There is no greater validation to our ego than for someone to copy our ideas or behaviors. If a man wants to get drunk at a party, he will aggressively convince others to get drunk as well so that his drunkenness is validated and his conscience silenced (i.e., “Since everyone else is doing it, my drinking can’t be that bad”). Ironically, the people who are living the most sordid lives are most forceful in persuading others to do the same, because without social conformity, the truth of their sinful behavior would be too painful to bear, but it’s this persuasion that, like crabs in a bucket, drag others down into the abyss. I was reminded of this recently when trying to get rid of an ant infestation.

My mother notified me that she had ants around her kitchen window. They didn’t seem to be doing any harm, and I wanted to let them be, but she insisted that they must be eliminated for her well-being. I bought an ant trap, placed it where the ants congregated, and waited. It didn’t take long for the first ant to come feed on the poison. Through his pheromonal faculty, he informed other ants of the “free food” and his brethren also came to feed. A grand feast ensued. Many ants took home “to-go” containers of poison to ensure that the entire hive was eliminated within only a couple of days, much to my mother’s joy.

Secular people who live in sin, and who require constant social validation to soothe their conscience, behave like the doomed ants. They feast on sex, drugs, entertainment, travel, pop music, and other worldly behaviors, and then try to convince others with a loud voice to do the same to feel assured that their lifestyle is “normal” or “correct.” They think, “How can it be wrong if all my friends are doing it?” I have done this to an untold number of men when I idolized fornication, telling them that those who didn’t enslave themselves to the flesh were “losers,” but it’s to one man I professed game advice that causes me grief to this day.

I knew this young man personally, and he was a virgin who didn’t want to be a virgin anymore. Because in my blindness I thought virginity was a cursed state instead of the angelic blessedness that it really is, I was methodical in giving him demonic advice on how to lose his virginity with a female acquaintance. My words worked, and not only did he lose his virginity, but the woman he slept with lost her virginity, too. I served as an intermediary of Satan to help them begin a fall into hell. If you want to be nice, you can argue that it “would have happened anyway,” but it’s quite possible that it would not, so I beat my chest knowing that I poisoned the young man and woman by acting as a guru in iniquity. Several years have since passed, and as of this writing, neither of them has turned to Lord Jesus Christ.

“Then He said to the disciples, ‘It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.'” —Luke 17:1-2

It’s easier to give advice as a false guru than as an Orthodox Christian. In the former, you simply want others to do what you already decided to do—to get drunk at the party, obsess about your body muscularity, or meet loose women from internet apps, and if they show hesitation, you insult, mock, and shame them until they make your sin their own. As an Orthodox Christian, however, you come to an understanding of your blindness, and simply don’t know what God has in store for others and how He is arranging the course of their life. If you speak from your fallen mind and give advice that conflicts with God’s will, you can damage their soul and set them back months, years, or even eternity.

Unless someone’s situation is painfully obvious, such as they are not in the Lord’s Church or are engaging in heavy sins, I will not tell the person what to do, and instead pray that God enlightens them. Since I am not purified, there is poison still within me, and it’s far easier to share that poison to feel a temporary sense of relief or pride than to keep it contained within a soul that I thoroughly damaged through the improper use of my free will. Even for the matters that I feel certain about, like not eating seed oils, is my advice actually helping or merely making people unnecessarily neurotic and earthly?

“A truly humble person never behaves like a teacher; he will listen, and, whenever his opinion is requested, he responds humbly. In other words, he replies like a student. He who believes that he is capable of correcting others is filled with egotism.” —Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

A sign you are beginning to love God and your neighbor is this: you don’t proudly display your sins, passions, and worldly attachments in the hope that others copy you. Instead of feeling validated when a friend takes your recommendation to watch a Hollywood movie, listen to your favorite rap album, use a popular social media site, or go to the hip new bar that opened in town, you instead wonder if you hurt your friend with something that will compete with their love for God. It is better to shut your mouth when you feel the urge to preach your love for one of Satan’s toys, for something worldly that does not implicitly or explicitly lead others on a path of self-denial and love of Lord Jesus Christ within His Church, the Orthodox Church, the safe deposit of truth.

Please don’t ask me for advice. I cannot help you, because I can hardly help myself. I don’t know what is best for you. Examine all my words—including the ones in this article—with a microscope to ensure that it doesn’t conflict with what the Orthodox Church and its saints teach. I don’t know how you can find a spouse, I don’t know where you should live, and I don’t know how you should prepare for the tribulations to come. If I say a word on these issues, I’m speaking through a damaged soul, a bullhorn that emits distorted sound, and will impart to you—consciously or not—bits of poison that I have ingested in my shameful years as a man who coveted the flesh. Instead, seek first the Kingdom of Heaven through the Church, ask guidance from the Orthodox priests and elders who are trained to help you and have the special grace of tonsure or ordination, and stay away from the worldly gurus who are all too eager to give advice that, at best, leads to missteps that cost you valuable time, but which at worst will lead you to an eternity of lament.

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