At the end of the excerpt of Saint John Chrysostom’s homily on the Sunday of the Paralytic, we read: ‘Even now I can show you many who naturally hate having anything to do with women, and avoid conversation with them as impure. Shall we call them chaste; tell me, shall we crown them and proclaim them victors?’
This seems fairly simple. If you’re not troubled by a particular temptation or sin, it takes no great effort to avoid it. This is hardly a victory over temptation, since there was none in the first place. By the same token, if we make a virtue out of a necessity, it’s not the same as making a virtue out of temptation. Abba Dorotheos gives an example of this, and goes on to demonstrate the spiritual dangers involved in a lack of self-awareness.
There was a certain brother living at the monastery before I left there and I never saw him put out or troubled about anything, even though I saw many of the brethren insulting him and treating him outrageously, in a variety of ways. The young man bore everything that was done to him by everyone as if he wasn’t bothered in the least. I used to wonder at his amazing tolerance and wanted to learn how he’d acquired such virtue. So on one occasion I took him aside, made a deep obeisance to him and begged him to tell me what thoughts were always in his heart- either when he was being sworn at or when he treated badly by others- that he should manifest such patience. He answered naturally and simply, ‘I just keep my distance from these filthy people and put up with it, just as good dogs do with the way people treat them’. When I heard this I bowed my head and said to myself, ‘This brother’s found his way!’ I made the sign of the cross and left, praying that God would protect both him and me.