Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Chapter 7 On Self-Accusation
From the beginning of Dorotheos’ treatment of self-accusation we learn that there are two ways that we can bear a disparaging remark and not be disturbed by it.
The first example he gives is of the young monk who demonstrates excessive forbearance. Dorotheos gets this young monk aside he asks how it is that he bears this outrageous treatment to which the man replies, “Oh, I just regard them as trivialities or put up with it as a man puts up with the barking of a dog.” Yikes! This man was not troubled through disdain. This is the not the true way to suffer wrongs.
The root cause of the disturbances we feel is that we do not accuse ourselves.
How much joy, how much peace of soul would a man not have wherever he went if he was one who habitually accused himself. Abba Peomen.
“For if anything happened to him, some punishment, a dishonor, or any kind of trouble, he would accept it as if he deserved it and would never be put to confusion. That man would have complete freedom from care. “ Dorotheos (page 141)
The question that comes to mind, “what if I examine myself and find that I have not given him any cause, how can I accuse myself?” Dorotheos answers, “if a man really examines himself, in the fear of God, he will usually find that he has given cause for offense, either by deed or word or by his bearing. But if in scrutinizing himself he sees that he has given no cause in nay of these ways at that moment, it likely that at another time he has offended him either in the same circumstances or in others.” (Page 142)
If we examine ourselves in the fear of God and gropes about diligently in our own conscience we will always find cause for accusing ourselves. (page 142) The habit of accusing ourselves will work out well for us and bring us to peace and much profit, and nothing else that we can do will bring this about.
If anything good happens to us it is God’s providence; if anything bad, it is because of our sins. Abba Sisoes
Dorotheos is so practical. Listen to this fatherly direction: Don’t you see that this is why we make no progress, why we find we have not been helped towards it? We remain all the time against one another, grinding one another down. Because each considers himself right and excuses himself, as I was saying, all the while keeping none of the commandments yet expecting his neighbor to keep the lot! (Page 145) It is true that in most arguments we blame the other and never blame ourselves. If we blamed ourselves there would be no argument.
Again, as with the past few chapters, the end is excellent:
If we hear a word we immediately react like dogs. If someone throws a stone, they leave the one who throws it, run after the stone and bite it. This is how we act. We leave God who grants us occasions of this kind to purify us from our sins and we run after our neighbor crying, “Why did you say this to me? Why did you do this to me?” And whereas we would be able to reap great profit from things of this kind, we bring just the opposite on ourselves, being unaware that everything happens by the foreknowledge of God for the benefit of each of us. May God make us really understand this through the prayers of his saints. Amen.