You tried to be patient and respectful with your boss but what he did yesterday was the last straw. After working for years on analyzing patterns in client attrition and authoring a report on what you thought was a brilliant retention strategy, you were excluded from its presentation to the CEO. In fact, your boss took all the credit and has now excluded you from the team that will work on retention solutions. You are fuming. You share your problems with sympathetic friends. Each commiserating friend adds a reason for justifying your anger: You were disrespected! Utterly humiliated! Your work was unappreciated! You had more expertise and brilliance than any of them!
Your anger turns into outrage and you confront your boss. When you are done, you experience moments of triumph and satisfaction as you recall—one by one—your brilliant arguments and witty insults. “Boy, did I ever put this idiot in his place!”
Then what! Your boss doesn’t come to you with tears of regret and repentance. Your name as the author of the report still does not reach the CEO. You stew in ever increasing anger and self-pity and can concentrate on little else. Perhaps you become listless and cannot sleep. Perhaps your passing moments of triumph turn to self-aggrandizement, delusion, disappointment, or depression.
In a nutshell this is the vicious cycle that St. Silouan sketches for us and admonishes us to avoid if we want peace and grace in our hearts. Anger at our superior or state of life will give us temporary, inauthentic relief before dominating and darkening your soul.
The counter to anger (however justified it may be), is love:
Peace in our souls is not possible if we do not beg the Lord with all our hearts to give us love for all men
When offended, harmed or disappointed by others, Silouan asks us to keep in sight our larger purpose of maintaining peace in our soul and gives us perspective.
Guard the peace of the grace of the Holy Spirit in your soul. Do not lose it over petty rifles. If you give peace to your brother, the Lord will give you incomparably more…
We are angered, embittered, disappointed or anxious when others do not follow the script of behavior that we have in mind for them, or when the course of our actual lives differs from that of our imagined lives. Silouan clarifies and simplifies the cause and effect analysis without the need of elaborate theories or metaphors:
…if you cling to your own will, you will be vanquished by the enemy and despondency will beset your soul.
Conversely, when we can uncover our shared humanity with others–a commonality that undergirds even the most hateful acts– and after we have tasted the presence of God in us, we no longer have time or space for the unquiet thoughts that crowd our minds:
The love of the Lord is such burning love that the soul which has once tasted thereof has no other desire.
Yet Silouan cautions us, even as he opens the door to the solution. There is a danger in attempting to will God’s peace on our own will. It is a mistake to seek immediate spiritual experience as a shortcut to the steps that lead there. “This is the road to delusion,” Fr. David commented during our discussion.
“Man of himself is not able to fulfill God’s commandments,” Silouan tells us. Before experiencing God’s peace, we need to prepare our soul to receive the Holy Spirit:
But what the soul needs is the Lord and the grace of the Holy Spirit, without which the soul is dead…without grace a man is spiritually blind…
Without the Holy Spirit, and the uncreated grace it bestows on us, we cannot trust our judgment and have difficulty separating truth from delusion:
Till the advent of the grace man lives his life and thinks that all is well and prosperous with his soul; but when grace visits him and dwells within him, he sees himself quite otherwise, and losing grace again he realizes his unhappy state
Silouan adopts a poetic sensibility and his paragraphs flow like a love poem to the Holy Spirit.
No I have not forgotten how great was the mercy that God poured on me
And I remember the sweetness of the grace of the Holy Spirit
And know the love of the Lord
And how sweet this love is for soul and body
Without the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we may understand the principles of peace and grace, but we are unable to experience them.
If our soul “does not know the Holy Spirit,” St. Silouan says, it “does not know how sweet He (the Lord) is.”