From Sayings of the Desert Fathers:
Abba Poemen said that a brother asked Abba Simon, “If I come out of my cell and find my brother amusing himself, I amuse myself with him; and if I find him in the act of laughing, I laugh with him. Then when I return to my cell, I am no longer at peace.”
The old man said to him, “So, when you come out of your cell and find people laughing or talking, you want to laugh and talk with them; and when you return to your cell, you expect to find yourself as you were before?”
The brother said, “What should I do?”
The old man replied, “Be watchful inwardly; be watchful outwardly.”
I had an experience the other night that reflected this “saying” perfectly. It was late in the evening, and I ended up having a three-way “text” conversation with my daughter and another person. It was amusing, and I enjoyed the interaction with both of them at the time.
But like the brother in the excerpt above, afterwards, I was no longer at peace. It wasn’t that we talked or laughed about anything inappropriate; it’s just that it was so mundane, so worldly. I made a note to myself not to engage in such conversations when I am in my “cell”. My “cell” is a place where I actually have the opportunity to enjoy silence and solitude, and I willingly gave that up for an amusing conversation.
I think also that when we are watchful inwardly and outwardly, we can engage in such amusing conversations, but still maintain peace. That takes some effort, but I believe that if we nurture the “hermitage of our hearts” we can be strengthened to avoid such conversations when we should, and to enjoy them in moderation when it is appropriate to have them.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
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