Lions and Sloths and Bears, Oh My!

Did you practice your temperance last week?  Melanie went to the grocery store without me, under protest.  She came back with a receipt that represented 75 percent need and only 25 percent want.  And she saved $25 off our normal weekly bill which will allow the food bank to provide 100 meals to families in need.  On the downside, she informed me I will be going to the store with her in the future for my own good, whatever that means.

Moving on to the fifth in our series of the 7 heavenly virtues and their opposing 7 deadly sins; Diligence and Sloth.

First a few definitions to justify the title and enhance your trivia knowledge.

  • A group of lions is called a pride. Pride is the deadliest of the sins as we covered previously.
  • A sloth is a cute little slow-moving mammal.
  • A group of bears is called a sloth. Less deadly than a pride, but still scary.

I like to think of the vice of sloth as a cross between the cute little mammal and the scary bears.  It’s both alluring and frightening.

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 your valuable time and energy.

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?

Because doing nothing is always easier than doing something.  Or, since we are always actually doing something, it is more accurate to say that doing something easy is easier than doing something hard.  We want to do easy things, we avoid doing the hard stuff.  Unless we have a strong motivation, like we need money to survive so we do the hard things necessary to earn it.

You are obviously a diligent person or you wouldn’t be reading this.  I’ll bet you are really busy too.  I wonder, can we be busy and slothful at the same time?  I think the answer is yes.  Busy doesn’t always mean productive.  It’s easy to get busy doing the wrong things.  Like doing all your easy tasks instead of the more difficult that you know you should be doing.  I’m sure we all do at times. Avoidance and procrastination are sure signs of sloth for me.

This is getting a little depressing, time to turn it around.  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 my 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.  Check it out and 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 of 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 me as I can.”  He has a clear focus that guides his daily activities.  There is no time for sloth in his life!

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 and others, 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 it 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 to 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 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 which asked in prayer and followed up by thought, I make sure to start and end each day with prayer.

To start the day: “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, and for the opportunity to use them to benefit others and to make the world a better place.”

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!

Scott

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