After the lengthy section on self-control, the Verba Seniorum has an even longer section dealing with Lust. The early desert fathers and mothers acknowledged that it was arguably the major temptation to be faced in a life of solitude and silence—the place where self-control was severely tested. Whatever else this means, it is a way of recognizing the close connection between spirituality and sexuality. The misuse of either contaminates the other.
A reading of the section makes it clear that these monks and nuns made frequent and fervent confession of their temptation of lust. John Cassian’s general counsel was simply, “It is good not to hide our thoughts.” (DF, Book 5, 3).
Secrecy was (and is) a greater danger than lust, and most other sins, for that matter. Christian counsel says it plainly, “Don’t hide it.” What we hide becomes like a termite in our soul. Others may not be able to see it or hear it, but the hidden thing “eats away” at our authenticity and vitality.
We live by such a preference for image and appearance that we often let things go undetected until they have destroyed us and others. Our predecessors saw this reluctance as nothing other than pride. They made no pretense about their struggles. They turned to one another in honesty, asking for help.
Charles Wesley captured the same sentiment in his hymn I Want a Principle Within when he wrote, “If to the right or left I stray, that moment, Lord reprove.” God provides immediate conviction. But we must provide quick confession. This is God’s way of enabling us to deal with our demons, whatever they may be.