I came across this fantastic excerpt on “Impudence* and Lack of Respect” from Saint Paisios of Mount Athos’ book With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man. (I have not read this book. If you have please send me an email.)
The excerpt is a Q&A with Saint Paisios on boldness, simplicity, and what it means to be spiritually reserved.
What causes us to speak boldly and without reserve? Where is boldness (parrhesia) from?
From Paris…This kind of speech betrays impudence; it drives away the fear of God in us, much like smoke will drive bees away from the beehive.
How can I avoid such boldness?
You must feel that you are beneath everybody else. This takes a lot of humility. Being the youngest here, you must have respect and reverence for all the Sisters. State your thoughts with humility and avoid appearing as if you know everything. God will then be blessing you with His Grace and you will be making good progress. Outspoken boldness is the novice’s worst enemy because it takes away reverence. Usually, such boldness results in rebellion and, then, one starts becoming insensitive and indifferent to small sins until gradually they become a habit and second nature; but deep inside the soul cannot find rest and is filled with anxiety. It is then difficult to understand one’s condition because the heart is smeared with grime and cannot feel the wrong turns it is making.
What is the relationship between simplicity and boldness?
There is a very clear difference between the two. Simplicity entails reverence and has a child-like quality. But the mark of boldness is audacity.
Sometimes, a person who is candid and frank will also be impudent. When we are not careful, straightforwardness and simplicity may end up harboring impudence. We say, for instance, “I am a straight arrow,” or “I am a plain person,” and, without realizing it, we put a lot of impudence in our words. It’s one thing to be plain; it’s another to be impudent.
What is it to be spiritually reserved?
It is to have the fear of God in the good sense of the word. This fear and sense of awe brings gladness and sweetness to the heart; it begins to drip with honey, of the spiritual kind!
You see a little child who is reserved and out of respect for his father, will not even look at him in the eyes. When he goes close to him to ask for something, he blushes! That’s the kind of child you want to place on the iconostasis! And then you have a child that will think, “He is my father after all,” and with that in mind, he will put on airs and act out. And when he wants something, he demands it with tantrums and threats.
In a good family, the children will usually move about with a sense of freedom. They will have respect for the parents, without being overly reserved and afraid of speaking out – discipline is not rigid as in the military. The children enjoy their parents and the parents enjoy their children. “Love does not know shame.” Saint Isaac the Syrian says, “Love has courage in the good sense of the word. It has reverence and devotion and so it wins over fear.”
1 not showing due respect for another person.