I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the passions and how they afflict us like a disease. Even when you fight against the passions, I find that I am often tricked by them. Really the only hope I have found is to call out to God (using the Jesus Prayer) when I am strongly feeling a passion. However, if someone doesn’t strongly fight the passions, then they take over his life. Some people fight bodily passions with spiritual passions, thus corrupting the heart to discipline the body. For example, someone may control his appetite out of vanity: he wants to look good more than he wants to eat. That’s the tricky part of fighting passions. It is so easy to let self esteem, pride in one’s self, to be the power that overcomes strong desires (this is often the way the world teaches people to overcome bodily passions). But in the end, pride kills love and cuts one off from God. It ends in either delusion (because one thinks he is better than he is) or in despair (because one thinks that he is worse than he “should” be–he keeps saying to himself, “I should be better than this”).
However, just like a sick man (say he is allergic to peanut butter), there are only two things he can do because he cannot help getting sick. First, he has to go to the Physician (God) to be treated and second, he has to avoid the things (peanut butter) that make him sick. It does no good to say, “I shouldn’t get sick from peanut butter.” The fact is that you do. So if someone, like an alcoholic, gets sick (can’t control himself) from drinking beer (etc.) then he has to stop drinking beer all together. In my life I have found that there are several things that I enjoy, but I just can’t do because often (not always, and so there is where a temptation lies) it results in stirring up my passions. There is no pride or self glorification in this. I am not good because I don’t do certain things. In fact, it is because I am sick that I don’t do certain things. Someone else may be able to do certain things, see certain things, participate in certain activities and not experience the arousal of passions. I rejoice that they are free. I, on the other hand, am quite sickly (spiritually speaking), so I have to be very careful–like a diabetic who continually worries about what he does or doesn’t eat, I have to continually watch out for what I let myself do, think or say; otherwise, I’ll get spiritually sick.