Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 26, 2018

Our greatest enemy and obstacle: the enemy within

It is tempting to see this or that as “the problem” in our lives.  If this were different, if that were changed, if not for this obstacle or that person, and on and on – then, ah yes then, my life would be so much better!  But no, not really.  The greatest enemy and obstacle to our greatest happiness is within us.  I am my own worst enemy, and I work at my own defeat using exactly the most deceitful tragedy that you or I could imagine:  we defeat ourselves precisely by loving ourselves the wrong way, and excessively so at that.  Inordinate self-love is at the root of all our misery, and of all of our sin.  It is inordinate self-love, in the end, that keeps us far from God our Savior and Redeemer, God in Whom is our final vocation, and our complete happiness.

Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. has given the Church a great book in his Spiritual Theology.  It can be found on Amazon HERE, and on-line for free access HERE.  A very helpful passage on self-love is below:

Detachment from created things is absolutely indispensable for arriving at Christian perfection, but it would be of little avail to detach oneself from external things if one is not likewise detached from one’s own ego, which constitutes the greatest of all the obstacles to one’s free flight to God. St. Thomas states that egoism or disordered self-love is the origin and root of all sin. St. Augustine says: “Two loves have erected two cities: self-love, carried to the extreme of disdain of God, has built the city of the world; the love of God, carried to the point of disdain for one’s self, has constructed the city of God. The one glories in itself; the other glories in the Lord.”

Precisely because it is the root of all sins, the manifestations of self-love are varied and almost infinite. So far as it affects spiritual things, self-love becomes the center around which everything else must rotate. Some persons seek themselves in everything, even in holy things: in prayer, which they prolong when they find sweetness and consolation in it, but which they abandon when they experience aridity; in the reception of the sacraments, which they seek only for sensible consolation; in spiritual direction, which they consider a note of distinction and in which, therefore, they always seek the director who is most popular, or who will let them live in peace with their egoistic values and selfish aims; in the very desire for sanctification, which they do not subordinate to the greater glory of God and the good of souls, but which they direct to themselves as the best ornament of their souls here on earth and as the source of increased happiness and glory in heaven. We would never finish if we were to attempt to list the manifestations of excessive self-love.

The soul that aspires to perfect union with God must strive energetically against its own self-love, which subtly penetrates even holy things. It must examine the true motive for its actions, continually rectify its intentions, and not place as its goal or the goal of all its activities and efforts anything other than the glory of God and the perfect fulfillment of his divine will. It must keep constantly in mind the decisive words of Christ himself, who makes perfect self-abnegation the indispensable condition for following him: “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps” (Luke 9:23).


  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks for the excerpt from Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. which helps to unmask the enemy within. To love “self” wrongly, i.e. to love “self” more than we love God, keeps us from following Christ. It’s an obstacle we can fail to recognize, because we may not want to see it. May God grant us His Grace to see ourselves as He sees us, in Truth.

    Come Holy Spirit, enlighten our minds and hearts.
    Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
    Jesus Meek and Humble of Heart, make our hearts like Yours.

  2. Thanks Thomas. There is so much to think about….to examine my heart and mind, to keep my life’s focus on God.

  3. Your contribution provokes much reflection on how I am dealing with those issues and what my motivation is for volunteering and doing what I do. Is it for God or is it for me. I will ponder on that for a few days while I prepare for our very Special Easter Vigil Mass. In His love always!

  4. “He must increase, but I must decrease”(John 3:30).
    As John the Baptist said about Jesus, it is well expressed again, Thomas.

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