I wonder if you have ever had the experience of reading something that made you say “ouch!”. It happened to me just the other day. I read a piece written by John Climacus that made me say “ouch!”;
When we draw water from a well, it can happen that we inadvertently also bring up a frog. When we acquire virtues we can sometimes find ourselves involved in the vices which are imperceptibly interwoven with them. What I mean is this. Gluttony can be caught up with hospitality; lust with love; cunning with discernment; malice with prudence; duplicity, procrastination, meekness; refusal to learn with silence; conceit with joy; laziness with hope; hasty condemnation with love again; despondency and indolence with tranquility; sarcasm with chastity; familiarity with lowliness. And behind all the virtues follows vain glory as a salve, or rather a poison for everything.
(John Climacus – The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 26)
Sorry it is a long quote but, I wanted to record it in full so that you can get the full impact of the words. John Climacus (also known as John of the Ladder) was a Monk at Mount Sinai Monastery in 6th / 7th century.
As I read these ancient words, I had a real “ouch!” moment. I found myself reflecting on my character, personality and my attitudes. Sometimes, we need those “ouch” moments to cause us to stop, think and reflect on the question “are we as aware of ourselves as think we are”. As Robbie Burns said;
(Translation – O would some Power the gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!)
I am not altogether sure I would want that particular gift! When others look at me, what do they really see and think? (please do not be tempted to comment!)
John Climacus words ring a loud warning bell. I may have gained some wisdom over the years but, can that come across as arrogance? I may have gained some experience over the years but, can that make me a little cynical? I found myself thinking of a verse in the book of Proverbs that says;
Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy!
(Proverbs 27 vs. 6 The Living Bible)
It’s true! When God draws our attention to some of the inner things in our lives, it isn’t because He wants to punish us, it isn’t because He wants to see “change or else”. God draws our attention to it because, He wants to free us to enable us to grow.
Can I encourage you to read the above quote again and ask yourself the question have I, inadvertently, pulled up a frog?