We continue our review of Book Eight of The Desert Fathers, “Nothing Done for Show.” The following story reveals another aspect of the danger of living by appearances.
The monks praised a brother to Antony. Antony went to him and tested him to see if he could endure being insulted. When he saw that he could not bear it, he said to him, “You are like a house with a highly decorated outside, but burglars have stolen all the furniture by the back door. (8:2)
Often in this post I have written about the importance of receiving compliments without succumbing to pride. But the early Christians also remind us that we must guard against reacting to insults, criticisms, and even times when we are simply overlooked or slighted.
Our souls can be burglarized from the front door by pride, but they can also be robbed through the back door by defensiveness. The ancient story’s use of the back door shows that we can maintain the frontal public appearance while giving in to negativism from behind.
We must guard against looking good “up front” while the backside of our soul is being depleted by bitterness and feelings that we failed to get what we deserve.