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On relating to others

April 15, 2010

St. Mark the Monk
It is obvious that we behave arrogantly with those who are beneath our notice or who are poorer than we, as if wishing to exercise authority over wage-earners or slaves, claiming that excellence is no longer defined by being ” in Christ” but is defined by physical appearance and wealth. And when we see someone sin who is particularly haughty and arrogant, we do not dare rebuke him, and we say to those who are present, “It is written: ‘Do not pronounce judgment about anything before the appropriate time – until the Lord comes'” (1 Cor 4:5). But when we find some small cause for complaint about those who are less well off, immediately we ostentatiously go on the attack, saying, “It is written, ‘Rebuke the sinner in the presence of everyone'” (1 Tim 5:20)! In this way we perversely cover up our own hypocrisy – our evil-doing – with scriptural witnesses, all the while fully convinced that we are doing what God wants when we rebuke others.

Relating to other people: Our social equals

This, then, is the way we treat inferiors. With regard to those of the same social standing as ourselves, at the smallest sorts of pretexts we immediately turn our backs on them, devising every kind of machination to seek revenge. And we do not make up with them until we have brought them around to our way of seeing things. Seizing such a pretext, rejoicing at our good fortune, we display our wickedness and, after we have gained our revenge and gotten our fill of evil-doing, then we declare that we are once again friends with them, laying the foundation for a second “friendship” by means of the evil victory we have gained beforehand.

A corresponding structure will in every instance necessarily be built on such a foundation and the builder will by necessity be looking for strife, since, for the person who wants to win, “friendship” can never be without contentiousness. On the contrary, hatred always accompanies “victory,” just as Holy scripture says, “Hatred stirs up strife” (Prov 10:12). Such sickness comes to those who pursue the highest positions of rank and wealth…. Even now Blessed Paul is curing this very malady, saying, “In humility regard others as better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3).

Relating to other people: Our social superiors

Thus we are disposed towards those of more humble rank than ourselves or those of equal standing. As for our wickedness towards those more powerful than ourselves, it is so varied and well-hidden that it is difficult to speak about it or even conceive of it. We do not submit to our superiors as though we were keeping a commandment. No, we flatter those whom we are unable to harm, and with a jealous eye we bitterly look down on their prosperity; we do not happily listen when their good fortune is trumpeted about. By our outward show and eirenic speech we flatter such persons as these, but our thoughts are disposed against them, so that what was said is fulfilled about us: “They speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts” (Ps 28:3).

From “On Repentance,” chapter 3, in “Mark the Monk: Counsels on the Spiritual Life,” trans. Tim Vivian (SVS: 2009), pp. 148-150.

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