Self-Will by Bro Duncan PBGV

The second step of humility is ‘not to love one’s own will nor delight in fulfilling one’s own desires’ etc (RB 7. 31–33). That is pretty hard for a dog, especially a scent hound like me. After all, nature made us brilliant hunting machines, designed to wear down anything tasty that strays across our path. When not out and about exploring, we like to snooze in warm places, scratch, and lick our privates in public. We have one ear for whatever is going on around us, and another for ignoring the voice of so-called authority. In short, we are all instinct and love to do what we jolly well pleasey. Unfortunately, living in a monastery poses a few difficulties.

BigSis says it’s not our will that’s the problem but the way we use it, while LittleSis says it’s self-indulgence makes us selfish. I think that means my instincts are O.K. but I need to think about my behaviour. It’s probably acceptable to chase a rabbit in a field ‘cos that’s what I was bred for, but it is not acceptable to chase next door’s cat (sigh). I can plead for an extra bikkie or two with my soulful expression, but I mustn’t sneak them from the biscuit jar because they aren’t mine. I can hog the warm spot in front of the woodburner, but it would be kinder to let BigSis and LittleSis share a little of the warmth.

All this is quite taxing for my poor brain, but I think I understand why St Benedict says this is a form of humility. After mindfulness of God comes mindfulness of self in relation to others. What I want to do isn’t necessarily the best thing I could do, and what’s good for me isn’t always good for others. So, the next time I’m tempted to chase next door’s cat, or ignore Them when They are calling me, I’ll think again and try to put the second degree of humility into practice — if I remember, of course. I have a forgettery rather than a memory, but I can’t help that, can I?


Dunc xx