How to Get Rid of Rancour?

Extracts from a meeting of Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok with the monastic sisters

Q: How can we overcome rancour?

Father Andrew: One should never let evil thoughts inside his heart. We may be seeing sins of other people but we must not act like Ham, the son of Noah, who did not cover another person's sins but instead made his infirmities clear to everyone.

It would be ideal if we all regarded ourselves to be worse than everybody else. However, it is only thanks to God's grace that an individual might be able to see things in such a way. In reality, we tend to compare ourselves with others and to criticise other people. If we look around all the time, we will not have the proper vision because we will notice the sin in each person. It is much easier to notice sins of other people than to see their strengths.

Q: There are several reasons for anger: one is when you condemn someone, and the other is when someone else humbles you down.

Father Andrew: This happens because that person treads upon your pride: you do not accept his or her words, you feel hurt, your blood starts to boil from anger and you feel indignant, and the sin starts to poison your soul. That person appears to be wrong, unjust, and cruel. This opinion becomes stronger if you do not fight with it, if you continue to trust yourself, to cherish your insult and your anger.

If one does not observe God's Providence in all occasions of his life and does not accept it, he is certain to protest and feel indignant. However, you cannot live with it because it ruins you from the inside. An individual may carry on with his offence for years and to torture himself voluntarily instead of struggling to get rid of this feeling by asking God for help. If you do not humble yourself down, if you do not say that you deserve it, you will always be angry at everyone and everything.

The problem is that if you do not struggle with anger towards one person, you will inevitably feel it towards another person later. The pattern of sin is the same but an individual, unfortunately, gets caught by it over and over again; he spares himself instead of confronting the sin, instead of not being self-indulgent, instead of being patient when it hurts, when he sees that he is right and the other person is wrong. This is why one has to work hard; but your own effort is not enough. If you work hard, you will get God's help and God's grace...

Today I met some people who came to work at the Convent. They were saying that they were honest and conscientious. However, it is difficult for me to understand how a person can be honest and conscientious without God's help. If God helps that person, He will grant him the ability to be honest and good, but if God leaves that person, he will become dishonest and bad. Of course, a dishonest person is also capable of becoming honest if God touches his heart. This is why we should focus not on ourselves, not on our “personal truths,” but on God. If God allows you to be insulted and humiliated, He must have a reason for it. Due to the fact that it comes from God and it serves the purpose of my salvation, I will tolerate it like a bitter medicine, like a painful injection made by a doctor. A doctor treats a patient, he wants to help him; however, he has to penetrate into the patient's body in order to save him. He performs an operation in order to give that patient a chance to survive. 

The same happens in our spiritual lives: if things like these happen, if you are rejected and feel useless for anyone, if the enemy attempts to set you against your sisters at the convent and pushes you into a corner, you have to oppose him and pray to God, “It happened according to Thy will, O Lord, I deserve it, this is essential for my healing.” You should not accept it passively. Nevertheless, if we are guided by our feelings and passions, this does not resemble true monasticism in any way.

There is a stereotype that a monastic is a person with half-closed eyes and a churchly voice who has settled everything down. There might exist such an exemplary type of a monastic but there are also monastics who live in accordance with their passions, their emotions and do not want to get rid of them. It is frightening when people do not understand that they have to make efforts to change their attitudes towards their neighbours and towards processes that go in their souls. I mean the struggle against one's old man. 

The old man must die. How will he die without pain, without protest? Therefore, a person is tempted to give in and say, “This is beyond my strength, I can't bear it anymore.” So there should be another person who can help. We do not, however, trust our spiritual father and say, “He does not understand a thing!” Well, perhaps, he does not; but maybe God will reveal something to him? He may not be able to understand anything because he lacks spiritual and life experience but if he is appointed to be your spiritual father, then God acts through him. The Abbess does not understand anything, either, but the Lord is capable of revealing something to you even through her. Sometimes people do not want to accept that revelation from God, they are self-confident to the extent of believing that they do not need anyone's assistance and that their knowledge is sufficient for salvation.

Trying to justify himself, an individual begins to watch for the sins, infirmities and shortcomings of other people. This becomes an obstacle for him because he is inclined to say, “Who am I going to ask for advice? There is nothing true and valid here.” For this reason, he will never see divine presence because he turned his face from other humans.

The scheme is very simple: you simply trust yourself and answer according to the human truth. But it will be sinful and untrue. Truth is when a person does not want to accept it, when it is painful, but he continues to fight and asks God to help him to humble himself down and do what he is told to do. The Lord sees that the individual suffers and does not give in, and grants him grace. It is then that the person discovers a new life. He suddenly discovers that the other person whose sins he used to see is beautiful. This is what Pascha is about. Your struggle against your self, your struggle in order to acquire obedience and humility is Pascha. If an individual spares himself and makes everything comply with his own will – can he experience Pascha? His life becomes burdensome: my sinful self is never satisfied.