Stamping Out Sloth: Motivation is the key to realizing our value and goals

Being a “couch potato” is probably the most popular expression of this capital sin, but as Bishop Fulton Sheen wisely notes, sloth can also be a spiritual defect as well.

“Sloth is a malady of the will which causes us to neglect our duties. It is physical when it manifests itself in laziness, procrastination, idleness, softness, indifference and nonchalance. It is spiritual when it shows itself  in an indifference to character betterment, a distaste for the spiritual, a hurried crowding of devotions, a lukewarmness and failure to cultivate new virtue,” Sheen wrote.

I hope these points will be helpful in tackling slothful habits.

1: Have faith in, and love for, your purpose and mission in life.

Personal motivation is the key to overcoming all forms of laziness, and having the awareness that God has created us and launched us into this world for a very specific mission, should keep our engine running hard.

St. Paul, who was clearly a man on fire for his mission, tried to motivate his disciple Timothy with these words: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God.” (2 Timothy 1:6)

2: Learn to see the difficulties and crosses of everyday life as opportunities to grow and perhaps “offer it up” for a good intention.

“There used to be a form of devotion — perhaps less practiced today but quite widespread not long ago — that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs,” thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it.

“What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love.” (Spe Salvi, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, n. 40)

As I prepare to run a marathon, it has been extremely helpful for me to “offer up” my longer runs and more difficult training sessions for a woman who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

3: Form the habit of doing what “needs to be done” before what you would prefer to do.

Our human nature gravitates towards that which is personally appealing and easier. The problem with following our unfiltered desires is that we can keep extremely busy with our preferences, while leaving aside our duties and obligations.

At the beginning of the week, or even before going to bed, try to make a concrete schedule of your activities for the next day with times and places, putting your “urgent tasks” in front of your “preferences.”

4: To never accept the sophism that you are just fine as you are, with no need to change

Christ himself said: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 48)

God himself should be our point of reference. Try not to get in God’s way or prevent him from doing good through your life … He wants to love and inspire so many through you; please allow him to work!

5: Make time for prayer.

A weekend retreat, or at least a daily examination of conscience, can be very helpful to create this energetic and proactive disposition. Allow God to speak to your heart and let him convince you of the shortness of your life and the value of your mission here on earth.

Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest who is the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders.

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