Protopresbyter Themistoklis Mourtzanos
‘The devil hates any message or attitude that keep us safe from evil’ (Abba Dorotheos)
One of the main requirements we have as people is the need to feel safe and secure, not only in our relationships but in every circumstance of our life which we consider important, such as, for example, the workplace or the path our society is going down. We’ve heard about financial insecurity which affects the stability and development of whole countries. We see young people not wanting to have children because they feel insecure, either economically or due to the prospects for whatever relationship they’re in, since they’re not sure that they’ll be able to live with another person for ever. In this time of the pandemic, the reactions of many people demonstrate fear, insecurity and anxiety; or sometimes a nonchalance which declares that nothing’s really going on; or a certainty which is called ‘belief’ but which leads to denial of reality.
Our spiritual tradition considers insecurity to be a condition which emanates from the devil. Most often we feel insecure as regards our choices, which weren’t made on sound bases. Or, at times, we can be indecisive, which builds up anxiety and makes us procrastinate. Sometimes we look for security from others, without taking steps ourselves, without being able to offer security ourselves through our choices, our personality, our character and, in particular, our love for others. You usually get what you give (or don’t get what you don’t give). The devil wants us to believe that the only sound criterion is our own will; that the others won’t stay with us until the end; that, at some stage, we, too, will tire; that God either doesn’t exist or isn’t concerned with us; that our sins are such that we deserve punishment; that we don’t need to share, but should hoard things for ourselves; that, in the distant future, there’s a prince or princess who’ll stand by us. Now’s not that time.
This outlook condemns people to a failure to build anything that would take them out of themselves for the sake of other people. It makes them lonely. Our faith opposes this attitude, emphasizing love for God and the willingness to take risks, though these decisions should be realistic. When people are capricious they become introverted. We weren’t called upon to live for ourselves alone, however, but to share in the life and person of God and in the persons of other people. The keys to this are prayer, our wish to build something with others when we see that we have fundamental things in common, and confidence in those who can be spiritual guides, when they allow us to have the last word. But above all, our decision to give, before anything else.
In the end, the evil lies in shutting ourselves off. What’s needed is a more outgoing attitude, greater initiative and decisiveness. Clearly, there should be criteria for our choices, but these should not include a self-centeredness that demeans others. And finally, any decision on our part must be long-term: I provide security for someone not to make them incapable of taking responsibility for their life, but to ‘propel’ them towards real freedom.