REMEMBRANCE OF WRONGS is the offspring of anger and its culmination. It holds on to another's sins. Climacus describes it as a poison of the soul. The seriousness of this cannot be underestimated for, he states, "a malicious hesychast is like a lurking snake carrying about its own deadly poison." It is deadly to the soul because it makes a mockery of its prayer and stifles true love.
In order to rid ourselves of this vice, we must purge ourselves of anger. Our greatest weapon in this task is the Lord's Prayer. For we cannot but be put to shame for our maliciousness when we ceaselessly cry out to God to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
We may also be healed of this passion through looking to the example of Christ's long suffering and his patient endurance of the many wrongs done to him.
We are all aware of the nature of SLANDER. To slander someone is to speak evil of them behind their backs; it is to criticize them and to malign them to others. For St. John, it is spiritually dangerous for two reasons.
First, it is hypocritical. Very often when we slander others we practice the worst kind of deceit. The person whom we are slandering knows nothing of our dislike or disagreement. We say nothing to them. Yet, when they are not around, we speak of them negatively to others. This is duplicity. Putting others down can also be a way that we "build" ourselves up. It makes us look good (pious, intelligent, etc.) to be able to point out the bad in someone else. It often puts us into the good graces of others when we join them in their slander. Notice how we use others for our own gain when we act this way. Our concern is not for them (we would speak to them first if it was), nor is our concern for the safety of the ones to whom we speak . . . Our concern is for ourselves. We look good at the expense of someone else. How far have we strayed from the path of divine love and self-sacrifice. The Bible says: "Love covers a multitude of sins." We, with a malicious spirit, often delight in exposing the mistakes and weaknesses of others.
Secondly, St. John condemns slander because of the attitude which lies behind it. Slander is the fruit of a judgmental spirit. The Apostle James identifies the connection: "Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?" (James 1:11). When we judge others we make ourselves equal to God. In so doing, we invite His strict judgment.
To encourage us to refrain from judging others, John points out how very often our judgments our incorrect. Given the finitude of our minds and knowledge, we see all things not as they are in fulfillment but as they are in process. We do not know the end to which a person may come and we certainly cannot read their hearts. In fact, when we judge others, we often condemn those who have already repented and been forgiven by God. We oppose God's mercy with our own justice.
A judgmental spirit also carries with it a spiritual boomerang. "Those who pass speedy and harsh judgment on the sins of their neighbors fall into this passion." There are certain "laws" which govern the spiritual realm even as "natural laws" govern the physical. One of these is that what we judge others for we will soon be guilty of ourselves in some form or another.
To all of us who struggle with this dangerous sin, St. John has direct advice: Remain silent and offer prayers for your brothers and sisters in love.
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