Self-righteousness makes you blind, while repentance makes you see. We move forward only when we finally begin to feel and realize how weak and unstable we are without God. The paradox here lies in the fact that a soul that acknowledges that she is lost, will be saved, whilst the soul that regards herself saved, will perish.
Using visible signs to evaluate our spiritual progress is a mistake. It will lead us to notice our so-called achievements everywhere. We will begin to count how much good we have done: we gave money to a beggar, we helped an old lady to cross the street, we don’t swear for a long time already, we don’t drink too much booze, we don’t smoke, we don’t fight with anybody. Don’t we deserve the Paradise? This kind of statistical thinking makes you arrogant, and arrogance in turn leads to failure.
We make spiritual progress only when the negative impact from other people, their reproach, annoyance or resentment doesn’t quench our love towards them. When our souls love so much that no one in the world can hurt it. When we are happy with someone else’s success and forget about our own — these are the first indications of our spiritual growth. However, it is achievable only if we pursue God and repent of our spiritual flaws sincerely.
(Fr. Valery Dukhanin)