On Malice by St. John of Kronstadt

You hate your enemy? You are foolish. Why? Because if your enemy persecutes you, you also inwardly persecute yourself; for say, is it not persecution, and the most cruel persecution, to torture yourself by your hatred towards your enemy? Love your enemy, and you will be wise. O, if only you knew what a triumph, what blessedness it is to love your enemy, and to do good to him! So did the Son of God, so did God in the Holy Trinity, triumph, and still triumphs, through His love, over the ungrateful and evil-natured human race; so also did God's saints triumph over their enemies, by loving them and doing good to them.

Excerpts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt on

Avoid flattery, audacity, and taking the law into your own hands. Our soul has a passion for doing this when others do something differently to what we would like them to, or do not do what we would like them to. Bear with this; think how it would be if others revenged themselves upon you immediately after you had done something not in accordance with their will, or after you had not fulfilled that which you might and ought to have done. "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise;"[607] or keep to the rule: "We forgive them that trespass against us." Man is duty personified. We must here remember that our heart is extremely capricious, evil, and foolish. Sometimes we take a violent dislike to a person without any cause or reason, and nourish malice in our heart against him, and are ready to offend him without any cause. We must despise the natural and unjust malice of the heart, and pray to God to drive away from our heart this stench of the abyss of hell. Let us remember what we were commanded: "These things I command you that ye love one another."[608]

When you are slandered, and therefore grow disturbed and sick at heart, it shows that pride is in you, and that it must be wounded and driven out by outward dishonour. Therefore do not be irritated by derision, and do not bear malice against those who hate you and slander you, but love them as your physicians, whom God has sent you to instruct you and to teach you humility, and pray to God for them. "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you."[131] Say to yourself, "It is not me that they slander, but my evil passions; not me that they strike, but that viper which nestles in my heart, and smarts when anybody speaks ill of it. I will comfort myself with the thought that, perhaps, these good people will drive it from my heart by their caustic words, and my heart will then cease to ache. "Therefore, thank God for outward dishonour: those who endure dishonour here will not be subjected to it in the next world." She hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins."[132] "Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works for us."[133]

Avoid by every means occasions, causes, and words that produce enmity, and avail yourself of every opportunity and occasion to show holy and sincere love: by doing the first the inimical disposition of the soul will little by little be eradicated, and by the second love will be nourished and strengthened. Do not allow yourself for a moment to have any ill-feeling against anyone; always be kind to everyone, conquering your evil disposition by the love that endureth all things and conquereth all things. Avoid obstinacy, self-will, and opposing your neighbour; do not persist in having your own way, in order to satisfy your caprice, or in order to intentionally injure anyone.

Why is it that we always remember the offences of men, are angry and bear malice against the offenders, whilst the most wicked, the most hurtful and continual offences of the Devil we very soon forget, even though we have been thus offended by him a thousand times a day, while we bear in remembrance the offences of men sometimes for longer than a day? This is the enticement of the Devil! He knows how to deceive us cleverly: whilst offending us himself, he ever screens himself behind our own self-love, as though wishing to gratify us in the beginning by means of the development of a certain passion, though afterwards he always destroys, and bitterness comes to us from him for our foolish, unreasonable self-love. The offences of other people against us he always magnifies a hundredfold, representing them in a false light; and here again he screens himself behind our own self-love, as though he were jealous of our welfare, which other people are seeking to destroy by their offences.

You are angry with your neighbour, your brother, and say of him: "He is such and such — a miser, malicious, proud," or that he has done this and that, and so on. What is that to you? He sins against God, and not against you. God is his Judge, not you: unto God he shall answer for himself, not to you. Know yourself, how sinful you are yourself, what a beam you have in your own eye; how difficult it is for you to master and get the better of your own sins; how afflicted you yourself are by them; how they have ensnared you — how you wish for indulgence from others towards your own infirmities. And your brother is a man like you; therefore you must be indulgent to him as to a sinful man, similar in everything to yourself, as infirm as you; love him, then, as yourself, listening to the Lord saying: "These things I command you, that ye love one another"[609] ; and as you pray for yourself, that the Lord may help you to root out your own cruel and incurable passions, so pray also for your brother, that the Lord may free him from the flattery and corruption of his passions, from their darkness and oppression. We must remember that we are one sinful body, more or less infected in our members by the breathing of the " common enemy — the Devil"; and that of ourselves, without God's grace, we are powerless to free ourselves from this deadly and darkening breathing: only the Holy Spirit by His breathing can drive away this demoniacal darkness of the passions, through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ's sufferings upon the cross. We must therefore humbly pray to the Lord, in the spirit of brotherly love, for all our brethren and for all people, that they may escape from the darkness of the passions and their great attractiveness, in which they delight, not knowing their destructiveness; for instance: the rich man rejoices in his wealth; the ambitious one — in his distinctions; the glutton — in his food, drink, and dainties; the malicious — in his malice; the envious — in the sufferings of the victim of his envy; and so on.

If you wish to be humble, consider yourself worthy of all malice and hatred on the part of others, and of every calumny. Do not grow irritated, and do not nourish malice against those who bear malice against you, slander you, or falsely blame you. Say: "Holy Father, Thy will be done! "Remember the words of the Lord: "The servant is not greater than his Lord; if the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you."[1396] If the world hated Him, the Most-righteous, the Most-merciful, then why should it be wonderful if other people hate you, a sinful and evil man?

A man who is wrathful with us is a sick man; we must apply a plaster to his heart — love; we must treat him kindly, speak to him gently, lovingly. And if there is not deeply-rooted malice against us within him, but only a temporary fit of anger, you will see how his heart, or his malice, will melt away through your kindness and love — how good will conquer evil. A Christian must always be kind, gracious, and wise in order to conquer evil by good.

Love is God. If you love God, God dwelleth in you, and you in God. [1289] Malice is the Devil. The instant you begin to feel malice against your neighbour, the Devil is in you, entering into you like a needle, and endeavouring to become a mountain within you, so greatly does he spread, and so heavy is he! And therefore continually love God and your neighbour. Do not admit malice into your heart, even for a single moment; consider it as an illusion of the Devil. Amen.

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind;"[1290] whilst malice is impatient, quick to anger, and exacting. Malice is quick to punish, whilst love is quick to indulgence and forgiveness. Charity looks at its own defects, and is reluctant to notice them in others; whilst malice is sharp-sighted to notice the smallest defects of others, and is blind to its own great defects. We see the mote in our brother's eye, and not the beam in our own; this happens often, and most often, notwithstanding God's inward teaching.

Concerning Malice. If you are angry with your brother on account of his sins, even supposing they are offensive ones, then recollect that you yourself are also not without sins which are also offensive, although they may perhaps be of a different sort. You yourself desire that your shameful sins should be covered by the indulgence, by the all-sheltering love of your neighbours; recollect how thankful you would be to them, how lovingly you would embrace them for their all-enduring love; how this indulgence would lighten your already grievous sorrow for your sins, and would strengthen your weakness in your struggle against them, would strengthen your spirit by trust in God's mercy! But that which you would desire for yourself in such cases you must also desire for and unto your brother: he is your member and a member of Christ's. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour," it is said, "as thyself."[934] When judging your neighbour in the malice of your heart for his sins, always remember that you yourself are not without sin. "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye! Thou hypocrite " — truly a hypocrite — "first cast out the beam out of thine own eye: and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."[935] Besides, your brother " standeth or falleth to his own Master,"[936] and not to you. And if your brother has sinned against you, then you must certainly forgive him his offence against you, or his transgressions against you. You yourself are daily greatly in need of your own sins being forgiven you by the Heavenly Father, and you pray: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."[937] And if you wish your sins to be forgiven you, you must forgive your brother's sins against you. " For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."[938]

Brother, you feel a deadly malice in your heart against your neighbour; you are tormented by evil thoughts from the offences he causes you. Here is a means of saving yourself from inward straitness. Represent to yourself the multitude of your own sins, countless in their number, and vividly imagine how the Master of your life bears with them in you, how He daily and endlessly forgives you your sins if you pray to Him sincerely, whilst you yourself do not wish to forgive your neighbour a few fits of passion excited in him by the Devil. Sigh, weep if you can, at your own foolishness, condemn yourself only, and not in any way your neighbour, and the forgiveness of the Lord will be ready for you. Your inward straitness will vanish like smoke, your thoughts will become clear, your heart will become calm, and you will again walk in freedom of heart. Train yourself to meekness, be as though you did not hear reproaches, calumny, affronts, as if they were heard by somebody quite different, or by your shadow. Do not allow any suspiciousness. "I have walked innocently." [918] "While the ungodly is in my sight I held my tongue and spake nothing: I kept silence." [919] "I became even as a man that heareth not: and in whose mouth are no reproofs."[920]

If anyone has offended you, do not bear malice, and when he who has offended you looks kindly upon you and turns to speak to you, do not let your heart incline to evil, but talk pleasantly and good-humouredly to him, as if nothing had happened between you; learn to conquer evil by good, malice by kindness, meekness, and humility. Do not say in your heart to him who has offended you: "What! he speaks to me, after having offended me, counting his offence against me as nothing! I do not consider him worthy of speaking to me; I reject, despise him; let him learn what it is to offend me." Do not be proud and bear malice. Do not say thus, lest the Lord be angered by your hard-heartedness.

Remember the words of the Scripture: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."[251] People offend you, irritate you, breathe contempt and malice against you; do not repay them in the same way, but be gentle, meek, and kind, respectful and loving towards those very persons who behave unworthily to you. If you are agitated yourself, and speak excitedly, rudely, contemptuously — that is, unlovingly — then you will be vanquished yourself, and those who offend you will have the right to say, "Physician, heal thyself," [252] or "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?... First cast out the beam out of thine own eye."[253] Do not wonder, then, if the affronts of those who offend you are often repeated, for they will notice your weakness and will irritate you intentionally. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."[254] Show the one who offends you that he has not offended you, but himself; pity him heartily for being so easily overcome by his passions — for being spiritually sick; and the more rude and irritated he is, the more hatred he nourishes towards you, the more meekness and love you must show him. Then you will surely conquer him. Good is always stronger than evil, and therefore always conquers. Remember also that we are all weak, are very easily overcome by passions, and therefore be meek and indulgent to those who sin against you, knowing that you yourself often suffer from the same infirmity as your brother. Forgive those who trespass against you, so that God may forgive your trespasses, incomparably greater than the trespasses of others against you. Be always calm, lofty in spirit, unsuspicious, firm, simple, and kind-hearted, and you will always triumph over your enemies. "He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee."[255]

Passions are contagious owing to our spiritual organisation; for instance, malice, even when not yet expressed in words — not expressed by acts, but still concealed in the heart, and reflected slightly in the face and eyes — is already transmitted to the soul of the man against whom I bear malice, and is also perceptible to others; if I am disturbed by passion my disturbance communicates itself to the heart of another, like a kind of spiritual overflow of an impure current from one spiritual receptacle into another. If you eradicate in yourself your passion against your brother, you eradicate the same passion in him too; when you are pacified he will also become pacified. What a close connection there is between souls! How true are the words of the Apostle: "For we are members one of another[221]; we, being many, are one bread and one body[222] ; and hath made of one blood all nations of men."[223] Therefore the Lord's commandment requires that: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."[224] It is upon the mutual feeling or understanding of our souls that the efficacy or inefficacy of the words of a preacher is founded; if the preacher does not speak from his heart, but hypocritically, the listeners, by their inward instinct, understand the discordance of the preacher's words with his heart, with his life, and they have not the power which they might have had if the preacher had spoken to them sincerely, and especially if he had himself in reality fulfilled his words. Indeed, between human souls there is too close a connection and communication. This is why good, pious, sincere dispositions, and especially good works, are communicated to the souls of others.

Malice, or any other passion that has taken root in your heart, has a tendency — in accordance with the infallible law of evil — to discharge itself outwardly. This is why it is usually said of an evil or angry man that he has vented his anger upon another person or upon another object. It is the worst of evil that it does not remain in the heart, but tries to diffuse itself outwardly. From this it is already evident that the author of evil is great himself, and has a wide domain over which he reigns. "The whole world lieth in wickedness." [98] Like a vapour or gases that have accumulated in a great quantity in a shut-up place strive to rush out, so also the passions, like the breathing of the spirit of evil, having filled the heart, strive to rush out of one man to pour themselves into others, and corrupt, by their ill-odour, the souls of others.

Love calms and agreeably expands the heart and it, whilst hatred painfully contracts and disturbs it. Those who hate others torture and tyrannise over themselves; therefore they are the most foolish of the foolish ones.

Do not be irritated with him who bears malice against you and often wounds you by finding fault with yon, but be compassionate to him, love him, saying: It is not he or she that is so full of malice against me, but it is the Devil who rages against me through them, and they themselves, poor creatures, are only tempted by him. As soon as this temptation ceases they will be kind again. We are all often worthy of pity as the tools of the bodiless enemy. We must pity mankind, so violently persecuted by the enemy.

Do not bear malice in your heart against anyone on account of anything; do not despise anyone for any reason. "Have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."[1325]

The malice of the enemy. The more piously a man lives, the more the Devil forces men to anger against him, as was the case with Saul against the pious David. The more holy a person is, the more such an one is blasphemed, as, for instance, the Holy Virgin, Who is more honourable than the cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the seraphim. The Devil incites us to exalt ourselves before simple-hearted persons, and to despise the simplicity of their faith and the very objects of their faith and reverent worship.

Fear malice as you fear the fire; do not admit it into your heart, even upon any plausible pretence, and still less by reason of anything disagreeable to you; malice is always an evil, a child of hell. Sometimes malice enters the heart under the pretence of zeal for the glory of God or the good of our neighbour. Do not believe in your zeal in this case; it is false and unwise; rather be zealous that there should not be any malice in you. God is glorified by nothing so much as by the" charity that beareth all things," and is dishonoured and offended by nothing so much as by malice, under whatever fair appearance it may hide itself. It was under the mask of caring for the poor that Judas, hiding his malice against his Lord, sold Him for thirty pieces of silver. Remember that the enemy unwearyingly seeks your destruction, and attacks you at the time when you least expect it. His malice is infinite. Do not bind yourself by self-love and sensuality, lest they take you an easy prisoner.

When malice against anyone is roused in your heart, then believe with your whole heart that it is the work of the Devil working in your heart: hate him and his brood, and malice will leave you. (Do not acknowledge it as anything of your own, and do not sympathise with it.) This is from experience. Unfortunately, the Devil shelters himself behind us, and conceals himself, whilst we are blind, and, thinking we are doing everything of ourselves, begin to stand up for the Devil's works as if they were our own, as if for something just, although every idea of there being any justice in our passion is entirely false, impious, and hurtful. Guide yourself by the same rule also in regard to others. When you see that anybody bears malice against you, do not consider his malice as his own doing; no, he is only the passive instrument of the evil one; he has not yet recognised his flattery and is deceived by him. Pray to God that the enemy may leave him and that the Lord may enlighten the eyes of his heart, darkened by the poisonous, noxious breathing of the spirit of evil. We must pray fervently for all those subjected to passions, for the enemy works within them.

Do not let the Devil sow enmity and malice in your heart against your neighbour; do not let these feelings nestle in any way in your heart; otherwise your malice, even if not expressed in words, but shown only in your glance, may infect through sight the soul of your brother also (for nothing is so infectious as malice, it easily infects especially those who have in their hearts an abundance of unslumbering malice), and fans the spark of evil in them into a whole flame. Be watchful: "with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." [434] "For, nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad." [435]

It is a strange phenomenon in our nature, perverted by sin, to hate those to whom we do good, and to make them pay for our benefits by disliking them! Oh, how narrow and poor in love and grace is our heart! How selfish it is! The enemy may well mock at us; he wishes to destroy the fruits of our good works. But the more good you do to others, the more you must love them, knowing that those who receive your benefits serve as a pledge to you of your receiving forgiveness from God.

Look upon a spiteful, proud, presumptuous man as you would upon the wind, and do not be offended at his malice, pride, and presumption, but be calm in yourself. The enemy purposely irritates you, kindling the fire of the human passions, or arousing in your heart various suspicions of an evil nature and imaginary fancies.

You are angry with your neighbour, you despise him, do not like to speak peaceably and lovingly to him, because there is something harsh, abrupt, careless, unpleasant to you in his character, in his speech, in his manners — because he is more conscious of his dignity than perhaps is necessary; or because he may be somewhat proud and disrespectful; but you yourself, your neighbour's physician and teacher, are more guilty than him. "Physician, heal thyself." [612] Teacher, teach yourself. Your own malice is the bitterest of all evils. Is it then possible to correct malice by means of evil? Having a beam in your own eye, can you pull out the mote from the eye of another? Evil and faults are corrected by good, by love, kindness, meekness, humility, and patience. Acknowledge yourself as the greatest of sinners, of those who appear to you to be sinners, or are sinners in reality; consider yourself worse and lower than all; wrest out every pride and malice against your neighbour, all impatience and fury, and only then try to cure others. Until then cover the sins of others with your indulgent love. What would life be if everyone were to notice all their neighbour's iniquities? Eternal animosity and discord; for who is without sin? And, therefore, we are commanded to forgive all those who trespass against us; for if the Lord will be extreme to mark our iniquities, who of us may abide before His justice?[613] "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you."[614] We stand before the altar of love in the presence of Incarnate Love Itself, but we have no love to each other. How strange it is! And we do not even care about this. But love will not come of itself without our zeal, efforts and activity.

Whilst malice is the child of the Devil, may it never, neither pride, nor self-exaltation, and envy, touch our heart, even for a single moment!

When you see men fall into various sins against yourself, against the Lord, against their neighbours, and against themselves, do not be angry with them — for there is much anger and malice in the world without your anger — but pity them from all your soul and excuse them when they offend against you, saying to yourself: "Father! forgive them," for sin perplexes them; "they know not what they do." [764]

A malicious, proud man is ready to see only malice and pride in others, and is glad when any of his acquaintances, especially those who live happily and richly, but are not dear to his soul, are badly spoken of by others; and the worse they are spoken of the more he rejoices that others are bad, while he himself is perfection in comparison to them; and he is ready to perceive only evil in them, and to compare them to demons. O, malice! O, pride!

By whatever passions enemies may attack you, endure it without falling into despondency, without anger, meekly and humbly, and do not allow any movement of impatience, malice, murmuring, and blasphemy to arise in your heart.

How many trifling and incessant pretexts the hater of mankind offers us for hating our neighbour, so that we are almost constantly angry with others, almost constantly bearing malice against others, and living in accordance with his infernal all-destructive will. But do not let us chase his phantoms; let us put aside all enmity, and love everyone, for love is of God.

Do not be vexed with those who show pride, or malice, effeminacy, and impatience in their intercourse with you or others, but, remembering that you yourself are subject to the same and greater sins and passions, pray for them and be meek with them. "If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens [if anybody has offended you, and it is hard for you, bear this], and so fulfil the law of Christ."[685]

Pride is of the demon; malice is of the same demon;

"We forgive them that trespass against us." This means not to feel against our neighbour who has been guilty towards us (intentionally, obstinately, or unintentionally) any vexation, enmity, or malice, but to forgive him his fault in all simplicity of heart, vividly representing to ourselves our own infirmities and falling into sin, and maintaining towards our guilty neighbour the same love and the same feelings of kindness which we felt towards him before his fault. What would it be if the Lord were to notice our iniquities as we do the faults of our neighbour? Who could withstand? But as the Lord is long-suffering and merciful, be also long-suffering and merciful (not strictly exacting, but compassionate). "Charity suffereth long, and is kind."[649] Do not reckon the faults of your neighbour, consider them as though they were not; as nothing! We are one body, and his body is a sinful one. What is more common and easier to us than sins? We breathe them like air. But the Lord, the Head of the body of the Church, is the cleansing of them. Leave everything to the Head, Who worketh all things in all; and hold fast to love alone, for it is the only infallible thing in our life (pure love). Do not serve the Devil by the spirit of enmity, malice, hatred; do not increase evil by evil, and do not spread the kingdom of the enemy in the kingdom of Christ." Overcome evil with good."[650] For you cannot conquer evil with evil, just as you cannot put out fire by fire, but only by water. Malice is always an imagination of the Devil. Love is always God's truth and God's child.

"Charity suffereth long" [595] — that is, it does not immediately punish the one who sins, but patiently endures his lapses, teaching and correcting him; whilst the nature of malice is to immediately strike an antagonist, or to make him unhappy, pushing him to extremes. It is amazing how evil and impatient we are! If our brother has sinned, we are not sorry that he sins, we do not weep from brotherly love at his wilful insanity, at his passion; but we bear malice against him, we despise him for his sins; whilst meanwhile, perhaps we ourselves are, or were, guilty of the same, and were indulgently forgiven our sins, and, only thanks to the indulgence of our superiors, have at last somehow corrected ourselves of these failings, passions, and. vices, and become good for anything. If we happen to be even now guilty of the same sins, only not so gravely as our erring brother, it signifies that we too are answerable for them. How, then, can we be otherwise than indulgent to our erring brethren? Thus, in punishing others for sins and crimes, we must also remember our own weaknesses, our vices and passions, past and present, and punish our subordinates lovingly, pityingly, and patiently, and not angrily, not pitilessly, impatiently, hastily." In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the Devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." [596] It was not without reason that the Apostle placed long-suffering and mercy as the first signs of our love for our neighbour: " Charity suffereth long, and is kind" [597] : for every man is infirm, weak, rash, easily inclined to every sin, but at the same time he may also easily think better of it, rise up, and repent under favourable conditions; and therefore it is necessary to be patient to his infirmities and sins, as we ourselves would wish others to be indulgent to our infirmities, and, seeing them, be as though they did not see them and did not notice them. But in those cases, however, where the sin acts injuriously upon others, or when it is connected with the omission of the duties of our calling, or when it attains great dimensions, then an immediate strictness is necessary for restraining or putting a stop to it, or for removing the injurious person from the midst of well-intentioned people. " Put away from among yourselves that wicked person." [598]

We must not look with wonderment and malice upon the various sins, weaknesses and passions of humanity, because they form the old enticement, the infirmity of all mankind, and men themselves, by their own strength, cannot anyhow free themselves from them, and therefore a Saviour of men was necessary, not an intercessor, not an angel, but the Lord Himself incarnate. May He save me wholly! This is why we should despise human passions, even when directed against us; for instance: envy, malice, pride, avarice, extortion — and must not be exasperated with those who are subjected to them, but must behave gently to them, and act upon them by words, persuasion, and secret prayer, as did the Lord and His Saints in relation to their enemies. This is what the worldly wisdom of a Christian consists in.

Do not be despondent and do not fall into despair when you feel within your soul the deadly breath and ferment of malice and evil, impatience and blasphemy, or any weakness from impure thoughts; but fight against them unremittingly and endure valiantly, calling with all your heart upon the Lord Jesus — the Conqueror of hell. Humble yourself deeply, deeply, acknowledging yourself from the depths of your soul as the first of sinners, unworthy of human fellowship, and the Lord, seeing your humility and your struggle, will help you. Call also to your help the speedy Mediatrix, the Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, saying: " Heal, most pure Lady, the many painful wounds of my soul, and strike the enemies constantly fighting against me."[481]

In order not to remember the malice of your neighbour against you, but to pardon him with all your soul, remember, that you, yourself, are not free from malice, as well as from all other passions. Recognise your neighbour's infirmities and passions as your own: "forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." [440] O, how sinful I am, how loathsome I am by my sins in the eyes of God, of men, and even in mine own! Who can be more loathsome to me than myself? Truly nobody; in comparison to me all are righteous. I must be unmercifully angry with myself, and must consider it a special happiness to forgive my neighbour's trespasses and offences against me, an unworthy one, so that the long-suffering, bountiful, and merciful Lord may forgive me even some of my trespasses. I must remember, that it is only by this that I can become deserving of the Lord's mercy to me, otherwise I ought long to have ceased to live.

The enemy often wounds our souls by his malice and burns us. This wound spreads like a gangrene in the heart if we do not stop it in time by the sincere prayer of faith. And God wounds our souls by His love, but this wound is light, sweet, not burning, but warming and vivifying.

Pray, my brethren, to the Mother of God when the storm of enmity and malice bursts forth in your house. She, Who is all-merciful and all-powerful, can easily pacify the hearts of men. Peace and love proceed from the one God, as from their Source, and Our Lady — in God, as the Mother of Christ the Peace, is zealous, and prays for the peace of the whole world, and above all — of all Christians. She has the all-merciful power of driving away from us at Her sign the sub-celestial spirits of evil — those ever-vigilant and ardent sowers of enmity and malice amongst men, whilst to all who have recourse with faith and love to Her powerful protection, She soon speedily gives both peace and love. Be zealous yourselves also in preserving faith and love in your hearts; for if you do not care for this, then you will be unworthy of the intercession for you — of the Mother of God; be also most fervent and most reverent worshippers of the Mother of the Almighty Lord; for it is truly meet to bless Her — the ever-blessed; the entirely spotless Mother of our God, the highest of all creatures, the Mediatrix for the whole race of mankind. Strive to train yourself in the spirit of humility, for She Herself was more humble than any mortal, and only looks lovingly upon the humble." He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden" (said She to Elisabeth), of "God, Her Saviour."[433]

You do not want to pray for the man whom you hate and despise; but you must do so against your wish, and have recourse to the great Physician, because you yourself are spiritually sick of the malady of malice and pride; your enemy or the one whom you despise is also sick; pray that the meek Lord may teach you meekness and patience, that He may teach and strengthen you to love your enemies, and not only your well-wishers; that He may teach you to pray sincerely for the evilly-disposed as well as for the well-disposed.

What is mercy? Mercy is to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, who do us harm, who drive us away, to defend those who are persecuted, and so on.

Do not be disturbed when malice rages within you and strives to discharge itself in words of bitterness, but command it to be silent and to die within you. Otherwise, being accustomed to see your obedience and to flow from your lips, it will master you. As water standing behind an earth dam, and finding an aperture, washes it wider and wider and filters through it, if we do not strengthen the dam, or strengthen it insufficiently, at last, with growing weakness on our part and with repeated efforts, the water gets through with greater and greater force, so that at last it becomes very difficult, and even impossible to stop it; so also with malice hidden in the heart of man: if we let it pierce through once, twice, and thrice, it will pour out more and more powerfully, and may at last break through and overflow your dam. Learn that in the soul there are waters of evil; as has been said by the Psalmist: "The waters are come in unto my soul." [84]

Is the fact of a man's character or temper not agreeing with ours, of his not showing much indulgence to our pride and in general to our passions, of his not having the same disposition of spirit as ours, a reason for us to hate him? Has not everybody his own freewill, his own character, temperament, habits, passions, and ways? Ought we not to be indulgent to everyone, to respect everyone's personal freedom, which even the Lord Himself does not violate?

Cultivate the Christian art of doing good, of heartily blessing those who curse you, by which you will please your Lord Christ, Who said: "Bless them that curse you. Love your enemies" sincerely, not regarding their enmity — but respecting in them the image of God, according to which they are created, and seeing in them your own self. "Do good to them which hate you," as the Son of the heavenly Father, Who is kind even "unto the unthankful and to the evil," believing that you will overcome evil with good, because good is always more powerful than evil." Pray for them which despitefully use you," so that through your prayer you may save them also, by God's grace, from the evil malice and the snares of the Devil, and save yourself too from misfortune. "Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again,"[436] for everything comes from God, and, should the Lord will, He can take everything away from you. Remember, that you yourself have come naked out of your mother's womb, and naked shall you return thither,[437] and shall not take anything away with you. If you will thus live, you will gain for yourself the priceless treasure of peace and love, and shall live long on the earth: for "the meek-spirited," it is said, "shall possess the earth: and shall be refreshed in the multitude of peace."[438]

If anyone has offended you, do not bear malice, and when he who has offended you looks kindly upon you and turns to speak to you, do not let your heart incline to evil, but talk pleasantly and good-humouredly to him, as if nothing had happened between you; learn to conquer evil by good, malice by kindness, meekness, and humility. Do not say in your heart to him who has offended you: "What! he speaks to me, after having offended me, counting his offence against me as nothing! I do not consider him worthy of speaking to me; I reject, despise him; let him learn what it is to offend me." Do not be proud and bear malice. Do not say thus, lest the Lord be angered by your hard-heartedness.

How many trifling and incessant pretexts the hater of mankind offers us for hating our neighbour, so that we are almost constantly angry with others, almost constantly bearing malice against others, and living in accordance with his infernal all-destructive will. But do not let us chase his phantoms; let us put aside all enmity, and love everyone, for love is of God.

Do not breathe malice, vengeance, and murder even towards animals, lest your own soul should be given up to death by the spiritual enemy breathing wickedness in you even towards dumb animals, and lest you should become accustomed to breathe malice and vengeance against men also. Remember, that animals are called to life by God's mercy that they may enjoy their existence as much as they can during their short life. "The Lord is good to all."[247] Do not beat them, if they are unreasonable, or if they play tricks, or if any of your property is damaged by them. Blessed is the man who is merciful to his beast.

Do not give way to the dark evil inclinations in your heart against your neighbour, but conquer them and uproot them by the power of faith, by the light of a sound mind, and you will become kind and gentle. "I have walked innocently."[149] Such inclinations frequently arise in the depths of the heart. He who has not learned to subdue them will be often gloomy, melancholy, a burden to himself and to others. When they come to you, force yourself to be cordially disposed; to mirth and innocent jests; and the evil inclinations will be dispersed like smoke. This is from experience.

[84] Psalm lxix. 1.
[98] 1 John v. 19.
[131] St. Matthew v. 44.
[132] Isaiah xl. 2.
[133] Isaiah xxvi. 12.
[149] Psalm xxv. 1.
[221] Ephesians iv. 25.
[222] 1 Corinthians x. 17
[223] Acts xvii. 26.
[224] St. Matthew xxii. 39.
[247] Psalm cxlv. 9.
[251] Romans xii. 21.
[252] St. Luke iv. 23.
[253] St. Matthew vii. 3, 5.
[254] Romans xii. 21.
[255] Proverbs ix. 7, 8.
[433] St. Luke i. 47, 48.
[434] St. Matthew vii. 2.
[435] St. Luke viii. 17.
[436] St. Luke vi. 27, 35, 28, 30.
[437] Job i. 21.
[438] Psalm xxxvii. 11; St. Matthew v. 5.
[440] Ephesians iv. 32.
[481] Canon to the Guardian Angel.
[595] 1 Corinthians xiii. 4.
[596] 2 Timothy ii. 25, 26.
[597] 1 Corinthians xiii. 4
[598] 1 Corinthians v. 13.
[607] St. Luke vi. 31.
[608] St. John xv. 17.
[609] St. John xv. 17.
[612] St. Luke iv. 23.
[613] Psalm cxxx. 3.
[614] St. Matthew vi. 14.
[649] 1 Corinthian xiii. 4.
[650] Romans xii. 21.
[685] Galatians vi. 1, 2.
[764] St. Luke xxiii. 34.
[918] Psalm xxvi. 1.
[919] Psalm xxxix. 2, 3.
[920] Psalm xxxviii. 14.
[934] St. Mark xii. 31.
[935] St. Matthew vii. 3-5.
[936] Romans xiv. 4.
[937] St. Matthew vi. 12.
[938] St. Matthew vi. 14, 15.
[1289] 1 John iv. 10.
[1290] 1 Corinthians xiii. 4.
[1325] 1 Peter iv. 8.
[1396] St. John xiii. 16; xv. 18.

Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt.