Chapter Eight: ON GUARDING AGAINST THE RE-ENTRY OF VANQUISHED EVIL
THE first time you are victorious over self may be a sign to you: Now I am on the way! But do not consider yourself virtuous, only thank God, for it was He who gave you the power; and do not rejoice beyond measure, but swiftly go on. Otherwise the vanquished evil may come to life and conquer you from the rear. Remember: the Israelites received the command from God to drive out all the inhabitants of the land when they conquered the new land (Numbers 33:52f), in order that we might learn from them.
The degree of victory over self is of trifling importance. It consisted perhaps in our skipping our morning cigarette, or only in such an apparently unimportant thing as not turning our head or refraining from meeting a glance. The externally noticeable happening is not the decisive one. The little thing can be big, and the big, little. But always the next phase of the battle is already waiting. We must be constantly prepared. There is no time to rest.
Once again, be silent! Let no one notice what you are about. You are working for the Invisible One; let your work be invisible. If you scatter crumbs around you they are willingly picked up by birds sent by the devil, the saints explain. Beware of self-satisfaction: in one mouthful it can devour the fruit of much toil.
Therefore the Fathers counsel: act with discernment. Of two evils one chooses the lesser. If you are in private, take the poorest morsel, but if anyone is looking, you should take the middle way that arouses the least notice. Keep hidden and as inconspicuous as possible; in all circumstances let this be your rule. Do not talk about yourself, of how you slept, what you dreamed and what happened to you, do not state your views unasked, do not touch upon your own wants and concerns. All such talk only nourishes your self-preoccupation.
Do not change your work, your residence, and the like. Remember: there is no place, no community, no external circumstance that is not serviceable for the battle you have chosen. The exception is only such work as directly serves your vices.
Do not seek higher posts and higher titles: the lower the position of service you have, the freer you are. Be satisfied with the living conditions you now have. And do not be prompt to show your learning or skill. Hold back your remarks, No, it isn't so-and-so, but so-and-so. Contradict nobody and do not get into arguments; let the other person always be right. Never set your own will above that of your neighbour. This teaches you the difficult art of submission, and along with it, humility. Humility is indispensable.
Take remarks without grumbling: be thankful when you are scorned, disregarded, ignored. But do not create humbling situations; they are provided in the course of the day as richly as you need. We notice the person who is for ever bowing and fussily servile, and perhaps say, How humble he is! But the truly humble person escapes notice: the world does not know him (I John 3:I); for the world he is mostly a "zero."
When Peter and Andrew, John and James left their nets and followed him (Matthew 4:20) what did their fellow workers say, who were left on the shore? For them the two pairs of brothers vanished; they were gone. Do not be hesitant; do not be afraid of disappearing like them, from this adulterous and sinful generation; what are you hoping to win, the world or your soul (Mark 8:34-38)? Woe to you, when all men shall speak well of you (Luke 6:26).