lord told him to curse David.” God told a man who was a murdered to cruse a prophet? But how is God with him then? A prophet is someone who has understanding and knows that nothing bears God’s mercy to a soul as temptation, especially temptation suffered in a time of distress, and worsened by treachery, and so he said, “Leave him alone to curse David as the Lord instructed him.” But why is this? “So that he Lord may observe my humiliation and turn that curse to gain.” Do you see how the prophet worked with understanding? He kept back those who desired to be avenged for that cursing by saying, “What have I to do with you, sons of Zeruiah. May he curse as the Lord ordered him.”

But we do not start speaking about our brother as if the Lord told him to say it. If we hear a word we straightaway react as a dog. If someone casts a stone, they leave the one who casts it, and run after the stone and bite it. This is how we behave. We forsake God who gives us opportunities from this to cleanse us from our sins and we run after our neighbor crying out, “Why did you say this to me? Why did you do this to me?” But we would be able to obtain a great benefit from these things, if we bring just the opposite on ourselves, being unaware that all things happen by the foreknowledge of God for the profit of each of us. May God make us truly understand this by the prayers of his saints. Amen.

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