A young monk asked a wise monk for a word of advice. He told him “go to the cemetery and praise the dead and say all good things about them.” The young monk did so, even though it was very weird, and came back. The old monk asked him “what was their response to praise?” he said “nothing!” “Go back and curse them then” the old monk ordered. The monk obeyed and when he came back the old monk asked him “and what was their response to insult?” He replied: “Their response was the same NOTHING!” The wise monk advised him to imitate the dead in their response to praise and insult. Not to be proud when people praise you and not to be angry and hateful when they curse you.
I have read this story many times ever since I was a young deacon but I never learned the lesson except after many years of priesthood and many experiences of: you are the best …you are the worst! The people who praised me criticized me later on. The people who didn’t like me became friends later on. In the beginning I thought the people who liked me are the smart ones and the people who didn’t like me are not as smart! Well, neither was true. They are neither good nor bad, they are NORMAL people. Just like myself. I liked someone one day and I didn’t like him the next day, then I liked him again the day after…. People like me when I tell them what they want to hear and they don’t like me when I tell them otherwise. People like me when I do things their way and they don’t like me when I don’t do things their way. C’est la vie!
I used to take these things personal. It used to bring me up and down but not any more thank God. When I hear good words I thank people especially when it’s genuine. But I don’t favorite the people who praise me and I don’t have high expectations from them because they are NORMAL human beings. At the same time I don’t take it personal when people criticize me because they are also NORMAL human beings. Both of them will change anyways one day. Or even if they don’t change I might change!
Jesus heard “Hosanna” and “crucify him” in the same week. The great thing is that He loved the people regardless of what they said. They are humans and humans change. God wants us to genuinely love all as He did, and not seek to please them but only Him.
Does that mean that I shouldn’t listen to what people say and totally ignore it? NO. But rather I should listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in what people say. St. Anthony heard God’s voice through a comment from a sinful woman. I have to decide first whom I’m trying to please. I can choose to please people but good luck with this! And I can try to please God but people may not be pleased.
If you try to please people you may need to change the truth. You may not live with one standard. You may have to be always guessing, always careful, always sensitive, always anxious and finally always frustrated! You may have one hour of good self esteem but 10 days of depression.
When you try to please God you will find ONE standard. God is NOT moody and does NOT change. What He liked 5000 years ago is the same today, tomorrow and forever. He will always put you up and NEVER down; even when He rebukes.