— Your Holiness, what line of behaviour would you recommend to those living under the same roof with an individual possessed by a passion – alcoholism, drug use, or wrathfulness, for example?
An astute person should begin, perhaps, by looking at the situation and its root causes. Many women who have come to me to confess have asked me what to do to free their husbands from their addiction to drinking. Perhaps it would be a good idea to consider the underlying motives for the drinking. Could it be his reaction to the incessant nagging of his wife? Often, the woman has no blame for this situation, but she is burdened by some other passions or sins. God may allow that person the temptation of a drinking husband to let them cleanse themselves by suffering the pains.
Asked what to do if someone hurts you unjustly, Abba Dorotheus gave this brilliant answer. “Question yourself if you have ever offended another person undeservedly. The just and merciful Lord allows you to suffer now for the sin that you have once committed against another. Perhaps your present suffering is your chance to repay that debt.”
We should view our lives from a broader perspective, look beyond the constraints of time, space, and overcome the biases of our minds and hearts. The Lord looks at us from eternity, and what we consider to be unjust or unfair at present, appears to Him quite differently from His perspective. What we cannot understand today may become clear to us tomorrow, at least partially.
Whatever our circumstances, we always have a choice. We may refuse to put up with the drinking or wrathfulness of the other person and cut off our relationship. Perhaps we have every right to do so. However, if we have the will and opportunity to help the other person, we might need to exercise some patience to change his situation.
— It is hard enough to put up with the passions of another, but doubly so when that person is your child or spouse.
Self-centredness is a part of our human nature. We want our circumstances to conform to our wishes and desires. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly common nowadays for people to seek the gratification of their desires or passions, and look to God as someone who will give it to them. I have seen people come to me and say, “I prayed, but God did not help me. I am not coming to church ever again.” It is a very primitive understanding of God to see Him as some supernatural force existing to satisfy our wishes, give us pleasure and guard us against unpleasant things.
If we are displeased by the actions of our children, then maybe we should ask ourselves, “But who brought them up that way?” Perhaps the bad behaviour of our child today can bring us to learn from our past mistakes or passions and motivate us to change something in our lives.
Where the problem is in the family, no one member takes all the fault; they share the blame. Where the family has come apart, the cause is not the husband or the wife alone.
In our lives, we experience a multitude of problems and pains because we tend to focus on minor things and neglect the most important ones. People’s patience is tested; divisions in the family make everyone suffer; the children are misbehaving. But what are the causes? Fundamentally, the husband and wife have no understanding between themselves.
But if they can work together towards a compromise, they may show their son or daughter a good example, and their behaviour might improve. But the real tragedy happens when the spouses choose not to settle their differences but to divorce; when one of them says to themselves, “I have been married three times before, several more marriages will not change much”. I think that we should always address the root of the problem. Advice from the Holy Fathers would be helpful in this regard, and so would the experience of the Church and its knowledge of the human condition. But we should expect no simple answers, no simple recipes of happiness “drink two cups of the holy water from the feast of the Theophany and see what happens.”
— Why do some have more passions than others? Is there an explanation?
People who are working hard to eradicate their passions will have fewer passions in the end. But it is a lifetime project. It is not enough to work on it for three months and then stop. To act willfully against God and one’s good conscience is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. As we read in the Gospel, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12: 31-32). Our willful denial of God, submission to sin and reluctance to change do not end well for us. Some people say, “I do not believe in God; but I would believe if He came to me and said, ‘do so and so.’ I would listen and mend my ways immediately.” But even if God granted that wish, the man who made it would most likely consider himself a madman and run to the doctor, and not do what God had told him to do.
— So how do we overcome our passions? Are there any remedies other than repentance?
We overcome our passions by exercising humility in our trials. With humility, we can defeat many different passions. A novice tormented by a passion asked an elder,
“Pray for me, Father, lust is tormenting me, and it is hard for me to keep it under control.”
“Would you like me to pray that God would relieve you of this passion?” offered the elder.
“No, father. But please pray that the Lord would give me the strength to defeat it,” the novice replied.
“Now I see that you, my disciple, have exceeded me in your spiritual growth,” concluded the elder.
We should all have the will to fight and endure in our struggles. “ we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.», – writes Apostle Paul. (Romans 5, 3-5).
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds