Four Hundred Texts on Love 8

Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

30. You should know that you have been greatly benefited when you have suffered deeply because of some insult or indignity; for by means of the indignity self-esteem has been driven out of you.

Here we find another distinction in patristic thought that tends to run at a tangent to modern thought. It is true that there is a strong theme that, as icons of God, we should respect our nature. That is, we should have self-respect. The most important theme, though, is that we should try to see ourselves as we really are. And that is hard to do. On the one hand we want to think better of ourselves and thus construct that sort of false image. But the fathers also speak about the dangers of proclaiming how wicked we are, for that also is perversely a path of self-pride, especially when we exaggerate our wickedness.

Within that context, the fathers do not tend to value “self-esteem”. We tend to speak of a high self-esteem as good and a low self-esteem as bad. They would tend to say that there is a problem with esteeming ourselves at all, whether that esteem is high or low. We should esteem God and others highly. And we should strive to see ourselves truthfully.

Truth is hard. We hide ourselves from it because too much at once will crush us. We deceive ourselves as a defense. It is not true, as we often say, that truth — as in true knowledge — will set us free. More often than not, it destroys us. Truth is a harsh taskmistress. We attribute that saying about truth to Jesus, but that’s not actually what he said. Here is John 8:31-32.

If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

If we live according to the way of life, then we are truly following Jesus. And as we do so, we will come to know the truth and that truth is who will make us free. As Jesus says a few verses later:

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Remember, one of the ways Jesus describes himself in John’s Gospel is as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As you can see from the full context, when he talks about knowing the truth, he is talking about knowing and relating to him. Yes, as we do so we will come to see the reality about ourselves more clearly, but through our communion with Jesus we will be able to bear it. The knowledge will heal rather than crush us.

He is a good God who loves mankind, and his purpose is to heal and commune with us, not condemn us. I think we too often forget that particular truth and it’s the most important one of all.


One Comment on “Four Hundred Texts on Love 8”

  1. 1 Michael Pollan News said at 12:27 am on April 21st, 2010:

    "Four Hundred Texts on Love 8" http://bit.ly/dhrMzb #michaelpollan