For confusion arises within us, not from the nature of circumstances, but from the infirmity of our minds; for if we were thus affected by reason of what befalls us, then, (as we all sail the same sea, and it is impossible to escape waves and spray,) all men must needs be troubled; but if there are some who stand beyond the influence of the storm and the raging sea, then it is clear that it is not circumstances which make the storm, but the condition of our own mind. If therefore we so order the mind that it may bear all things contentedly, we shall have no storm nor even a ripple, but always a clear calm.From Commentary on the Gospel of St.John by Saint John Chrysostom
I have written many posts on the subject of how nobody has the power to upset you. It’s impossible for me to resist writing about this subject again because in recent days I had been reading that great big book of Johns commentary on the Gospel of John. In it I have highlighted this piece that I may return to it again because I was blown away by how John actually echoed what I’d already been saying for years. To be more precise I echoed him unbeknownst to myself. I did not echo him because he speaks to me or through me nor because I’m anything special. I echoed him simply because what he says is common sense to all (or at least it should be).
Saint John is talking about how when we get upset, it’s not what we believe was to blame for our upset that provoked our sorrowful emotions and reactions. Using the boat analogy he demonstrates that some men when faced with being insulted, if it were natural to behave accordingly and become irate with those who throw insults at us then all men would do it. However, that is not the case at all. There are some men who transcend this beastly nature and do not become emotionally unstable at the insult. Their peace is not affected.
Try and think of a time when you observed this in someone. Two people are being insulted by the same person. One of them lunge in anger to strike the person who insults them and the more sensible of the two holds him back from doing so. Tell me, who is the one that is the better of the two? Yes, the one who did not become irate and held his friend back from punching the guys lights out.
This is proof that one man acts this way towards an insult and another acts differently however rare it is. Then there is the man who appears to act higher than all in the room and does not return the insult. But what is happening inside of him? He is emotionally unstable on the inside. Even though he doesn’t show it to the rest of the room, yet there in the room of his heart the Lord sees it.. But still, the man who restrains himself physically and has not mastered his internal anger does better than the one who has mastered neither.
We become angry not only at people but inanimate objects too. We are forever blaming people and things for our emotional sorrows. “He made me punch him by constantly insulting my wife, me and my mother and whole family. he’s the reason I’m so angry right now.” No, You are the reason you’re angry right now. Nobody has the power to upset you. As St.John stated it is because of the sickness of your mind that you cannot see it any other way. John says mind, but I’d like to also say soul.
The sickness of mind comes from the lack of exposure to the proper reading material and guidance like we get from the fathers. We are not aware that we are the reason for our upset so how can we at least get on the road to spiritual healing? I say soul because in order to master ones emotions and no longer be a slave to them we must acquire Gods Grace. The reason why you know you’re the cause of your sorrow but cannot advance to master it is because knowing is not enough. If we want to make progress it takes lots of prayer, frequent use of the Sacraments and ultimately Gods Grace.
It is usually something acquired by monks predisposed to the spiritual conditions for obtaining it. But it’s certainly not something beyond the grasp of the ordinary lay man if he wants it. Admittedly, lay people like us rarely possess it but not impossible. It’s also better to know oneself and although we may struggle to master this at the very least we should have the intellectual part covered. Before reading this post of mine you may not have had any of it covered but that’s O.K because now you’ve no excuse, HA!!!.
My local Orthodox priest explained to us all at table after Divine Liturgy (while stuffing ourselves with cake) that the spiritual life requires patience. Yes, advancement in the spiritual life really does require lots of patience. We must take it one step at a time. Therefore the concept I spoke to you about may be difficult even disturbing and you may become impatient to understand it. “What, nobody has the power to upset me?” haha. I love observing peoples reactions when I tell them. It’s as if they’ve been shown another world they’d never seen before for the first time.
Why?? Because our minds have only ever known that it’s natural to get angry when someone apparently upsets you. It’s natural to blame them for your emotional turmoil when they do something that you allege made you irate. No, they don’t have that power, you possess it but lack the ability to withstand the raging storm and waves of the sea because your mind and souls is sick.
These things I’ve spoken about may be new to you and this is why you’re a little bit troubled at the thought of it. We fear the new. In my town they’re used to fish’n’chips. My wife says, “How come when a new restaurant comes to town that serves better food than this it closes down? They prefer to go to the place that’s been there 40 years selling them overpriced horrible food.” I respond, “Because, my love, people hate the new and always stick with all they’ve ever known. That’s why they crucified Jesus, because what He taught was new to them. They feared Him and killed Him. People don’t like change, and they’re always rejecting the new even becoming angry with it at times. The Cross is testimony to that.”
Lets view it from the angle of death. We all fear death because many of us claim we don’t know what’s going to happen. But the truth is you can’t fear the unknown. It’s not death or the unknown we fear, but the loss of what we already see and know to be true. We fear the loss of what we can see, touch, hear, smell and taste. It’s all we’ve ever known therefore it’s certainly not the unknown we fear. How could we fear the unknown? That’s stupid.
Tonight you’ll do your best to argue it all inside your head and that is good. Ask questions and object to what I’m saying if you want. Don’t be gullible. Really get your mind thinking for the first time and out of that brainwashed worldly state you’re currently suffering. Get out of it.
In my Krav Maga (military martial arts) exercises some years ago we had an exercise where everyone had to pile on top of me. My job was to use all my strength and break out of it. Not only were they instructed to pile on top of me but beat me while they’re at it which only added to the confusion. I remember my face being as red as a hot iron. Sweating from the brow I surprised myself and rose up through these people and broke free. What helped? Maybe it was the adrenaline.
That is what it’s like for me and you. We are surrounded by the demons of false beliefs and different ideas which pin us to the ground preventing us from experiencing a resurrection of the mind. Not only do they pin us to the ground but beat us while we are there with these various passions of soul. It is our job to rise up with all our might and become new creatures to become free of these demonic passions that darken the intellect and enslave the soul. For my body it was adrenaline that assisted me, but for the Christian our adrenaline is the Grace of Christ which assists the power of our will to CHOOSE to become different and break free.
There are those of us who accept defeat choosing to stay on the ground to be kicked around like rag dolls by the demons. “I get upset, it’s natural for me. I know I am the cause of my upset but I cannot progress. I’m not like the saints.” Ah shut up with that silly weak talk. To the contrary you have not only the Saints and the Theotokos to help you but Christ Himself to assist your resurrection of mind. But first? You must crucify yourself to the worldly thoughts. It’s a painful process. None of us here want to be Crucified and to receive the nails that will kill the old self.
It’s painful to hear something that goes against everything you’ve ever been thought and know to be true. This is especially true when the whole world practice it. It becomes more difficult to tear oneself away from it then, but you must rise up. Yes, the weight of the world is on top of you right now but fight it. Seek the truth, try and change. Taste the bitter vinegar of truth. And after your three days resting in the tomb of deep reflection and self examination where you comb through your passions one by one, rise up and become a new being.
YOU CAN DO IT!!! 🙂