Are you ready to save the world…one person at a time…starting with yourself?
Virtue will save the world. Vice is certainly doing quite the opposite. Over the next 7 weeks we will discuss how to overcome vice with virtue. To overcome the 7 deadly sins with their contrary virtues. As a refresher, here they are:
Let’s go in reverse order starting with Diligence. Actually, let’s start with the vice first, Sloth. Then talk about how we overcome it with Diligence.
First a few definitions to justify the title and enhance your trivia knowledge.
I like to think of the vice of sloth as a cross between the cute little mammal and the scary bears. It’s alluring and frightening at the same time.
The vice of Sloth is a reluctance to work or make an effort. Laziness, idleness, inactivity, inertia, sluggishness, shiftlessness, apathy, listlessness, lethargy, complacency, indifference. Ugh, I need a nap. Sloth is not doing what you know you should do. Doing the bare minimum needed to get by. Wasting time.
While rest is necessary to rejuvenate ourselves occasionally, too much will lead to unhappiness and even depression. Have you ever slept too long and felt groggy all day? It’s that feeling. Sloth zaps your energy. Being lazy tends to make you even lazier, it’s a vicious cycle. So why would we ever be slothful?
Two main reasons I believe, (1) we have no clear purpose, and (2) even with purpose life is hard and we seek to escape at times.
When we have no purpose, we don’t know what to do. We have no destination and therefore no roadmap to guide our actions. So we wander aimlessly. As humans we crave purpose. We want to be valued. We want to make a positive difference in the world. We want to thrive, not to just survive.
We are in a constant search of purpose, consciously or unconsciously. And since our human tendency is to avoid pain and to gain pleasure, we avoid the pain of having no clear purpose with the pleasure of distractions. There are so many to choose from. Our phones and televisions are always nearby. We can easily get lost in them. The hours pass by painlessly. They bring us short term pleasure, or at least no pain.
Even if we do know our purpose we are susceptible to sloth. The reason; Fear. Fulfilling our purpose will be difficult at times. We will occasionally doubt our ability to succeed. If we obsess about that doubt it grows into fear. Then we look for an escape. Back to distraction. Where’s my phone?
You are obviously a diligent person or you wouldn’t be reading this. I’ll bet you are really busy too. Can we be busy and slothful at the same time? What if we are busy doing the wrong things? Do you ever do the easy tasks in life and avoid the more difficult? I’m guess we all do at times. Two words; Avoidance and Procrastination, sure signs of sloth!
This is depressing! I saw a funny sign once. It said, “Dear Optimist and Pessimist, while you were arguing about whether the glass was half full or half empty, I drank it. Signed the Opportunist.” Let’s seize the opportunity to overcome sloth with diligence.
Diligence is careful and persistent work or effort. Conscientiousness, dedication, commitment, tenacity, perseverance. Doing what you were meant to do with passion. Making a positive difference for the benefit of others. Taking action. Being proactive. Focusing your efforts on important work. Avoiding distractions. Determination and persistence in the pursuit of worthwhile goals. Now that’s exciting and energizing!
You immediately know when you cross paths with someone who is living a life of diligence. They are enthusiastic, passionate, energetic, positive, happy, determined and in constant pursuit of excellence in all that they do. They are inspiring and motivating. They know their purpose and mission in life. You want to be around them and to be like them.
God has given each of us a number of gifts. Chief among them Life, Talents, Free Will, Time, and His Grace along the way. I believe He also gave us all a personal mission, but that is a huge topic for another time. And I believe He gave us all a common purpose; to come back to Him.
Think about it. God gave us all these great gifts. What does He expect in return? No one really knows. Maybe nothing. He did give us a few commandments. Love Him and neighbors (everyone else). Maybe that’s it. But how do we show our love?
Personally I feel a responsibility to use these great gifts to become the best me I can be. To serve others using the time and talents I’ve been blessed with. And to behave morally, to pursue virtue. That’s my purpose. I actually think we all share that purpose. To do the best we can and eventually make it back to God. To be saints.
I attempt to do this through using a simple three-step daily process I call TAP, as in tap my potential. It stands for Think, Act and Pray. Give it a try.
Think – Be aware of the choices you make. Interesting, as I just typed “be aware,” I left out the space. Spellcheck changed it to “beware.” Sometimes I think my mistyping is not accidental. Like in this case, beware is a good warning. As in, if you are not in a continuous state of awareness about the choices you are making, beware the consequences.
Being aware is the #1 thing we can do immediately to avoid sloth and practice diligence. To make conscious choices in line with our purpose. To be the best we can be for the benefit of others. My friend Jim is so clear about this purpose; “To make it to Heaven and bring as many others with us as we can.” So simple!
How do we do that? By doing what matters most and avoiding what matters least. By focusing our time and attention on the important things in life. Our health, our relationships with God, family, friends and neighbors, continually learning, and actively developing our talents and using them to serve others.
Here’s the thinking question I ask myself many times in a day. What’s Important Now (WIN)? This is a question Lou Holtz asked his players to think about each time they had a choice to make about how to spend their time. Actually this is both a what and why question. What should I do and why should I do it? The why answer should be that is helps us fulfill our purpose.
As I have become more spiritual, and in the spirit of striving to become a saint, I now ask God this question often, “What should I do next to bring JOY to the world.” By joy I mean something that is showing love for Jesus and Others, and helping You become your best self. Are three acronyms in one article too much? Moving on with TAP…
Act – Take action. Once you have thought through your options to WIN and bring JOY, make your choice. Then make it happen. Have no fear. No avoidance or procrastination allowed.
Pray – Think and pray are usually overlapping for me. I think that is a good thing. Thinking on our own without help from above can be dangerous. So in addition to the WIN and JOY questions throughout the day I make sure to start and end each day with prayer.
To start; Thank you for the opportunity of a new day, please guide my activities, and give me strength to carry on. To end; Thank you for the help in the things I did well, I’m sorry for my failings, I resolve to do better tomorrow, and thank you for the great gifts You have blessed me with.
That’s it, three simple daily steps to being diligent. Personally I think diligence is the key to overcoming all the vices. The ability to control our behavior begins and ends with diligence. We must be determined, persistent and consistent in exercising self-discipline to do what we know we should do, and to avoid all else.
Need some practice? Pick one thing you will do this week to be more diligent and less slothful. Something simple. Make it fairly easy. Like replacing a half hour of television or phone time every day with prayer or reading the bible. Or wake up a half hour earlier and go for a walk. Think and Act and Pray on one thing. You can do it!
Have Joyful Week! Oh, apparently I am posting on Friday’s, not Wednesday’s. I’ll be more diligent going forward:-)
p.s. Join the conversation. What do you think? What do you do to defeat sloth with diligence? Share with us. Make a blog comment, or if you are a Facebook user you can join the closed Facebook group named “Communion of aspiring saints.” I set it up recently at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2121697251396791/about/