Saint John of the Cross discusses how mortification relates to wisdom, and that mortification helps wisdom enter the person.

Mortification means “dying to self.” If a human person examines his or her conscience, a person’s self-love quickly becomes apparent. All human persons fight self-love, that is, acting solely out of self-desire and self-interest. When acting from these sources, a person relates to other people, things, and his or herself, in a self-sourced way. This way of acting lacks wisdom since things are ordered by self and not by and to God.

God does not call us to act in this way. God calls us to die to ourselves so that we might live in Christ Jesus. Jesus is Wisdom itself, and through mortification, and dying to self and living in Christ, like St. Paul, wisdom enters the person.

Make room for God within you

Saint John of the Cross’s teaching on mortification is crucial for not only understanding how to grow in wisdom but also how to understand Saint John of the Cross’s entire teaching.

A major benefit of practicing mortification is making room for God in yourself. In each person’s inner being, self-love can fill that whole “space” and create disorder within and outside a person. Mortification helps us grow in wisdom because mortification makes room for us to relate to things properly as God would want, including ourselves.

Mortification causes Christ to be visible to others

Mortification, in making space for Christ within you, brings Christ to others. If mortification in the person comes from the heart and honestly strives to die to self and to rise in Christ, the person will cause a kind of resonance with others he or she encounters in day-to-day life.

This proportional harmony, or resonance, is the person bringing Christ to his or her state in life and causing a reaction from others who “tune into the frequency.” Just like a radio station requires tuning into the right frequency, a mortified person, filled with Christ, emits Christ in his or her actions, words, gestures, just generally being human. Each act of this person inspires others who tune in, and realize this person has something he or she may not have, which is Christ.

Identify where your self-love is

A first step on this road of mortification involves identifying one area where our self-love is the source of our action. Everyone has something; finding this self-love may require digging pretty deep into yourself with prayer.

Pray for God to show you where your self-love is, where your vice is, so that you can root it out to make room for Him within you.


Once you find this self-love, root it out with the same force that anyone would treat an illness. Make it a priority to mortify whatever it is. Do not worry about what other people are doing; keep your focus on mortifying this one area of self-love.

How to learn more

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