Which monk are you?
The following story is a repost from my 2011 blog post here
Four monks took a vow of silence.
When night came, one of them said, “Fix the lamps.”
The second replied, “We are not supposed to speak.”
The third said, “Stupid fools! Why did you talk?”
The fourth said to himself in silence, “I am now the only one who has not spoken.”
At each level of escalation, there is a greater break with the spirit of the vow; the fourth monk, who alone keeps the outward appearance of silence, is actually the worst offender because he breaks his silence in the interior recesses of himself — and breaks it in order to entertain self-congratulating pride.
Therein lies the danger of legalism.
There is a tendency to think that, because we keep the commandments and obey the laws of the Church, we are superior somehow to all of those sinners out there.
We stand and look at the outwardly visible sins of others in the smug conviction that we are the good, the righteous, the upright.
Of course, the very moment that we think this we fall into the worst of sins: spiritual pride. – Melinda Selmy
It’s a brilliant story. So which monk are you?
If you just thought highly of yourself for being more like the first, second or third monk instead of the fourth, you just become the fourth.
If you just congratulated yourself for not being any of these four, you just became the fourth.
How easy and common it is to become the fourth.
There is also likely to be a fifth monk. It’s the monk that says, after seeing the failure of the other four monks, “that’s why I don’t even make such attempts at goodness when I am bound to fail at it.”
The fifth believes that such goodness is too hard (perhaps impossible) to achieve, so why bother to try.