I have a confession to make. I struggle with sloth. I’m embarrassed to even admit. But I am even more plagued by guilt as I watch my lovely husband rotate the laundry or make the kids lunches or set his alarm in the mornings to make sure we don’t sleep in. It’s a routine we have fallen into and I really like it. Yes, I know there is nothing wrong with splitting up the work load. But, I admit that I take advantage of it. He is such a giving person and I am sure he is weary of picking up my slack.
Then there are the kids. So often I resent the interruption of my children when I am doing something really important- like updating my Facebook status. How many times have I delegated to my older children something I could have easily done but chose not to out of laziness? How many times have I skipped making dinner because I didn’t feel like it? What am I teaching them?
This sloth-problem bleeds into other areas of my life. I go through episodes where I get up early and make it to daily mass. I am happiest during those moments when I put God first. But, inevitably, my good intentions fall to the wayside. It’s hard to get up early.
And there is more, I can completely relate to the habit of distracting myself (and blaming it on ADD) to avoid the task at hand. There are days at work that I check and re-check my email to put off making dreaded phone calls or use my work time to print out school forms or browse recipes.
I know most of us can relate to this feeling, but, in the back of my mind I suspect that there might be more to it than that. I suspect that these moments of falling off the bandwagon are really a symptom of a bigger underlying problem
Today I decided to face my demon so I did what I always do. I googled. When I typed in the word “sloth” a psychology blog entry popped up about vices and virtues but, what caught my eye, was the distinction the synopsis made about the difference between laziness and sloth. “Oh good,” I thought “This will prove once and for all that I’m not really slothful, I just am too hard on myself.”
To my dismay, it described me so much that I could have written it myself!
Psychology Today Blogger Michael Austin writes on the book Glittering Vices; A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies:
“Here, I'll focus on the treatment of the vice of sloth given in the book. We tend to think of it as mere inactivity, or mere laziness. What's really wrong, after all, with camping out on the couch on a Sunday afternoon and watching hours of sporting events or movies? Perhaps nothing. This may be slothful, but it may not be. This is because sloth is not equivalent to laziness. Konyndyk DeYoung states that sloth "can show itself in the total inertia of the couch potato or the restless distractions of endless activity" (p. 95). But why think this?
The primary reason has to do with the true nature of sloth, which is defined in this book as resistance to the transformative demands of God's love. (For those not in this religious tradition, it could be the demands of love for one's spouse, children, and community, though these are related of course to the demands of God's love for the theist). Now we are in a position to see why sloth can be shown via inertia or endless activity. When we avoid fulfilling the demands of love, this can occur via laziness. It can also occur by keeping ourselves busy, distracted, going from activity to activity as a way of avoiding the hard work of loving others.
This is why sloth is a moral vice. Sloth prevents us from fully engaging in relationships of love and sacrifice with other people. And it is in these sorts of relationships that we can find deep fulfillment.”
There it was in black and white. I am too lazy to LOVE. My perpetual procrastination really translates into the resistance to the transformative demands of God’s love… the demands of my spouse or children to avoid the hard work of loving others. It is work to love others. It requires SACRIFICE. And, frankly, I hate sacrifice.
Sloth. At this point I’m not sure if it falls into vice or capital sin in my life but I know it makes me unhappy. All this avoiding work makes me feel dissatisfied at the end of the day. It’s a bad feeling to think you have wasted all God’s attempts to give you grace. For what? What am I aiming for when I avoid work? Is it physical comfort? I’m not sure.
I envy those people whose good work ethics seem to come effortlessly and naturally. But it doesn’t matter. Virtue is a habit, and habits are something we have to form.
I looked up “virtue” in the CCC and this is what is reads:
1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.
The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.
It made me feel better to see that virtues are acquired by human EFFORT. I want to love my family better and be a source of rest for my husband. So, guess who is making lunches tonight?
Copyright 2012 Victoria Garaitonandia Gisondi
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