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There was once a very pious monk with the name John, who spend most of his days in meditation and prayer. He was old, and had a beautiful long, white beard. No one else in the monastery had such a beautiful beard. Now and then, between his bible reading and praying, he used to take out a small mirror from his cupboard, in order to have a closer look on his beard. While he examined it carefully in the mirror, he stroked his hand over the white hairs, and sometimes even went over them with a fine comb, to take away some tangles. John was really proud of his long white beard. On a certain day, when he was again in prayer, he thought of watching his beard again after that he had finished. But then he heard God speaking to him: “Dear John, you are a faithful son, and you please me with your many prayers. The only thing that makes me sad, is that you sometimes think more of your beard than of me.” John felt terribly guilty and ashamed, that he had hurted God with his beard, and he decided to remove it immediately. He took some water, soap and a sharp knife, and cut it off completely. When he looked in the mirror again, his face had changed, and he was pleased that he even had some small wounds from the knife. “Now God will be pleased with me”, he thought with himself. In the weeks that followed, John prayed more intensely and passionately than ever before. Every time he praised God: “O dear Father, thank you for showing me how my beard hindered my spiritual life with you, please accept me now, with my beard shaved off. Anyway it was not such a nice beard in the end, so I am glad I took it off.” After a while in the silence of his meditation he heard God’s voice speaking to him again: “It was useless to cut it off. I see you are still thinking of it all the time.”


The life in a monastery is rather monotonous, so small things are important. For monk John admiring his beard was one of the small pleasures in a day. This rather innocent thing however, became a sin as soon as he started to be proud of it and thought more of his beard than of God. In the eyes of the other monks, John could well have been very respected and esteemed. But he made God sad, because God saw what was in his heart and mind.

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