This is an interview published in WIE magazine's website with the Archimandrite Dionysios, where shares his beautiful insight on ego, the most powerful enemy of mankind.
Q. What is the ego?
Ego is the flower that comes out from the death of love. When we kill love, the result is the ego.
Q. What is the character of the ego? How does it manifest within a human being?
When we don't trust. Ego is born when we don't trust others. When we're afraid of others, when we need guns against others, then we need to have an ego because we are in the wrong way of life. We think only of ourselves, and we see only our ego. But when we see each other, when we trust each other, there is no need for ego, no reason for ego, no possibility for ego.
And Christ said, "The last is the first." Because when you want to be the last and you choose the last seat, only then may you call the others friends of yours.
Q. The ego, this sense of self-importance you've been speaking about, is often described in The Philokalia and other writings of the Christian mystics as the primary enemy with which the spiritual aspirant must wrestle in their quest for union with God. Why is the ego considered to be such a formidable adversary on the path?
It is such a powerful enemy because it is the enemy within us. We are enemies to ourselves. The real enemy is the ego. It is the enemy because it is against love. When I look at myself, I don't love others. When I want to occupy for myself what is yours, I become the killer of my brother, like Cain killed Abel. When I want to satisfy myself, this satisfaction is gained through sacrificing the freedom of the other. Then my ego becomes my lord, my god, and there is no stronger temptation than this. Because to us, this ego may seem like a diamond. It has a shine like gold. But whatever is shining is not gold. The ego is just like a fire without light, a fire without warmth, a fire without life. It seems that it has many sides and many possibilities—but what is this possibility? What is ego? Only the means by which I protect myself as if I were in a battle, as if every other person is my enemy, and the only thing I care about is winning the victory.
Q. What do you feel is the most important quality within the individual that can help us to win the fight against the clever and ever changing ego?
Repentance. Recognizing our mistakes and our sins, this is the highest thing that we can do. And not to recognize our sins in order to succeed at something else, but just to see the truth about ourselves. Saint Isaac, the great mystic of the Church, says that one who accepts, who understands, who recognizes his sin in front of the Lord, in reality, he is the highest. He is greater than one who has gained all the world, who feeds all the people, who makes miracles, who resurrects the dead.
This man, the first one, is bigger because he can never fall down. He has a stability, a level, a place where he can talk to the Lord. He has a place where he can invite the Lord with his tears, with his repentance, with the understanding that he has done wrong. And straightaway he becomes clear. The light comes from him. He becomes a spiritual doctor, a teacher or father, because he's not afraid to recognize sins. It is not a problem for him to say, "Excuse me, it was my fault." This is the key to escape from all the drops of the devil.
// the complete interview here at what is enlightenment magazine.