There was a saint who said, “I will do anything for any man so long as it doesn’t go against my own conscience, just for the sake of strengthening my willpower at the expense of my desires.” That was very wise.
If somebody tells you to do something, of course you don’t want to be a slave or to weaken your willpower. But if you can gain enough centeredness to say, “No, I’m not doing it because he told me; I’m doing this because I think it’s good for me to control my ego in order to achieve freedom”—this kind of obedience is very wholesome. That’s why Jesus said, if somebody makes you go a mile, go two miles. In other words, do him one better so that you prove to yourself that you’re not doing it just because he made you do it, but that you’re giving up your ego.
There was a woman who always used to phone me just when I was sitting down to my dinner. She always asked for advice that she never wanted. My desire was to eat and not be bothered. But as long as my ego was complaining I said, “I’m going to answer that phone.” It wasn’t a clear-cut choice of, “I’m giving up a warm meal but it’s important because I’m helping her.” I knew I wasn’t helping her. But I was helping myself spiritually by not reacting on an ego level.
Anything that you can do to discipline your ego is wholesome. Don’t allow delusion to come in and say, “But I’ve got to emphasize my free will.” It isn’t freedom if you’re defending your ego; it’s freedom if you’re defending your soul. One of the best ways to defend your soul is to give your ego a few kicks now and then. Place it at a disadvantage. If other people are asking things of you that are unpleasing to you, ask yourself, “Who is not pleased, my ego or my soul?”
If you let yourself be a doormat your will becomes weakened. But if by your own will power you make a deliberate choice to go that extra mile just to show yourself that you’re free, this is good. Anything that can get you away from attachments and desires and help you to live for God is good.
I was offering those counseling sessions up to God; I did it for Him. Do it joyously for Him and in that thought you will become more and more free.
Excerpted from a September 18, 1985 talk