Our progress in spiritual life depends on our appropriate response to God’s grace. We must do everything possible to remove every obstacle that prevents it from dwelling in our soul. And the main obstacle to God’s free action in them is a bad attitude, a disposition that distances our hearts from Him and from His will.
In his Rule of St. Benedict he defines this disposition as inaction. Idleness is the enemy of our soul because it is the first step to acquiring bad habits.
Idleness or laziness is a sort of voluntary neglect of what is one of the duties of one’s state. Due to growing aversion to insurmountable obstacles, the soul becomes slow in carrying out God’s will. Escaping fatigue, it seeks to replace God’s plan with a simpler option that rewards immediate satisfaction.
All kinds of messes and sins creep into the life of a lazy person. Family life becomes a terrible burden; everything seems to be an obstacle to his newfound “freedom”. He begins to feel a sort of general disgust and everything that he previously perceived as sacred seems like a millstone to him. He feels overwhelming anxiety and begins to treat those who love him most as his worst enemies, feeling as if they are indicting him by their good example. His dark life cannot bear the light of their virtues.
Such an unfortunate soul can fall into two opposite extremes, resulting from the same disorder: laziness.
The first option is to simply capitulate every time you are asked to make an effort. One result of this attitude is seeking comfort in sleep. In the Gospel parable, the Savior tells that while the farmer was sleeping, weeds were sown in his field. The weeds of vice enter the soul when he avoids the necessary effort to improve himself, fleeing into the sleep of inertia and neglect of duties.
The opposite extreme is a flight from the fulfillment of God’s will towards excessive activism. Instead of fulfilling state duties, which he considers too tiring, a person tries to replace them with another type of activity. He spends a lot of time and effort on something that isn’t important. This action may be good in itself, but it is an escape from state obligations. There are many examples of this. You may be tempted to run away from your family under the guise of caring for others, thus neglecting your children. Responsibilities towards children are also neglected by a mother who does not prepare meals for her children, explaining it with the need to deepen her own inner life, or by a father who spends all his free time at the bar or in the gym.
These means of escape gradually become a habit. This permanent disorder ruins spiritual life and leads to real addictions. Most of today’s youth are gradually becoming addicted to technology, video games, pornography, alcohol and drugs because they are disgusted by the responsibilities of the state. The reason why they fall into this state is often the lack of love from their parents or the vice of laziness that takes hold of their soul.
Many parents spoil their children for fear of the effort it would take to constantly pay attention to them. They allow the development of passions and vices that will destroy the lives of their offspring. A child who imitates his parents’ laziness will consistently neglect his basic religious duties.
Addictions are a consequence of spiritual disorder and the only remedy for them is spiritual reorientation. When, to satisfy our desire for good, which only God himself can satisfy, we choose dependence on the things of the world, we become slaves to this creation, whether it is a bottle or the Internet.
The soul that seeks to replace God with the comfort of creation will inevitably experience disappointment. The true cure is a patient return to the Creator. To overcome addiction to sin, spiritual reading, prayer and the practice of virtues are necessary. However, these measures must be implemented as quickly and with determination as possible.
Saint Ambrose, speaking of the Paschal lamb of the Ancient Covenant, explains why it had to be eaten quickly:
It’s not enough to do good, you have to do it with zeal. The law required us to eat the Passover lamb quickly because the fruit is much more abundant when our devotion is immediate.
Ecclesiastes gives similar advice:
“Be diligent in all your affairs, and no illness will overtake you” (Sir 31,27).
If we want to overcome the disease of addiction to vice, we must immediately change our bad attitude and implement good intentions. With God’s help we will persevere, following the path that leads to the Kingdom of heaven.
We should take to heart the words of St. Benedict: “Inaction is the enemy of the soul.”
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