In the philokalia, St.Maximos the Confessor tells us:
”The sensible man, taking into account the remedial effect of the divine prescriptions, gladly bears the sufferings which they bring upon him, since he is aware that they have no cause other than his own sin. But when the fool, ignorant of the supreme wisdom of God’s providence, sins and is corrected, he regards either God or men as responsible for the hardships he suffers.”
It’s good advice. We could however expand on holding others and God for our suffering. Sometimes we also hold men responsible for our emotional distress too. We even hold inanimate objects responsible also.
For example you often hear people say ”My wife, its her fault I’m upset, she smashed up my car pretty good last night whilst I was sleeping.”
Nobody however has the power to upset us. We are the cause of our own emotional turmoil. ”Even in the midst of being murdered?” Yes even in the midst of being murdered by someone and we know we are going to die.
Reaching those spiritual ecstatic heights though is not an easy task. It would require of us a lot of prayer and ultimately Gods responding Grace. Not that it’s not achievable it is but it’s the holding onto it that’s the hard part.
The first step is to at least realize that your wife is not the cause of your emotional distress. At least when you accept this and begin to understand it, only then can you progress and over time, your upset will diminish and your attachment to societies conditioning that you must react when someone insults you, like a candle in a container, will gradually lose its oxygen and extinguish over time.
To put it into a little more perspective, the culture around us for thousands of years tells us what is an insult and what isn’t. What is sexually attractive and what isn’t. For men in Africa, really big fat women are attractive to them. In Europe its skinny women. Why? because that’s what our cultural up bringing taught us was attractive.
It’s only when you begin to understand you’ve been conditioned by society to get upset when someone insults you, does it make it easier to navigate your emotions. However it is so ingrained in us that simply just waking up one day and saying ”I’m not going to be upset anymore when someone insults me ” isn’t going to work.
Progress in the spiritual life is all about struggle. It would take many many many years for us to shed the skin of societies influence on our behaviour.
The first step to reiterate again is for us to stop holding others responsible for our emotional reactions. I’m not saying not to hold others responsible for their actions, but our reaction towards what they’ve done. I’m also not saying we shouldn’t spring into action when someone wrongs us and correct them but it’s HOW we spring into action and with what emotions we do that with that will determine how much progress we’ve made.
It’s deep I know but its something I thought of when reading St.Maximus the Confessor and I thought I’d add my thoughts to what he said with regards to physical suffering.