Pay no attention to how short you fall of this virtue, lest you become fearful and say, “How can I love my neighbor as myself?
Can I be concerned for his sorrows as my own, and especially for those secret ones in his heart, which I do not see and do not know?”
Do not entertain such thoughts, do not think that the virtue exceeds your strength and is impossible to fulfill, but only place a beginning with hope in God, show Him your goodwill and your effort, and you will see the help He will give you to perform the virtue.
Imagine two ladders, one leading above to Heaven and the other going down to hell, and you stand on the earth between these two ladders.
Do not think and do not say, “How can I fly up from the earth and be suddenly in the heights of Heaven—that is, at the top of the ladder?” This is impossible and God does not demand this from you.
However, be careful at least not to go down.
Do not do evil to your neighbor, do not offend him, do not slander him, do not speak evil of him, do not belittle him, do not reproach him, and in this way you will begin with time, little by little, to do good also to your brother, consoling him by words, being compassionate to him or giving him what he needs.
Thus, ascending from one step to the next you will attain with God’s help even the top of the ladder.
For little by little, helping your neighbor, you will ascend to the stage of desiring his profit as your own, and his success as your own.
This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
If we seek we will find, and if we ask God He will enlighten us; for in the Holy Gospel it is said, Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you (Matt. 7:7).
It is said, “Ask,” so that we might call upon God in prayer; and “seek” means that we should experience how virtue itself comes to us, what brings it, and what we should do in order to acquire it; therefore try to know what is meant also by “seek and ye shall find.”
“Knock” means to fulfill the commandments, for everyone who knocks does so with his hands—and hands signify activity. So, we should not only ask, but seek and act, striving, as the Apostle said, that ye may abound unto every good work (II Cor. 9:8, II Tim. 2:21).
Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 14 – On the Building and Construction of the Soul’s House of Virtues @ Pravoslavie.