pay attention to yourself!

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, Abba John of Beersheba asked a younger friend to do something and it had not been done quickly enough to satisfy him.  He duly reprimanded his friend, who then became upset at the rebuke.

Frustrated and angered by this response, Abba John wrote a letter to Barsanuphius, β€œThe Great Old Man,” expressing his irritation and adding that he had decided that was it, he would never say anything to anybody again!

In his first response to John, Barsanuphius was gentle and indirect:  "This generation is soft and delicate; you will find it hard to discover a man with a tough heart."

John caught the quiet rebuke and moved to blunt it by readily admitting that he was the architect of most of his troubles:  "I know, father," he wrote back to Barsanuphius, "that these things happen to me because of my sins and that I am a fool and that all my troubles are my own fault."  

But Barsanuphius saw right through him.  "You call yourself a sinner and yet you do not believe this, judging from what you do," he fired back. "A man who holds that he is a sinner and the cause of his own troubles does not go round contradicting people and fighting them and getting angry with them."  

The Great Old Man concluded his letter with the classic monastic admonition:  "Pay attention to yourself, brother: this is not the truth."