Living Dead to the Opinions of Others

This story comes from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian and said, “Abba, give me a word that I may be saved.” (All we want is a word sometimes. We’re not into actually acting out. Just give me a pill.)

The abba said to go to the tombs and abuse the dead. So off the young guy goes. He throws rocks at the tombs and insults the dead. He came back the next day to the abba.

“Didn’t they say anything to you?”


The abba said to go back to the tombs. This time the young man was to praise the dead. Off the young man goes and shouts praises to the tombs.

He came back to the abba and said, “I have complimented them.”

“Did they not answer you?” the abba asked.


The abba responded, “You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.”