Elder Paisius (Olaru) of Sihla Skete (1897–1990)
—“What is humility, Father Paisius?” some of his disciples once asked him.
Humility is the thought and conviction of our heart that we are more sinful than all men and unworthy of the mercy of God. Reviling ourselves doesn’t mean that we have true humility. True humility is when someone shames and abuses us publicly, and we endure it and say, “God ordered that brother to shame me for my many sins.” We should receive everything as a command of God. When someone shames you, say that God commanded him to do it. When someone takes something of yours, God commanded him to take it, in order to make you a monk. When you are removed from a higher place, God changed your place so that you would change from your passions and bad habits. This is true humility. And pride is when we trust in ourselves, in our mind, our strength, when we think we are more capable than someone else, better, more beautiful, more virtuous, more pleasing to God. Then it is certain that we are overcome by the ugly sin of pride, from which may God, who humbled Himself for our salvation, preserve us. Let us humble ourselves, brethren, because a proud man cannot be saved.
Let us weep for our sins here, so we can rejoice forever in the next life, for after we leave this world everyone will forget us. Let us not hope in men, but only in God. A man changes. Today he gives to you and tomorrow he asks from you. Today he praises you and tomorrow he condemns you. Let us place our hope in the mercy of God, and we will never go astray.
An old man once asked me, “Fr. Paisius, what is pride, and how does it come?” (This man wandered about in winter, barefoot in the snow with his head uncovered.) “Brother George, pride is when you consider yourself something more than another, that you are better, nicer than another.. .. ” “Poor me, Fr. Paisius, do I have anything good?” He stayed eight years with me … Fr. Gennadius Avatamanitei. And he had poor eyesight, like me.
Look, this is pride: when you consider that you know more than another, that you can do something better than another. This is pride. And it’s very dangerous, because God does not like this pride. If you consider that you know more, that you’re more capable, that you can do more, take care that you don’t become like the man who pondered on all that he was able to accomplish, on the things that he could set aright, and on his fasting, while the one near the door wept and beat his chest because he had done nothing good. That one near the door obtained more than the one who thought to himself that he was something. This is the story of the Publican and the Pharisee (cf. Luke 18:10-14).
For the Savior says, When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do (Luke 10:17).
A young man once came to me here. He was of a somewhat delicate appearance. He had come from Bucharest to ask me, “Are you Fr. Paisius?” Well, I answered him, “There may be others, too-I can’t be the only one.” And he said: “I have heard about you, and I came to see you.” Then I said to him this word:
Do not believe all that you hear.
Do not do all that you can.
Do not say all that you know.
Do not give all that you have.
Woe to that man who receives praise that exceeds his life and deeds.
Spiritual Counsels From Elder Paisius Olaru of Sihla Skete