On the Need for Consultation

Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Chapter 5 On the Need for Consultation: That a man ought not to rely exclusively on his own judgment.

Dorotheos begins this chapter quoting Proverbs 11:14. The RSV renders it, “Where there is no guidance a people falls; but in the abundance of counselors there is safety.”  But Dorotheos quotes it as, “Those who have no guidance fall like leaves but there is safety in much counsel.” I much prefer Dorotheos’ translation. He goes on to explain, “Scripture is teaching us that we should not believe we can direct ourselves. We need assistance; we need guidance in addition to God’s grace. No one is more wretched, no one is more easily caught unawares, than a man who has no one to guide him along the road to God.” (page 122)

Dorotheos reflects on the verse from Proverbs, “When it says ‘much counsel’ it does not mean taking counsel from all and sundry, but clearly from someone in whom he has full confidence… he should report everything and take counsel about everything.” As my teacher is fond of saying there should be at least person on the planet who knows everything about you.

Dorotheos says that if we do not bring to light everything about ourselves that the devil will tempt us with self-will and/or self-righteousness. Self-will is enough to take us away from the Lord’s will just as a hardened sinner is tempted off the path through fornication or stealing.

Warning to not rely on our own counsel: “Who can persuade such a man that another man can see better than himself what is fitting for him, and then that he should give up entirely following his own will and his own way of thinking? But no! The enemy get his way, he makes him a corpse.” (page 124)

He hates a whisper of caution. Proverbs 11:15 (again this is Dorotheos’ translation) Most of the power that sin holds over us is found in the secrecy of the thing. As soon as it is reveal and brought into the light it can be healed. As Richard Downing said on the blog a few weeks back, “The Great Fast is more than giving up food, it’s giving up being alone with your sin.” When we are unwilling to talk about our sin we fall victim. Dorotheos punctuates this with power, “I know of no fall that happens to a monk that does not come from trusting his own judgment… Do you know of someone who has fallen? Be sure that he directed himself.” (page 126)

The chapter ends: As Agathon said when he was asked if he was afraid, ‘I have done my best, but I do not know if my work is pleasing to God. God’s judgment is one thing and man’s is another.’ May God shelter us from this danger of being our own guides that we may be worthy to take the road our fathers took and pleased God.


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