For the monk, detachment is another word for inner freedom. One of the paths to this detachment is asceticism. A common pitfall, however, is inadvertently reinforcing our sinful self-will with our ascetic practices. More than one novice has clung to his self-will by resisting the novicemaster’s efforts to curb his overzealous asceticism. A safer and complementary ascetic practice is to recognize and consciously embrace those ascetic dimensions of daily life that typically involve the thwarting of our sinful self-will. Identifying these is fairly easy since they usually register in things like anger, irritation, discouragement, sadness, and misery. This seems to have been how Saint Paul attained his inner freedom as he embraced rather than resisted what he terms humble circumstances, physical hunger, or living in need—none of which he sought. And by using these unsought hardships as ascetic tools, he chipped away at his attachment to his own will. In his newfound freedom he was thus able to say, I have learned in whatever situation I find myself to be self-sufficient. And so, while not abandoning personal asceticism, let us also embrace the unsought ascetic dimensions of daily life and use these frustrations, irritations, and anger to uncover our attachments to self-will. And then, with God’s grace, deny our disordered wills so as to gradually regain our inner freedom, and truly become children of God.
(Philippians 4: 10-19)