Once we went to one of the Elders and asked him saying:
`If someone has a thought and sees himself defeated and reading for many times what the Fathers said about such a thought like that he tries to do those and he can`t, so what is better: to confess to one of the Elders his thought or to try alone to do what he read and be content with his knowledge?`
The Elder said:
`He must confess it to the one who may help him and mustn`t put his trust in himself, because he can`t help himself and he will be overwhelmed even more powerfully by passions.
When I was young this happened to me : I had a spiritual passion and I was defeated by it. He heard that abba Zinon healed many who suffered that, I wanted to go and confess it to him. Satan stopped me saying to me that as long as I knew what to do, I should have done what I read and shouldn`t go to bother the Elder.
When I was ready to go to confess it to him, my war left me from the cunning of the devil so that I wouldn`t go. After I decided not to go I felt again being overwhelmed by the passion. The enemy attacked me like this for a long time not letting me to confess to the Elder.
Many times I went to the Elder wanting to tell him my thought and the enemy didn`t let me bringing shame into my heart and saying:
`As long as you know how to heal, why would you need to confess to anyone? You take care of yourself. You know how the Fathers said. This is what the enemy brought me for not showing to the doctor my passion and for not being healed.
The Elder knew I had thoughts but he didn`t show it waiting for me to confess them. He taught me about the righteous life and let me free. Then I told myself crying:
Until when wretched soul of mine you don`t want to get healed?
Others come from afar to the Elder and they are healed and you are ashamed and having the doctor close you don`t want to get healed?
Then setting my heart on fire I got up and told myself that if I went to the Elder and didn`t find anyone there I would know that it is the will of God to confess my thoughts. So going there I didn`t find anyone. The Elder taught me as usual about the salvation of my soul and how someone could get rid of the dirty thoughts. Being ashamed and not confessing wanted to go away and the Elder got up and said a prayer and accompanied me to the entrance door. I was fought by thoughts whether to confess to the Elder or not and I was walking slowly after him.
Then the Elder turned around and seeing me fought by thoughts hit me gently in my chest and told me:
`What`s wrong with you? I am a man too.
If the Elder told me that word he showed me my heart was open for him and I fell down on my knees before him and asked him with tears and said: Have mercy on me.
He asked me:
`What do you have?
I told him:
`Don`t you know what I have?`
He told me:
You must tell me what you have.`
I confessed my passion with a great shame.
He told me:
`Why are you so ashamed to confess? Am I not a man myself? But do you want me to tell you what I know? Aren`t three years since you have had these thoughts and coming here you didn`t confess them?
Then I confessed and knelt down and asked him saying :
`Have mercy on me for God`s sake and tell me what to do.`
`Go and don`t be idle in your prayer and don`t slander anyone.
Going to my cell and not being idle at prayer with the gift of Christ and with the prayers of the Elder I had not been bothered by that passion anymore.
So passing a year I had a thought like this :
`Didn`t it happen to receive mercy from God for His mercy and not for the Elder`s intercession? When this came into my mind I went to him wanting to tempt him and taking him away I took a bow and said:
`Pray for me father for the thought I confessed to you once.
He left me staying at his feet and keeping quiet for a moment told me:
`Stand up and have trust in me.`
When I heard these I wanted to see myself being buried in the ground because of shame and standing up I could not look at the Elder and being amazed and afraid I went to my cell.
Excerpt from the Egyptian Patericon – Abba Zinon.