A person who is not aware of the seriousness of his own sins, will lose the fear of God, but who is meticulous in examining himself will be aware of his own sins and their seriousness, and the fear of God will never quit his heart. We can attain the fear of God if we examine ourselves with respect to every act, every word, every thought, and every sense, with all accuracy, not giving ourselves excuses. Fear leads to strictness, and strictness to fear, and each of them gives strength to the other. Strange enough that we judge the others strictly for their faults against us, but do not judge ourselves with the same strictness, or rather we do not judge ourselves at all!
If you really want to attain the fear of God which is the beginning of the spiritual way, for “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9: 10), you have to examine yourself every day, what you have done or said or thought of. This is what St. Arsanius the Great did every day. You ought not to examine yourself only with respect to the passive actions you did, but also for the positive things you neglected to do. You will find yourself light on the scales (Ps 62: 9). As a spiritual person you ought to judge yourself even for not growing, for a person is required to lead a life of holiness, as the Lord says, “And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy.” (Lev 20: 26)
A spiritual person is also required to lead a life of perfection, for the Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) So when a person finds a long distance between him and holiness or perfection, he will rebuke himself and the fear of God will enter into his heart. A beginner fears to sin, but a righteous person fears not to have yet fulfilled all that is required for righteousness, recalling the words of the Scripture: “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (Jas 4: 17) In such a way he blames himself not only for a sin he did, but for a righteous act he has not done, and he asks himself continually whether he is able to do more or not; whether he is able to struggle more to press toward the goal as St. Paul used to do (Phil 3: 13).
Whoever has the fear of God will not only fear sinning, but will struggle to grow in God’s love without limits. He will not be strict only in examining himself but will also be strict in his confessions. A person may lose the fear of God if he does not say everything in his confessions, or if he justifies himself, blames the others, or thinks himself standing before the father priest only not before God. Actually a person while confessing his sins is confessing to the priest, but receiving absolution from the Holy Spirit on the mouth of the priest. However, some people feel ashamed before the father confessors, while they ought to be ashamed before God, for we say in the Psalm, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” (Ps 51)
Justifying oneself at the time of confession or at any time is an evidence of the lack of the fear of God in the heart. Do not then try to justify yourself or make little of matters, or give another name to sin making light its awfulness, or give yourself excuses. Remember the words of the Father of Nataria Mount, the Holy Pope Theophilus: ‘To attain the fear of God nothing is better than blaming oneself for everything and putting before oneself continually the words of the Lord in the Revelation, “I know your works.” (Rev 2, 3)’ These words are repeated seven times in the Revelation when the Lord said them to each of the angels of the seven churches. Would that every one puts these words before him, and be aware that he will hear them from God when he stands before Him, not only on the Day of Judgment but all the time from that moment! This will bring fear of God into the heart. We should be aware that all the sins which we hid from people to keep our dignity are well known to God. We should recall the words of St. Macarius the Great to a sinner whose sins the saint had covered, ‘Judge yourself, brother, before they judge you.’ Examine yourself and judge yourself, for nothing hidden but will be revealed. Since God knows your works, confess to Him and ask Him power to repent.