Dear Father Gregory,
Thank you for these further thoughts. I suspect I may have fallen into the very trap of which you speak - though I was not intentionally seeking a view about my own weaknesses! This indeed illustrates the ease with which Satan can enter our lives and misdirect us.
I think my problem is not so much the specific sins I commit. I too suscribe to the 'God is not an accountant' view, even though I was educated by a priest along precisely those lines - a spiritual bank balance. No, my point is slightly different. My personal training over many years has given me plenty of stock answers for common questions. I can usually anticipate the advice being offered for common problems, both spiritual and as a health professional. The example of humility that I used, and continue with here, illustrates how difficult it is to separate sincerity from vanity, and it is this kind of distinction that besets us all the time.
This happens in many areas of life. For example, to carry out care work one is usually required to wear some form of uniform. This (inter alia) is to identify you to those for whom you care, but it can so easily become a badge that not only separates you from them, but also engenders the notion of superiority. The same can be true of clerical garb and vestments, and it must be extremely hard for clergy to guard against such temptations, especially when the laity insist on placing them on a pedestal. One may ask: how does the 'Servant of the servants of God' demonstrate servitude when clothed in magnificent vestments?
Jesus didn't have such clothing as far as we know - He had the simple robes of His culture. He managed to show how to serve, as well as how to lead and teach, purely by his words and behaviour. He showed no affectations, and did not show off that He was God. His claim to Godhead was clear, His claim to Kingship was clear, but He also allowed Himself to be truly humble. I am constantly reminded of Him washing the feet, and I cannot imagine myself doing that without thinking that I am impressing someone who is watching!
It is guarding against such insidious activity by Satan that I find so hard. Simply being aware of it is not enough for me. I am constantly asking Jesus to send Satan away, and find the Jesus prayer so helpful in this regard. I wonder what others find helpful in this quest that we all have for rejection of the Devil - not only in matters of humility which I have used as an example, but in all the other aspects of life which are potential minefields: rest and leisure/sloth, earning money and goods/acquisitiveness, etc. The more ideas the better.
With love and prayers,