Recently I read the following two quotes from two of the spiritual guides from the past. I want to comment on them in relationship to our becoming discouraged about our “habituated patterns of sin.” The first is from Fenelon. “Never be discouraged with yourself. Despondency is not humility. Actually, despondency is the despair of your wounded pride. Your faults may be useful to you if they cure you of the vain confidence you have in yourself.”
Men, I don’t know about you, but I can easily get discouraged with my continuing sin patterns. We all have them. If we didn’t we would no longer need God’s mercy and grace. Often these patterns only show the depths to which God wants to take us so that we might be free of their influences. I have to admit after reading this quote, that it is certainly pride and not humlity that cause me to be discouraged. I am learning to accept who I am in all my faults and rejoice in God’s acceptance of me. It has nothing to do with me and all to do with my ability to be able to receive his grace. It seems the more I can live with my faults in the wide open space of God’s grace, the less power these pattern seem to have in my life. My pride tries to bury that which is not pleasing. But the acceptance of God’s grace expressed in his love for me encourages me to live with my faults in the light of his presence. There they lose more of their power and influence
The second quote is from Francis de Sales. “You must hate your faults, but you should do so calmly and peacefully, without fuss or anxiety. You must be patient when you see them and benefit from seeing your own lowliness. Unless you do this, your imperfections of which you are acutely conscious, will disturb you even more and thus grow stronger, for nothing is more favorable to the growth of these weeds than our anxiety and overagerness to get rid of them.”
There is something disarming about seeing my faults, even those that bother me the most, as “weeds.” As de Sales points out, it does me no good to fuss and fume over my shortcomings. That only adds fuel to the energy they already have in my soul. While I need to dislike my faults, I need to do so with calmness and peace about my condition, for I never will fully be free of all my sinful tendencies. While I dislike my faults I will need to learn to live with my condition, In order to do this, I have to come to know that I can absolutely trust God’s goodness in my life. My behavior does not change how God sees me. I am still his beloved. As I have come to rest in God’s love I have been able to lighten up on my self-criticism. With the focus of myself, my faults seem to have less influence in my thought, attitudes and behavior.