Fr. Placid ponders St. Benedict’s guidance on Self-Will in the Rule: “The Rule of Benedict has listed as one of the Tools of Good Works in Chapter Four to “hate Self-Will” (RB 4:60). For Benedict, Self-will is always seen as negative. In the RB, anything to do with seeking self-interest would be considered selfish and part of self-will. The cure for self-will is placing oneself under the instruction and obedience of another, and resisting placing our own will above them. This leads to being
liberated from the tyranny of selfishness. It may seem obvious, but self-will and self-interest are in fact usually hidden from the person’s own view without their realizing its tug on the mind and heart.
In these times where individualism is the norm, what Benedict is offering in the Rule is something completely different. How does self-will actually work? When a person tries to angle for better positioning for themselves, it is a form of selfishness. Or begging out of job that may be inconvenient and doing something that seems more worthwhile. These are types of motivation that need to be examined and questioned left and right.
Another more subtle version of self-will is of the ‘passive-aggressive’ or ‘resistant’ variety. This happens by agreeing on the surface to do something, but actually either avoid it or delaying the work for some period. Another way of doing this is doing the work while being angry or upset about it at the same time. This type of interior resistance hinders the person from giving the free gift of themselves while doing the job or assignment.
So how to how combat self-will, self-interest or plain selfishness? These are some of the main ways of doing so: First, we have to accept that due to Original Sin we have it within ourselves to be selfish. Then we have to be aware constantly of how it is operative in us: how selfishness is present in our thoughts, behavior and habits. Finally, in his Rule Benedict exhorts that monks be aware of the Presence of God at all times and base their actions on that Truth.”
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