-Elder,I often see and judge the failings and defects of others.
-Do you now what your illness is?
-That's why you know the illness of others.If you knew your own illness,you wouldn't know the illness of others.I am not saying you shouldn't be concerned with their pain and suffering,but you mustn't preoccupy yourself with their faults.If a person is not concerned with his self,the tempter devil will lead him to be concerned with other people's faults.If we work on ourselves,then we know ourselves and come to know others as well.Otherwise,we judge others by wrong assumptions we make about ourselves.
-Elder,what helps the most in correcting ourselves?
-First of all,we need willpower.In a way,willpower provides the good foundation.Secondly,one must become aware that he is sick and take necessary antibiotic treatment;otherwise,if one is sick and hides the sickness,if he refuses to acknowledge it to himself and others, he will suddenly collapse one day before he realises it,and will already be beyond medical help.Let's say someone knows that he has a pretubercular condition that is causing his lack of appetite.People ask him,"Why don't you eat?""And he replies,Oh,I just don't like this food."Then he has aches and pains and can barely walk."Why are you walking like that?"they ask him.And he again says,"Oh,I like to go very slowly,why should i run like crazy."He doesn't admit to them or himself that he has aches and pains and can't walk.Then he has a cough." Why are you coughing?" "It's probably some allergy," he replies.Again,he won't admit that his lungs are a mess.In the meantime,he starts spitting blood but he still refuses to acknowledge his illness and says, "Oh,my throat must be sore!"
-And all this,Elder,simply because he refuses to acknowledge he has tuberculosis?
-Yes,he hides it and he hides from it.And while he is hiding it,he is gradually overtaken by full-scale tuberculosis.The lungs burst,he spits enough blood to fill buckets,then he collapses and the illness is exposed,but by then it is too late.But if he'd acknowledged the symptoms early on and accepted the necessary treatment,he'd have been healthier than the healthy.What I'm trying to say is that when it comes to the spiritual life,those who justify,hide or ignore their passions and faults,will in the end receive such demonic influence that they won't be able to hide.Have you any idea what it is like to accept demonic influence?One becomes like a wild beast,fiercely defensive,foul-mouthed,refusing any help from anyone.
This is why the starting point is for one not to be embarrassed,but to be gladly aware of his illness,his faults.From that point ,he must accept the necessary treatment,the appropriate medicines,and be grateful to his physicians-the Spiritual Father or the Elder-and not resist them.Look at how someone who's ill stretches out his arm to be given a blood transfusion,he's poked with the needle,it hurts,but he accepts the pain for the sake of his health.Or having an operation,we know how painful it is and yet we endure it for the sake of our health.
-Elder,when I know that a very strict remark will help me,why is it that i do not accept it gladly?
-Look,you may not be willing to accept it gladly,but do you at least realise that this is not right?
-Yes ,i do.
-Well then,if you realise it,that's something.You see,a person who is ill takes a pill that may be bitter as poison,but he accepts it better than candy,simply because he understands that it will help him.If we don't accept the bitter medicine,we can't expect to be cured.To be strengthened by Christ,one must recognise his weakness and take the medicine.
Taken from ELDER PAISIOS OF MOUNT ATHOS,Spiritual Counsels Vol3 "Spiritual Struggle"