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  • Monday ,04 October 2010

Life of Virtue & Righteousness (12)

Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda Article


Sunday ,03 October 2010

Life of Virtue & Righteousness (12)

   Solomon the Wise says, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." (Prov 16: 32) Who then is the person who rules his spirit, that is, who has self-control?

   Self-control has various aspects, such as control over tongue, over thoughts, over senses, over stomach, over desires and lusts, over nerves, and over all acts of a person.
   Control over the tongue:
   Wise Solomon further says, "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise." (Prov 10: 19) St. James likewise says, "No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." (Jas 3: 8) "If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body." (Jas 3: 2) For all this, the Psalmist sought God's help, saying, "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips." (Ps 141: 3)
   A person who controls his tongue escapes many sins. He will not fall in the sin of abuse against the others neither by words of reviling, scorn, hard reproach, threatening nor by looking down upon them. He will not fall in lying, exaggeration, swearing, blasphemy, or in impudence or chattering, or in sinful knowledge, boasting, self-righteousness, self-admiration, judging others, or words of fury. Therefore, the Scripture says, "Even a fool is counted wise when he hold his peace." (Prov 17: 28)
   Control over the tongue has many positive benefits.
   Who has control over his tongue gains a space to consider matters before speaking, to choose the suitable words, and to take into consideration all possible reactions.
   The word you utter will be recorded against you even though you apologize for it. 
   The moment you have uttered it and it reached the ears, the minds, and the emotions of the others, it is no more yours. You can no more have control over it, but rather it will have control over you! "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Mt 12: 37)
   St. Arsanius once truly said, [So many times I talked and regretted it, but for silence I never regretted.] The saints used to keep silent to give themselves room to pray and meditate. As the Spiritual Elderly Saint once said, [keep your tongue silent so that your heart may speak] and, [A talkative person reveals that he is empty within, that is, empty of prayers] A wise man also said, [Not everything heard shall be said, nor everything said shall be written.]
   You should not repeat whatever you hear, otherwise you will cause quarreling among people, and fall in slander or calumny. More dangerous still is that which a person writes, for it will be evidence against him!
   Control over thoughts:   
   The tongue sin may become a sinful thought. Therefore, keep your thoughts and do not accept whatever thought may come to you. Be keen on keeping your thoughts pure, and if a sinful thought comes to your mind, beware of persisting in it or arguing with it. Rather dismiss it quickly lest it gains power over you and turns into heart emotions.
   Beware of the thoughts of fury, revenge, lusts, judging others, and vain thoughts. Beware of the thoughts of envy, jealousy, malice, pride, and vainglory, and of any thought that does not glorify God. If you could not, consider the saying: [If you could not prevent a bird from flying over your head, at least, let it not nest in your hair.] Do not keep within your mind any sinful thought, and try to occupy your mind continually with useful thoughts or spiritual meditations, so that the devil when fighting you may not find your mind empty. Another means for keeping the mind:
   Control over senses: 
   Senses are the gates of thought, so, keep guard on these gates by practicing control over the hearing, the looks, and the touch, so that no sinful thoughts may enter into your mind. Keep the chastity of your senses. Whatever enters into your senses against your will, do not think of it, nor return to it willingly. The first look may be by chance or unintentionally, but the second look is certainly voluntary and you will be judged for it. 
   Your senses do not only bring thoughts into your mind, but may also impress your subconscious and turn into dreams and suspicions. Therefore, practicing control over the senses will help protect the purity of the mind, the dreams and suspicions, and even the emotions.
   Control over the emotions: 
   Let your emotions be under control, and do not respond to any sinful thoughts that may enter into your heart. Dismiss them quickly before they settle within you, and try always to keep your heart pure.
   Do not submit to any lust or sinful desire:
   Resist it as the apostle says, "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." (Heb 12: 4) Do not allow yourself to get worse. Have control first over your senses so that they may not bring you thoughts, but if this happened, restrain these thoughts so that they may not turn into feelings and lust. But if they turn into lust, restrain them so that they may not turn into action, and if they turned into action, do stop it instantly so that it may not turn into a habit and dominates over you.
   Force yourself continually:
   Forcing oneself is an exercise for acquiring will power. Force yourself to obey the commandment, to obey and submit to the Lord and to the country laws and public order. Do not cunningly violate the law or resist your conscience. Do not give yourself excuses or let your conscience accept wrong things.
   Excuses and justifications are dangerous enemies of self-control.
   Do not give yourself excuses with respect to any faults, and instead of pampering yourself, correct yourself, and force yourself to do good and to avoid all forms of evil.
   Keep control over yourself with respect to self-love, for the Lord says, "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (Jn 12: 25) Keep away from self-love, love of the greatest portion, and love of the first places. Do not give priority to yourself rather than to the others, and do not give yourself rest at the expense of the fatigue of the others. If you feel yourself led in a wrong way, correct your conduct firmly. Restrain yourself with respect to rashness and taking quick decisions. If you feel enraged, restrain your nerves, your tongue, your features, and your movements. Do not suffer yourself to do wrong against the others even though they do wrong against you.
   Control yourself with respect to your freedom.  
   It is good to enjoy your freedom, but it should be restricted, chaste, far from wrong doings, peaceful, prudent, not transgressing the freedom of the others nor their rights, nor public order. Free your heart first from any wrong, and when your interior becomes free, you will enjoy your outer freedom gently and prudently.
   External control:
   Unless you have control over your interior, you will be disciplined compulsorily from outside. A person may be disciplined by law, custom, or punishment, like a son who has no self-control, he will be subject to disciplining or by his parents. Fear may be a cause for restraining people, and the feeling of ashamedness or fear of being exposed, are other reasons. A thief for instance may be temporarily restrained by fear of the guards. Other causes for forcible discipline are reproach, restrictions, inability, lack of a chance, or resistance from the others. However, all such factors are not spiritual.
   A spiritual person, on the other hand, is self-controlled within by his own will, due to love of good, and love for God, and for correcting himself. Such inner control will help outer control. The outer control will be the practical expression of inner control. However, continual outer control, whether compulsory or not, will turn into a habit.