Our Thoughts Determine our Lives
From “Our Thoughts Determine our Lives: the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica”
(Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2009)
(from page 96)
When we talk to our fellow men and they tell us about their troubles, we will listen to them carefully if we have love for them. We will have compassion for their suffering and pain, for we are God’s creatures; we are a manifestation of the love of God. However, we often consider this a great burden, for we are oppressed by our own cares, worries, and weaknesses. We need to rest from all these cares, but only God can give us rest. He is the Bearer of all our infirmities and weaknesses. That is why we must always turn to Him in prayer. That is our only source of comfort. Then we will be relieved of our burdens and the burdens of our neighbors’ troubles as well, for we will have taken all of them to the Lord.
As we take more concern for our neighbors’ cares and problems, they soon become our own. And our thoughts immediately become occupied with them.
If we listen to our neighbor with only half our attention, of course we will not be able to answer them or comfort them. …We are distracted. They talk, but we do not participate in the conversation; we are immersed in our own thoughts. But if we give them our full attention, then we take up both our own burden and theirs.
If we have a burden beyond our bearing, we must turn to the Lord immediately, like this: “O Lord, I cannot even bear my own infirmities, yet now I must bear the burden of so-and-so. I cannot cope with all this responsibility. I cannot do this myself, and, because I feel that I have no desire to cope either, all this weighs even more heavily on my conscience. I wish to help my fellow man, but I don’t have the means. My neighbors think that I don’t want to help, and that is an additional burden to me.”
When we pray to the Lord from our heart and bring all our cares and troubles to Him–as well as the cares and troubles of our fellow men–He takes this burden from us, and we feel lighter immediately. Whereas before we were entangled in the net of our own thoughts, now we are relaxed and at peace, for we have given everything over to the Lord. If we do not learn to do this, then we will become more and more burdened each day, and there will come a time when we will not even be able to talk to our fellow men. Why? Because we are overstressed. And we think to ourselves, “Go away! I can barely cope with my own hardships–I cannot cope with yours as well.” That is why we must learn to be at peace in our thoughts. For, as soon as our thoughts begin to oppress us, we must turn to God and take to Him our cares and the cares of our neighbor. I always take my problems and the problems of those who come to me for advice to the Lord and His Most Holy Mother for them to resolve. And that is what they do. As for me, I cannot help even myself. How, then, can I help anyone else?
When our neighbor comes to us with his troubles, we take part in them, but if we do not know how to relax–to give all our infirmities and those of our neighbor to the Lord–then we bear this cumbersome burden in our own minds and hearts and, over time, we become unbearably stressed and nervous. We become irritable; we cannot stand our own selves, let alone other people around us–our family members and, of course, our co-workers. Our life becomes miserable and stressed, and our nerves become strained. This is because we have not taught ourselves to let go of our thoughts. When our thoughts are at peace, our body rests too.
Our plans and interests often interfere with our lives. We make all these plans, believing that we will never succeed in anything unless we arrange everything meticulously. We truly must try to do everything as our conscience tells us, but we must not do anything in haste. It is when we are in a hurry that the enemy (Satan) traps us. In haste we cannot be aware of whether we have said something to offend our fellow man or whether we have ignored him, because we have no time to think of him; we are too busy with the plans inside our head. In this manner it is easy to sin against our neighbor. And when we sin against our neighbor, we are actually sinning against God, for God is everywhere. He dwells in the souls of each and every one of us. Our relationship toward our fellow men defines our relationship toward God.
It seems that we do not understand one thing: It is not good when we return the love of those who love us, yet hate those who hate us. We are not on the right path if we do this. We are the sons of Light and Love, the sons of God, His children. As such we must have His qualities and His attributes of love, peace and kindness toward all.