Author Kyriacos C. Markides in his book Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christian Spirituality, conveys the importance of discovering our own self-worth as created in the “image and likeness of God” as a path to spiritual wisdom and becoming a channel of peace and love.
Key quote: “You come to realize what a beautiful human being you are. And you have to see yourself in that state before you can see others in the same way. Without this awareness of yourself as an absolutely beautiful being, when you see the other person in all his or her grandeur, you will experience jealousy.”
Here is the portion to ponder:
Fr. Maximos was silent for a while to give us time to ponder what he had been saying. He then continued with a rhetorical question. “Do you realize that our best friend is ourselves? We don’t have a closer and more intimate friend than ourselves. We are with ourselves all the time. This may seem to you paradoxical, but many people consider staying all by themselves a veritable hell. They cannot be by themselves, not even for a moment. So the first person you must befriend is yourself. You will then be able to see yourself with great love and compassion.
“I remember how impressed I was when I first met Elder Paisios. In his case, there was a total harmony between mind, body, and spirit. There was common purpose and synergy among the three working together to reach God. There was no rebellion of one against another, of the body against the spirit. The body did not hate the soul, and the soul did not hate the body. There was a perfect symphony, a spiritual union of all three. I also recall the words of a saint, that there are spiritual rewards in spending time by yourself.”
“What are they?” Eleni pressed on as I felt Fr. Maximos hesitating to reply.
“Over and beyond the fact that you enjoy God’s presence in your heart, you also enjoy yourself. You come to realize what a beautiful human being you are. And you have to see yourself in that state before you can see others in the same way. Without this awareness of yourself as an absolutely beautiful being, when you see the other person in all his or her grandeur, you will experience jealousy.
“Someone might say, ‘You know, I have seen a very nice, good person, a beautiful person, a beautiful woman.’ He may be sincere in saying that without any trace of cunning in his heart. Yet that very same person may experience at the same time a hidden trace of envy.”
“This is strange,” Michael said. “How can you have no trace of cunning and still be envious?”
“A person who is envious is simply someone who has not realized that he also has beautiful characteristics and qualities that others may not have. He assumes that he has nothing and that all the good and lofty traits are found in others.
“When we relate to ourselves in a healthy way, then we may notice and appreciate all the good gifts that we have been endowed with without feeling inadequate, which expresses itself as narcissism. When we perceive ourselves that way, always with humility, then while contemplating our human condition, our mind becomes focused on God, our Creator. We will then see ourselves functioning with the same perfect harmony as the music produced by a great orchestra. Why is it so? you may ask. It is so because God, who has made us in His Image, is harmonious. He is neither superfluous nor deficient. Everything is balanced within God. We are also, therefore, perfect in the depths of our being. When we look inside us and discover no acrimonies or upsetting emotions, then we realize the beauty of God’s Creation. Then we establish within us a good relationship with ourselves. We become useful vessels of God’s Grace, and we are no longer enemies to ourselves. We then know who we are and become friends with ourselves.
“Many centuries ago Abba Isaac said, ‘Find peace within you and there will be peace in Heaven and on Earth.’ Similarly, St. Seraphim of Sarov a century ago said, ‘Acquire peace within you and a thousand people will become peaceful.’ When you reach a state of harmony within yourself and become friends with yourself, then, simultaneously, your environment, Heaven and Earth, will become your friends. For such a person there are no enemies, no ‘impure’ people. Everything is pure to those who are pure.”
“Some may misunderstand such a person and call her naive,” I remarked.
“They just don’t understand what is actually going on within such a person,” Fr. Maximos replied. “The well-balanced individual can see beyond the externalities of fellow human beings, even if they are, say, thieves or scoundrels. Human beings are by nature good because that is how they were made by God. That is why such persons can love everybody, regardless of who they are or what they do. I am always impressed by the far-sightedness and perspicacity of the great elders that I have known. They can see in a human being the reality beyond the externalities, and they, therefore, are capable of loving everybody without exception.”
~Adapted from Kyriacos C. Markides, Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christian Spirituality