The thought occurred to me this week that you have to have enough self-esteem as well as humility to apologize. Without any self-esteem, it can feel as though if you prostrate yourself, you will just keep going down and not come back up. Self esteem, or maybe the modern concept of a sense of self, can stand being on the ground. Without it, it seems as if you’ll fall into the abyss. Into annihilation and oblivion. Granted, apologizing is giving up ground, but usually one believes there will be land available to the rear during a retreat. To believe this, one has to trust what is done with the apology, or at least be able to handle it.
I want to play devil’s advocate and see if there is a way to not transgress Orthodox, especially monastic, teaching and allow a few modern constructs to be uttered. To me it could be like the Cappadocian Fathers using modern, for their day, philosophical terms to explain timeless truth. I don’t know if there was progressive revelation involved in that process, as without their explanations, the fulness of the truth wasn’t obvious to common people. I still believe, as they did, that explanations need to have Scriptural support. You can see corresponding verses to every sentence in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
I keep wanting to argue with people who say people are completely responsible for their own sin and shouldn’t blame others, and to bring up the many passages about making people stumble. If it is possible to make a person stumble, then how is that person’s sin or state of being out of touch with reality and healthy behavior completely their fault? It makes me feel more charitable to people if I can understand that there is a compelling reason for their bad decision-making. Not that the bad decision was inevitable though. I believe help is available to those who want it. Rejecting that help is very dangerous. Even then, I think there is room for honest understanding, not just patronizing mercy. Like in Brothers Karamazov when Elder Zosima unapologetically prostrates before Dmitri. Self-destruction is hard to watch. Yet there is hope for their eventual redemption, just as there is for the good people. Unless they are given over to their strong delusions.
So people who are deluded, if their brains aren’t too damaged, are responsible for their own correction by finding, receiving and exercising the right help, assuming it is conceivably available. One has to believe this if he isn’t a determinist. If they aren’t able to recognize and receive the right help, then it’s a statement to how much bad information is out there. One should be able to listen to the still small voice, but I can sympathize with one who listens to the prevailing din instead. Lord have mercy.
And what about disorders and addictions? The argument against these classifications is that it removes responsibility for personal sin. Or that the label deterministically identifies the person and makes them feel too bound to or excused from their sin. Or that it sets people apart as different from ordinary lesser or excuse-less sinners. These are the down sides to the classifications.
But if there are recognizable clusters of behaviors that are associated with a person’s past or genetics (which they are finding are altered by behaviors in recent progenitors), then I think it is helpful to understand what a person is struggling against and what contributed to it. It helps a person honestly and not patronizingly believe they didn’t know what they were doing. Or at least the full extent of it. With regards to myself, I should have known better. But I also think there are things I am currently blind to. And to say I shouldn’t have been blind to them, is there a tiny bit of room to say, I shouldn’t have been poked in the eye? But even the mental health profession doesn’t stop there. They try to implement coping strategies. Yes it is good to understand what happened and why, but not to have a defeatist attitude. It is amazing what therapy can do for physically injured people. If a person’s soul is injured I think the psychiatric community has come up with some good causes, but right now I’m not trusting them for the cure. I want sin called sin, and I want to repent. I also want cause and effect acknowledged.
Regarding the person with disorders and addictions being set apart from ordinary people, that is a bit tricky. Physically damaged people are understood and sympathized with and not made to feel like there is a level playing field that they keep inexcusably losing on. But then there’s wheelchair athletes who would shame lots of us on the field. Sometimes people with disabilities are motivated to try harder. There is a fear that recognizing a disorder or addiction will lead to pampering and too low expectations. And too much blaming. These all should be guarded against. Hurt people hurt people, as the slogan goes. Ultimately we have to blame demons and spiritual forces. But a possessed person should ask for help!