Against Self-Reliance

by Scott D. Hendricks

Not to rely on oneself is so necessary in our struggle, my beloved brother, that without this, be assured, not only will you fail to gain the desired victory, but you will be unable to resist the smallest attack of the enemy. Engrave this deeply in your mind and heart.

Since the time of the transgression of our forefather, despite the weakening of our spiritual and moral powers, we are wont to think very highly of ourselves. Although our daily experience very effectively proves to us the falseness of this opinion of ourselves, in our incomprehensible self-deception we do not cease to believe that we are something, and something not unimportant. Yet this spiritual disease of ours, so hard to perceive and acknowledge, is more abhorrent to God than all else in us, as being the first offspring of our self-hood and self-love, and the source, root and cause of all passions and of all downfalls and wrong-doing. It closes the very door of our mind or spirit, through which alone Divine grace can enter, and gives this grace no way to come and dwell in man. And so it withdraws from him. For how can grace, which comes to help and enlighten us, enter that man, who thinks of himself that he is something great, that he himself knows everything and needs no outside help?–May God preserve us from this disease and passion of Lucifer!–God severely reprimands those who are stricken with this passion of vainglory and self-esteem, saying through the prophet: ‘Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight’ (Isaiah v. 21). And the Apostle tells us: ‘Be not wise in your own conceits’ (Rom. xii. 16).

~ from The Unseen Warfare

E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, trans., Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat & Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain & revised by Theophan the Recluse (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, n.d.), 81-82.