Insults are Free!

“Once there was a disciple of a renowned Greek philosopher who was handed an odd assignment. He was commanded by his Master to give money to everyone who insulted him for a period of three years. Wanting very much to achieve spiritual awakening, this student did exactly what he was told. Every time he was insulted, he gave money to the person who insulted him, no matter how galling the experience was.

When this rather lengthy trial was over, the Master summoned the young man to his quarters and said to him: ‘Now you can go to Athens, for you are ready to learn wisdom.’

The disciple was elated, and he set off for Athens. Just before he entered the great city, however, he saw a certain wise man sitting at the gate insulting everybody who came and went. Naturally, the moment this fellow saw the disciple he insulted him, too.

‘Hey!’ he cried out to the student, ‘How did you get to be so ugly and stupid? I have never before seen anyone as ridiculous looking as you.’

But instead of taking offense, the disciple just burst out laughing.

‘Why do you laugh when I insult you?’ asked the wise man.

‘Because,’ said the disciple, ‘for three whole years I have been paying for this kind of thing and now you give it to me for NOTHING!’

‘Enter the city,’ said the wise man. ‘It is all yours.'”

—Ward, Benedicta. tr. “The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.” Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1984.

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