GIVING ACCOUNT OF ONESELF
THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING ACCOUNT OF ONESELF
One needs very often to sit with himself:
gives account of himself and searches his inner self, observes his be-
haviour and settles accounts, so he would be in continual wakefulness. This
self control and observation are necessary for everyone, no matter how el-
evated his spiritual life may be and no matter how high his position is. There-
fore St Paul the Apostle wrote to his disciple Timothy the Bishop saying:
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1Tim 4:16).
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Therefore the devil tries with all strength to prevent the spiritual person from sitting with himself, and he also prevents the sinner...
How easy it is to present
many distractions, the importance of which
would occupy all his time and control his feelings. And if the spiritual per-
son was attached to the Kingdom of God, the devil can keep him busy with
service and its needs till service occupies him and he will never settle down
to think about his mistakes within the service. It is like the older brother
who did not rejoice for the return of his brother and said to his father: “Lo,
these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment
at any time, and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with
my friends!” (Lk 15:29). There is no doubt that this son who served all these
years, if he sat with himself, would have discovered his many wrong do-
ings, whether in his dealings or in his manner of speaking or in his love to
his brother and his respect to his father...
Therefore blessed son, do not let the preoccupation of service stop you from sitting with yourself, and giving an account of yourself.
not service, sometimes, stop you from praying, reading and con-
templating?! Don’t you sometimes while serving, think of yourself more
highly than you ought to (Rom 12:3). Don’t you sometimes, while serving,
fall into the sin of judging others and at times with a cruel heart, under the pretence of defending the truth?!... And so many more... Sit with yourself
and examine it for fear of saying: “...Lest, when I have preached to others, I
myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27). Or lest you hear the Lord’s
saying to Martha: “...You are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed” (LK 10:41,42).
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You need to sit with yourself to know your mistakes...
Whether they are mistakes of the tongue, the thought, the senses, feelings of the heart or mistakes of the body... in order to know your mistakes against God, against people and also against yourself...
Nevertheless, to study your constant characteristics that have not changed... It is also to know the sins that are disguised in the form of virtues and you may be proud of them!! Sit, my brother, with yourself and remember the saying of the Great St Macarius:
“Judge yourself, my brother, before they judge you...”
HOW TO GIVE ACCOUNT OF YOURSELF
Let giving account of yourself be open and serious.
The devil may try to interfere by one of two ways:
Either he will say to you: ‘Do not exaggerate in judging yourself, lest you suffer from a sense of guilt.’
Or he may say to you: ‘Beware of being cruel towards yourself, lest you suffer from depression.’
The devil is not honest in his advice because he wants to keep you from convicting yourself. Remember here the saying of the great St Anthony: “If we remember our sins, God will forget them, and if we forget our sins, God will remember them.” Remember also the saying of the Prophet David in his Psalm of repentance: “My sin is ever before me” (Ps 51).
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This is because the devil may say to you: ‘Why do you remember your sins when they have been cleansed by the Honoured Blood?!”
will remain cleansed as long as we live a repentant life, regretting
what we have done with a contrite heart. David the Prophet continued to
drench his couch with his tears because of his sins, even after he was for-
given and Nathan said to him: “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not
die” (2 Sam 12:13). So too with Saul of Tarsus, after he received God’s call
and became an Apostle and laboured more abundantly than them all (1 Cor
15:10). He said with a contrite heart: “For I am the least of the apostles, who am
not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor
not this sin been forgiven and cleansed by the Honoured Blood!
But he still remembered it and convicted himself for it. He also says in his
First Epistle to his disciple Timothy: “Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a
persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in
unbelief” (1 Tim 1:13). Yet, in spite of this, he still remembered and convicted
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When you examine yourself, beware also of searching for excuses and justifications...
may give account of yourself and realize your mistakes. So far, the
grace would have worked in you. Then the devil would come to make you
lose the work of the grace and keep you far from regret, contrition and self-
rebuke. He would offer you excuses and justifications to cover your sin, as
he did with our father Adam and our mother Eve... Beware of these excuses
that falsely acquit one self in order to lighten the burden of guilt...!
If you truly love the self
that God has given you, do not deprive your-
self of feelings of repentance, regret and contrition; this will benefit you noth-
ing. On the contrary, you might depend on excuses for continuing to make
mistakes. Remember always the saying of the Apostle: “Therefore you are
inexcusable, O man” (Rom 2:1), and again, “Blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matt 23:24).
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If you found excuses for yourself because there were external obstacles that stopped you from taking the road of virtue, tell yourself ‘I should have fought to overcome these obstacles.’
the righteous Noah who lived in a very corrupt generation so
that God destroyed it with the flood. And in spite of that, Noah kept him-
self in the faith and was not affected by the environment surrounding him.
And the righteous Joseph who was tempted by sin daily, yet in spite of that,
he said his immortal phrase: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin
against God?” (Gen 39:9). And for refusing sin, he endured imprisonment and
and the three young men were threatened to be cast into the midst
of a burning fiery furnace or into the lion’s den. But such a threat did not
ever make them turn from the fear of God. And this is the endurance and
faith all the martyrs and confessors have had when faced with persecution
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Only internal weaknesses surrender to external pressures.
Convict yourself by this
phrase and say : ‘I must be strong within in
order to overcome all the wars, no matter how severe.’ Let the saying of St
Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews convict you: “You have not yet resisted to
blood-shed, striving against sin” (Heb
12:4). Therefore, when you give account
of yourself, do not say, I was weak and sin was stronger. But remember
how the righteous Joseph was victorious over sin. Do not say the command-
ment was hard and I couldn’t carry it out!! But remember how Abraham
took his only son, the one he loved, to offer him as a burnt offering (Gen 22).
Remember stories from the Bible about overcoming obstacles:
Remember the friends of the paralytic who, when they could not come near Jesus because of the crowd, they did not give up. They made a hole in the roof and let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying (Mk 2:4). Remember also the temptations that were offered to David to kill King Saul who was chasing him, and how David said: “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord” (1 Sam 24:6).
When giving account of yourself, consider excuses as pampering your
Like the Shulamite in the
Song of Solomon who did not open for the
Lord, whose head was covered with dew and his locks with the drops of the
night. She said: “I have taken off my robe, how can I put it on again? I have
washed my feet, how can I defile them?” The Lord did not accept her excuse but turned away and was gone. When she was crushed by torment, she then said: “I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer” (Song 5:2-6).
Do not be like the servant who was given the one talent then hid it in the ground, and to find an excuse for himself, he said evil words to his master who in turn reproached him (Mt 25:24-28).
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Many are those who sinned then gave excuses that were all unaccept-
Like King Saul when he
offered a burnt offering (1 Sam 13:11,12) and
the Prophet Jonah who, because of God’s righteousness was angry, even to
death (Jon 4:1-3) And like Elijah when he feared Jezebel and ran for his life
(1 Kings 19:1,14).
Like those also is the one
who would break his fasting and when his
conscience convicts him he uses the excuse of poor health. And the one who
would break the commandment of the tithes and when he gives account of
himself he would use his financial situation as an excuse. The same with
the one who fails to fulfil his vows... David did not find an excuse for him-
self “when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock”, but he went out
after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth (1 Sam 17:34,35)...
And if David excused himself from saving the lamb, we would have found
his excuse acceptable!! His conscience, however, was stronger...
Many are those who sin and instead of blaming themselves, put the blame on the church to find excuses for themselves!!
may say: ‘the church did not miss me! My confession father does
not care about me! I could not find a guide to show me the way! Where are
the fathers?! Where is the work of the clergy?!’ And none of them would
say: The mistake was obvious and my conscience convicted me, but I was disobedient...!
Anthony the Great was alone in the wilderness, without a guide, and
he persevered on the right path and did not take the lack of guidance as an
excuse... And so did St Paul the Hermit and others who are among the great
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When you give account of yourself, it is better to judge and convict yourself.
It is of more benefit for you than justifying yourself and putting the blame on others... How beautiful was the answer of the father of the Nitria Mount when Pope Theophilus asked him about the best virtues that they have mastered in their life of solitude. He replied: “Believe me, my father, there is no better virtue than for one to blame himself in everything...”
As for obstacles, they are not to be used as an excuse, but an opportunity for training oneself to resist them and pray that God may give the grace to overcome them.
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Giving account of oneself is followed by self-conviction then remedying of oneself.
Then all these weaknesses are used as an opportunity for spiritual training, spiritual struggle and prayer. They would also be mentioned in confession and when asking for wise counsel...
weaknesses would also be a reason for self-humility and abstain-
ing from thoughts about vain glory whenever one is tempted after doing a
And so these weaknesses become a reason for having pity on sinners instead of condemning them. As St Paul the Apostle said: “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also” (Heb 13:3).
Give account of your
negative actions and also of the virtues that you
lack. Do likewise with any hindrance in your spiritual growth. Here, you
put before you the saying of St Paul the Apostle: “... But I press on, that I may
lay hold of that... Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to
those things which are ahead, I press towards the goal” (Phil 3:12-14). Consider
what caused the hindrance of your growth - are they internal or external
WHEN DOES GIVING AN ACCOUNT OF ONESELF TAKE PLACE
One question remains, which
is: When do we give account of our-
Some give account of
themselves on special occasions, such as in the
new year, or on their birthday. Some prefer to give account of themselves
before each confession and partaking of Holy Communion. What is better
than both these two is giving account of yourself at the end of each day, and
the best of all is giving account of oneself and convicting oneself immedi-
ately after the deed...
However, the ideal is when you give account of yourself before committing the deed.
For example, before you
utter a word, ask yourself: Is it fit for me to
say this word? What would its effect be on others? Would some under-
stand it differently, from my intention? And so if you find a mistake, you
avoid it before it happens... The same with every action and every thought.
doing that, you progress towards perfection, and may God be with
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