Are we avoiding our passions?

According to the thought of the desert fathers, "the passions" were the attitudes, desires and actions that keeps us from right relationship with our neighbor, self, world and God. 

Dorotheos said "A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart." Giving way to our passions results in metaphorical suicide of our relationships.


In this season of Lent, we talk about fasting or avoiding the things that keep us from right relationship. Dorotheos continues to say "A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate."

Not a bad situation to be in. Avoiding the passions keep us protected and we are safe. However we are still forced to carry the burden of the heaviness of the breastplate the rest of our life.  

So how are we to live with these passions? We are to uproot them. Dorotheos says, "But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemy's heart." 

Of course we know that we are not to give way to the things that keep us from right relationships but we cannot settle on avoiding the attitudes, desires and actions keeping us from right relationship. We must uproot them.

The thing about uprooting passions is that it is much harder than avoiding because when we uproot our passions we have to allow part of our own selves die with these passions. If we uproot our anger then our desire to be correct will have to die. Uprooting passions takes not only the sweat of the brow but also the blood of our lives. 

A young monk sadly said the following to the holy Poimen: "My body, Abba, has been weakened by ascetic practices, but my passions do not yield." "The passions, my child," answered the wise Father, "are similar to tough thorns; in uprooting them, your hands of necessity bleed." - Source