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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Elder Paisios and 'Good Thoughts'

Yesterday, I introduced the book I've been reading, which contains conversations of Elder Paisios on spiritual topics:

So far, he spends a great deal of time talking about having 'good thoughts.'  He emphasizes that people can change their spiritual dispositions by cultivating 'good thoughts' and rejecting bad thoughts.

On the surface, this starts looking a bit like the 'Power of Positive Thinking.'  Of course, Norman Peale starts off his book on the topic by telling the reading in the first chapter to 'believe in yourself.'  Geronda Paisios says the opposite: don't believe in yourself, believe that you are always wrong.

That sounds like madness to most of us, but what he is saying is this: if you believe you are always wrong, then you will always believe you need help.  If you need help and turn to God, then you will have the humility necessary not to judge other people.  Judging usually ends up leading us to false conclusions, so he says that you should try not to jump to conclusions, but if you must, then err on the side of positive interpretations.

Humility means that we do not exult ourselves over others.  If we see our own problems with the light of forgiveness shown to us, then we will extend that forgiveness to others.  If we also accept the injustices done to us, then we will be more careful not to perpetrate them on others by jumping to conclusions.  Elder Paisios gives a number of examples of this, and ties one's ability to accept injustices with the ability to not jump to conclusions with others.

This is where addicts usually have a major problem: in refusing to forgive and accept our injustices, we end up perpetuating our own suffering.  This suffering blinds us to reality, and causes us to perpetrate more acts of injustice.  We must forgive so that our eyes are not blinded with hate and pain.  Then we will be able to stay in reality and not harm others with our incorrect and misguided actions.

Having good thoughts about others is an important technique for one to have if one wants to minimize regrets.  It is also a good way to measure one's own attitude: am I judging others, and if so, who gave me that right?

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