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Step 20

ON EFFEMINATE TIMIDITY.

1. He who chooses a monastery, or community of God’s servants, wherein to live in the exact observance of all religious duties, is not commonly assailed by timidity and fear. But he who has embraced the eremitical life in a desert, is obliged to combat this vice of timidity, an offshoot of vainglory, and the daughter of infidelity, with all his might, lest it subject him to its tyranny.

2. Timidity is a habit of childish fear, which seizes upon and takes possession of the soul of him that is the slave of vainglory. It is a want of faith and confidence in God, which makes us anticipate evils that are neither to be feared nor expected.

3. Fear is a deceptive foresight, a vain apprehension of imaginary perils. Or it may be termed a trembling of the heart, brought on by the dread of certain evil, with the reality of which, though very uncertain, it is deeply affected. Fear is the want of assurance even in things the most certain.

4. The slave of pride is the slave of fear, and the vain confidence which such a person has in his own strength, at best but that of a shaken reed, makes him dread the least noise or even shadow of creatures.

5. Those who lament not their sins, who in contempt of Divine Justice are insensible to everything that regards their salvation, are not, indeed, subject to fear. Nevertheless God permits that even they should sometimes be struck with sudden and extraordinary terror, through which they fall into complete trepidation and confusion of mind. This we might reasonable expect. For it is but right that God, who is infinitely just, should abandon the proud, that others by their example may be deterred from this pernicious vice.

6. All who are timid are vain. But all who are not timid are not humble, since robbers, and those who plunder churchyards, though not always timid, are very far from being humble.

7. When you feel in certain localities a sensation of fear, put on a determination to go there during the night. For if you yield ever so little to this childish and ridiculous timidity, it will continue with you longer than you wish. But when you enter these places that inspire you with dread, fortify yourselves by prayer. Extend your arms in this holy exercise, and begin the combat by invoking the sacred name of Jesus. You can find no better weapons in heaven or on earth. When delivered from this sickly fear, sing a canticle of thanksgiving to your Saviour. For gratitude will ensure to you His unfailing help and protection.

8. As we do not satiate the appetite in a moment, so neither can we instantly overcome our timidity. It withdraws, however, the more rapidly in proportion as we advance in the path of penance. But as long as our tears are pent up our souls remain timid.

9. “When a spirit passed before me, the hair of my flesh stood up,”1 said Eliphaz to Job, in relating to him the malicious artifices of the devil. At one time the body, at another the soul, receives the first impression of fear, and they mutually communicate their impressions and feelings. If the soul, when the senses are struck by some vain apprehension, remains undisturbed, it is evident that it has been cured of this malady. But when, with true contrition of heart, we meet with a humble and firm confidence in God, all the unforeseen events that may befall us, it is a certain sign that our restoration is perfect.

10. It is neither the obscurity of the place, nor the horror of solitude, which enables demons to trouble us with fear; no, it is the dryness and sterility of our souls. Sometimes it is even a secret mercy and providence of God, who abandons us to this temptation, that we may learn to put our trust and confidence in Him alone.

11. He who is the servant of God fears Him alone who is his Supreme Master. But he who has not this fear will often dread even his own shadow.

12. When the devil is present, though invisibly, the body trembles. But if an angel is present, the soul of the humble is filled with joy. Hence we run immediately to pour forth our blithesome hearts in prayer. For we believe that the heavenly spirit, appointed to be our guardian, has come to unite his prayers with ours.


  1. Job iv. 15.



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Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
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