A Lesson from the Dead

st macariusA brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian and said to him, ‘Abba, give me a word, that I might be saved.’ So the old man said to him, Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.’

The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, ‘Didn’t they say anything to you?’

He replied, ‘No.’

The old man said, ‘Go back tomorrow and praise them.’So the brother went away and praised them, calling them apostles, saints, and righteous men. He returned to the old man and said to him, ‘I have complimented them.’

And the old man said to him, ‘Did they not answer you.’ The brother shook his head no. Then Abba Macarius said to him, ‘You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.’


~Abba Macarius lived during the fourth century. Many of his lessons have inspired me to not focus on people pleasing, which has been a struggle for me in the past. While an encouraging word can motivate me to continue in the work of God, I think it is easy to base what I do on the amount of encouragement that I receive. That encouragement has even subconsciously caused me to get involved with unnecessary activities because I was feeding off of the positive feelings from others.

*The above story is from Sayings of the Desert Fathers as translated by Benedicta Ward.

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