Expecting the worst

I received a bit of advice from a priest, who is somewhat strict and conservative, and had, in the past, suffered greatly for his ways with little support from his bishop (in fact, his bishop wasn’t at all pleased, nor impressed, with his traditional stance).  As he was doing quite fine in his new parish I wondered what the secret to his new success was. He revealed it to me one day when he simply said, “Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.”

These words of caution don’t imply solely to a priest-parishioner situation but can be useful to us all in our spiritual lives.

I was asked to direct my readers to the Mystagogy blog where a plug for a new book by Fr. Alexis Trader, Behind Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy: A Meeting of Minds, was posted a few days ago (here) and continues today on Fr. Jonathan’s Second Terrace blog (here) and will continue per the following schedule:

Post #3 – March 28th:  http://voxstefani.wordpress.com/

Post #4 – March 31st: http://www.bombaxo.com/blog/

I read a little from Fr. Trader’s book (chapter nine is available in PDF on orthodoxinfo.com – click on image for access) and found a technique suggested by the Saints in avoiding situations when we would normally get angry which was similar to my priest friend’s from above. Namely, Fr. Trader writes:

“… Saint John Cassian suggests that those who find themselves becoming impatient or angry should practice imagining that they are hindered, wronged or injured, but respond as the saints would—with perfect humility and gentleness of heart. Saint Nicodemos the Hagiorite likewise recommends that believers prepare themselves before going somewhere or coming into contact with irritating and exasperating people by imagining that others curse them and dishonor them, but that they weather it all with thanksgiving and peace of mind. Saint Theophan the Recluse expands this method to include all the conceivable encounters and imaginable feelings, desires, and reactions that a person might experience. He suggests reflecting on potential attacks at the beginning of the day and mentally planning how to react in a way that is in keeping with the commandments of Christ…”

Check out the links and order the book or suggest it to a friend or library.

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4 thoughts on “Expecting the worst

  1. “Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed” is a good motto to keep in mind when we feel that we have been rejected, contradicted, or “stabbed in the back” by others — especially if we considered these people to be our friends.

    It is not worth it to argue or retaliate with these “friends” or to stoop down to their low level in social relationships. I have learned — from many past experiences — that the best thing to do in this kind of a situation is to ignore the lack of finesse that these people convey, and to move on with my life.

  2. Thank you, Father, for this golden motto: “Don’t expect too much and you won’t get disappointed.” When I have been happier in our work in the vineyard of the Lord, it was when I followed this advice.

    In my eulogy for my bishop last week, I suggested that in this life, we do not ever get what we deserve. Some get far worse than their actions indicate: others, too many others, get too much better. In eternity, my hope is that we all get better: but outside of repentance and belief, we get exactly what we want.

    Expecting too much of this life is a perennial temptation. I am becoming mightily impressed with Fr. Trader’s new tome. In my secular psychiatric life (i.e., before Orthodoxy and the priesthood), we used to wrestle with “hot thoughts” that fired up the anger response. Now, I find that the Neptic Fathers (especially) had arrived at an effective psychotherapy long before Aaron Beck.

    We live in a rage-aholic age. Thank you for your germane quote. Good Lent to you.

  3. There are many ways to avoid getting angry in situations where it would be a natural reaction to do so. For me, if I am able to get away and just pull back, not taking offense, not wishing offense, not desirous of revenge, not seeking to justify myself, but just to retreat into silence and await the Lord’s judgment: He lifts me up, He answers for me, He silences my mind and heart, He empties me of sorrow, and in the end, He shatters the bonds that hold me.

    But I can do something else: I can take offense, I can react, I can seek revenge, I can try to justify myself, I can dig up history to add to my arsenal, and I can recklessly run into anger and, clothed with it, go to destroy the person or situation that I have convinced myself to hate. I will avoid silence because it might convict me. Noise, even mental noise, is better, anything is better than being a wimp and letting the other get advantage of me.

    I am a simple man whom reading books will not help much. Only one word, one word only will do, and after that, silence.

    He comes, He comes to judge the earth, to judge the peoples, to judge even me, with justice and truth.

    Lord, have mercy!

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