Don’t Do That

southwest-trip-121A dear friend, who is a Russian monk, was among the earliest Orthodox clergy to visit in our mission in its first two years. Most of my parish had never met a monk, much less one who was as serious in demeanor. My son (now an adult) was then 11 years old and served in the altar. The monk had a simple way of correcting the altar servers (and occasionally parishioners who needed more instruction). His admonition (accompanied by pointing) was: “Don’t do that!” It quickly became a household phrase, sometimes with a Russian accent. It always brought a quick response and the desired obedience (caution – be careful if you try this yourself at home).

The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” is, of course, the Godly maxim given to us all. But familiarity can sometimes make us forget to remember this commandment when it is most needed. In the Desert Fathers I found this small monastic paraphrase of the Rule – it has the ring of “don’t do that.” I hope you find it as effective as my family did.

Desert Hermits taught, “If there is any behavior you dislike in others, avoid it yourself. If you do not like receiving criticism, do not criticize another person. If slander upsets you, do not slander anyone. If you are troubled by aggressive, demeaning people, do not behave that way yourself.”

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.






14 responses to “Don’t Do That”

  1. luciasclay Avatar

    In a similar thought I have heard it said that when you find yourself irritated by someone to stop and think what it is they are trying to teach you. Usually they are teaching how it feels to be on the receiving end of something and then to apply that to yourself as you no doubt do the same thing to others at some point to some degree.

  2. mattyonke Avatar


    Would you bless us with a few words about Philip’s fast?

  3. Margaret Avatar

    As part of preparation for confession I examine what behavior I am irritated by in the family God has given me and — not really to my surprise — I find them among my own sins.

    God bless you, Fr. Stephen!

  4. John Avatar

    I find that I am sometimes led to sin, so that I may experience the joy of repentance again. Is this normal, Father?

  5. Steve Avatar

    We sometimes sin, so that we may experience the joys of repentance again. Is this usual, Father? (I believe it is, according to my interpretation of holy scripture and accounts of the saints – not just the Orthodox ones).

  6. fatherstephen Avatar

    We are never led to sin. James 1:13-14 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

    Repentance should be continual, for it is the right state before God. A broken and contrite heart is the proper state of our heart. We “sin” because we are broken, not in order to repent again.

  7. fatherstephen Avatar


    St. Philip’s fast is another name for the Nativity Fast (Advent) because it begins near the feast of St. Philip. It is similar to Great Lent, but less rigorous. Generally, feasts in Orthodoxy are preceded by fasting, some for as much as forty days (Christmas, Pascha).

  8. Steve Avatar

    In my own experience, it has been the beam in my own eye that made me sin (not the beam in someone else’s).

  9. Steve Avatar

    According to scripture, whatever is not of faith, is sin. Yet without love, there is no life in faith. This is the greatest gift that God gives, both directly and also through the Church.

  10. Karen C Avatar
    Karen C

    Dear Father, bless!

    John, your question reminds me of an aspect of the mystery of our bondage to sin and continual need for repentance that I have ruminated about lately. That is, that I have realized that so long as I entertain a sneaking suspicion somewhere deep in my heart that God’s mercy, forgiveness or acceptance of me depends upon my recovery from some aspect of sin’s disfiguration of me –and this struggle generally revolves around a particular besetting sin or constellation of sins– I will frustrate my desire to be free from it. Thus I will need to repent again (and again, etc.). God help me if somewhere in the reason for the “joy” of my repentance is the entertainment of that sneaking suspicion, for I will certainly then fall again! I know rationally that it is in internalizing the reality that God FREELY extends to us mercy and forgiveness, that we are loosed from sin. I do not have the capability in and of myself to rid myself of that nasty sneaking suspicion which is in and of itself a besetting sin as well, but at least I have identified its lurking presence and am praying for release even from this! Thank the Lord, even our prayers have His help and those of all the Saints.

  11. Karen C Avatar
    Karen C

    Steve, it is certainly my experience that the more I use discernment of sin in another as an impetus to examine myself and not an occasion for judgment of the other that I make true spiritual progress. As a Father Confessor, Fr. Stephen would doubtless have good insight into the flip side of this in terms of silence and non-complaint becoming complicity in another’s sin. There are natural roles whether formal or informal where we do have real spiritual authority (even though still imperfect in our own sin) to correct another. Those are the cases where because of the genuine love and commitment we have to the well-being of another, we have authority to correct it when we perceive another’s or their own sin to be a real and immediate danger to them in some way. I would love to hear the guidelines for reproof of others to which Fr. Stephen adheres in relationships where God has placed him in a position of such responsibility. (Although, if you read much of this blog, you might see it in action.) 🙂

    “Let the just man correct me in mercy, but let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head.”

  12. Moses Avatar

    It’s kind of hard to practice that at home and not get too familiar and lax with how it is practiced.

  13. Steve Avatar

    Thanks Karen, good point. Revelation 22:11 does appear to support a “silence and non-complaint” approach to the “other”:

    “He that hurteth, let him hurt still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is just, let him be justified still: and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still.”

    We are also told in no uncertain terms, that Christ is Faithful and True. I couldn’t agree more with your comments about Father Stephen’s blog. 🙂

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