On Discernment & Fanaticism

Elder Paisius the Athonite

By: Elder Paisius the Athonite

A Christian must not be fanatic; he must have love for and be sensitive towards all people. Those who inconsiderately toss out comments, even if they are true, can cause harm.

I once met a theologian who was extremely pious, but who had the habit of speaking to the (secular) people around him in a very blunt manner; his method penetrated so deeply that it shook them very severely. He told me once: “During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady.” But the way that he said it, crushed her. “Look”, I said to him, “you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads, not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also.”

Let’s not stone our fellow-man in a so-called “Christian manner.” The person who – in the presence of others – checks someone for having sinned (or speaks in an impassioned manner about a certain person), is not moved by the Spirit of God; he is moved by another spirit.

The way of the Church is LOVE; it differs from the way of the legalists. The Church sees everything with tolerance and seeks to help each person, whatever he may have done, however sinful he may be.

I have observed a peculiar kind of logic in certain pious people. Their piety is a good thing, and their predisposition for good is also a good thing; however, a certain spiritual discernment and amplitude is required so that their piety is not accompanied by narrow-mindedness or strong-headedness. Someone who is truly in a spiritual state must possess and exemplify spiritual discernment; otherwise he will forever remain attached to the “letter of the Law”, and the letter of the Law can be quite deadly.

A truly humble person never behaves like a teacher; he will listen, and, whenever his opinion is requested, he responds humbly. In other words, he replies like a student. He who believes that he is capable of correcting others is filled with egotism.

A person that begins to do something with a good intention and eventually reaches an extreme point, lacks true discernment. His actions exemplify a latent type of egotism that is hidden beneath this behavior; he is unaware of it, because he does not know himself that well, which is why he goes to extremes.

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14 Responses to “On Discernment & Fanaticism”


  1. 1 Earl Mahan February 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Well said.

  2. 2 Mary February 6, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    ^Glad you liked it. Thank you, Father.

  3. 3 yourintrepideditor February 12, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing this.

  4. 4 Mary February 12, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    ^You’re welcome. 🙂

  5. 5 Maria Chisnall February 13, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Thank you

  6. 7 Despina February 13, 2011 at 1:25 am

    This is an awesome article…thank you for printing it 🙂

  7. 8 Matthew February 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Is this from a book by or about Elder Paisius?

  8. 9 Mary February 13, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Matthew, the excerpt could be from his book, but I’m not too sure. However, the post above that I have is from the blog (Salt of the Earth). I’ve sourced that blog at the end of the excerpt.

    God Bless!

  9. 10 frontierorthodoxy February 14, 2011 at 9:24 am

    My wife told me about this post. It is beautiful. If I may, with regard to the comparison between a teacher and a student, I think it is possible to teach humbly. I wonder if that part of his quote is contextual in the sense that maybe teachers in his day were much more authoritarian. Just my (maybe not-so-humble?) $.02. Again, this is lovely.

  10. 11 mary c June 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    New to your site – what a treasury of inspiration! Thank you.

  11. 12 Mary June 19, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Hello Mary,
    Thank you very much. I’m always encouraged to post more spiritual texts when I hear things like that. God Bless!

  12. 13 Olive Twist March 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Reblogged this on OLIVE TWIST and commented:
    Be Careful How you Cast Your Crowns- Somebody Could Get Hurt!


  1. 1 Why is there sin in churches?-Church Discipline - Page 2 - Christian Forums Trackback on February 13, 2011 at 10:07 am

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