Saint Dorotheos gives us a most difficult teaching. He says,
“The root cause of every disturbance, if we examine it carefully, is from not blaming ourselves…. Whatever happens to us, whether it be damage, or dishonor or any other affliction, we deem ourselves worthy of it and are never troubled.”
We logically respond, “if someone upsets me and I have have not done anything to justify this, how and why should I think of myself being worthy of this?” Saint Dorotheos answers this by saying that if we search ourselves more deeply with “fear of God” we will find that there was a word, a gesture, a facial expression or a deed that triggered the seemingly unjust action in the other person. Then, if we think further still not seeing any error, we can search into the past and think about how we might have offended this person at some earlier time causing their attitude that caused them to act in a way that upset us at this time. Even digging more deeply, maybe they suffer from some other sin or had a recent encounter that upset them and is being reflected in their current action against us. Therefore, our reaction was not called for we should have been more sympathetic to their distress. Saint Dorotheos says, “Therefore, as I said, if a person searches himself in the fear of God and diligently examines his own conscience, he will certainly find that he is guilty.”
The very fact that another person upsets us indicates that we have hidden in our sub-consciousness a passion that is triggered by another person’s action. When someone does something that upsets us it gives us cause to dig deep into our inner being to discover why we react in this way. We know all our brothers and sisters are sinners like ourselves. Why would their action be cause to turn us to anger or being upset? If we have love for our neighbor as we are called to by Scripture, we would have compassion for the plight of our brethren. We would not act in a way that would cause them further difficulty, but instead, try to act in a way that would lead them to overcome their sinfulness. Our caring thoughts would then be directed towards them rather than ourselves.
I think this teaching gets at the core of the meaning of “love your enemy”. When our soul is strong and our heart pure, we can withstand any affront by another person without being upset. We become able to maintain our inner calm no matter how we are attacked. Besides, what good does it do to get upset? What is achieved in worldly terms other than create distress and turmoil? We lose our inner peace and most likely separate ourselves from God, and are now unable to respond in a godly loving manner.
Let’s challenge ourselves to reflect on this teaching. Think about your inner peace and how important it is to retain it and how easy it is to lose it. How often we fail to think in loving terms about the condition of our neighbor. We know we are better servants of our Lord when we maintain this inner peace. Try using those instances where we are upset by others to learn something about our own sinfulness and how we can improve ourselves. This is all part of the way of repentance that brings us closer to God.
Reference: Abba Dorotheos: Practical teaching on the Christain Life, pp 143-150