A Lenten Reflection on the Seven Deadly Sins
There are nuances to words, and creeping changes to their meanings over time. When I read “Last Child in the Woods” the author discusses how a hundred years ago the word “bored” didn’t connote simply uninspired time, or inability to use your brain, instead it implied actual moral indigence. It reflected real badly on yourself to say you were “bored.” Now, it’s just a word.
At the beginning of Lent (three weeks ago) my pastor began a sermon series on the seven deadly sins, and started with what he called ‘the overlooked’ sin of Sloth. Now, sloth he explained, wasn’t simply laziness. Although the couch potato is what comes to mind, glazed eyes, bag to mouth eating of Doritos, this isn’t the spiritual definition of Sloth.
Rather, spiritual sloth is a hyperfocus on inessentials, and a neglect of the important. So, when (in this period of inconsistent internet) I indulge in computerized solitaire for a half hour to the neglect of conversation, cleaning, or really anything, I am engaging in sloth. Especially if I do this twice a day. And, when there is the internet, and I spend the same half hour on facebook, three times a day, this is sloth too. On the one hand, I’m demonstrating a need for relationship, on the other, I’m placing an emphasis on passive relationships where I don’t need to communicate rather than an active relationship.
It’s also a focus on things which are important, to the neglect of even more important things. So, although commitment to work and contributions by volunteering are important, if they impinge on family, or spiritual development, they have become spiritually slothful activities.
This is very challenging to me, it gets at the foundation of how “connected” I think I need to be, how culturally knowledgeable I strive to be, and even how much I read. Though I’m likely to say all of those things are good things, I’m realizing, with my new definition of sloth, that they can be simulcrums, unsatisfactory imitations, or wisdom, and not real truth. It is often difficult to pull yourself in line with what is the greatest good, but Lent is a reflective and wonderful time to do that.