Indifference is enjoying a resurrection in modern-day America. We’re falling asleep to what matters. We’re becoming increasingly concerned only with our immediate needs.
In the previous post, I laid the groundwork for this sin, indifference. Now I want to list its symptoms. The reason? What we think is one thing – fear of commitment, for example – can actually be indifference in disguise. Making this connection is huge. It allows us to address the core problem.
Another reason for this post? I hope as you see acedia’s many manifestations and far-reaching destructive potential, you wake up. You stop settling and embrace the Big-L life.
So, here are 6 signs you’re struggling with indifference.
1. You struggle with intimacy.
The opposite of indifference is love. The road to love is paved with…can you guess it?…intimacy. It makes sense, then, that spiritual indifference seeks to build walls and distance between yourself and other people as well as between yourself and God.
Loneliness and disconnection are increasing today. Would you agree?
Now, intimacy is hard work. I get it. Relationships take time and energy and vulnerability and a willingness to be hurt. You cannot experience true love or connection without pain and suffering. You just can’t.
When acedia takes root in your life, you no longer see the risk of intimacy worth the reward.
I’ve been hurt too many times. I can’t open myself up anymore.
Intimacy requires too much time and energy. And for what? Why bother?
These are the kinds of things acedia makes you believe. So, you settle for shortcuts, cheap imitations of the real thing. You assume you can find peace and love through social media or trinkets.
You need to know that the quest intimacy has always been and will always be worth the pain you will inevitably encounter. You also need to know there are no workarounds, shortcuts, or cheat codes. If you hope to find love, you must go through intimacy.
2. You make decisions based on how you feel.
People who suffer from acedia lack consistency and sticktoitiveness. They show up sometimes. Other times, they don’t. Up and down. Down and up.
And what’s worse. Acedia, when firmly planted in your life, blinds you from seeing the point of discipline or seeing things through. Why show up for worship today if I don’t feel like it? Naw, I won’t get anything out of it anyway. Why read Scripture or pray or serve when I feel like a cowpie? Why be present with my kids and spouse when I’ve had an awful day at work? I’ll veg out on Netflix tonight and engage with them tomorrow.
Repetition isn’t glamorous. But it’s through continued, consistent action that you become more honest and human.
Everything you learn, you learn through repetition. Write that down. What you do consistently becomes a habit. And your habits determine who you become.
3. You struggle with commitment.
F.O.M.O. is a trademark symptom of acedia. Not at first glance, though. So where’s the connection? Again, what’s the opposite of indifference? That’s right, love. This sin, then, it’s primary goal is to keep you from love. One way sure fire way to do this?
Divide your time, attention and energy and prevent you from living fully in the present moment. You can’t experience God (who is Love) outside the present moment.
Acedia, when in full bloom, creates an anxiety around commitment. You can’t commit because you fear missing out on something better, newer, more fulfilling.
The difficulties of marriage are a sign to explore other options. You join a church community, then leave when a pastor says something you disagree with. You change jobs because you don’t get along with a co-worker or because you feel under-appreciated.
This demon blinds you to the value of seeing things through. The idea of giving all of yourself to one thing for a long period of time is foreign to someone struggling with indifference.
Sounds eerily like present-day America.
4. You’re productive and busy. But you can’t see beyond the next item on your to-do list.
Productivity and busyness are masks of acedia. Rather than doing the hard work of being intimate with your spouse or being present with your kids or giving your heart to God, you get a lot of stuff done. You go faster, do more because you can’t stand the thought of being alone with yourself or engaging the brokenness in your community.
This has been one of my greatest temptations, to use productivity or busyness as a way of avoiding what I really need to do.
There’s a difference between a productive, accomplished life and a meaningful one. I did not know this until recently. And I had to endure much suffering to get there.
This is a dangerous trap, for sure. In our country, especially. We celebrate go-getters, after all. If you can get stuff done, the gates of opportunity are wide open. The best of the best go-getters usually have titles like President or CEO or Head Coach.
When acedia infects a culture, character and integrity take a back seat to productivity and progress.
Rather than mindlessly mowing down to-do lists, ask yourself whether your productivity contributes to a greater good? Do you care about people, about injustice, about yourself?
Or is your to-do list a clever way to avoid waking up to your life?
5. You always choose the path of least resistance.
When acedia takes root, the suffering and injustice of real people play second fiddle to personal comfort and the status quo.
Acedia will always, always have you take the path of least resistance.
You avoid hard conversations. You don’t stand up for yourself. You cling to institutions and governments, even in the face of blatant corruption, and mistake loyalty for fear. These are all possible symptoms of acedia, spiritual indifference.
And why? Once again, we come back to love. Acedia blinds you from seeing resistance as the path to growth. If you hope to find love, though, you must confront and work through resistance. You must make hard choices. At times, that might mean losing your reputation or your job or a relationship. Maybe even your life.
6. Intolerance for silence and boredom.
A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men…” -Bertrand Russell
As acedia pushes you towards the next big thing, practices like silence and solitude lose their value.
To stop, to wait, to just be, these phrases wreak of laziness. Even prayer feels like a loss. It’s unproductive. The results aren’t tangible.
Despite the cries of acedia, silence has value. Be still and know that I am God, writes the Psalmist in Psalm 46:10. Silence forces you to examine your heart and mind.
Stillness and boredom teach you to wait, giving you space to grow deep roots and push back against our culture of immediate gratification.
Spiritual indifference. Acedia. This sin has the power to reach into every area of your life and give birth to a host of other problems. No one is immune.
But we can overcome. We can beat this sin. We can wake up and tear down the walls that numb our heart. We can embrace this life fully.
In the next post, I will introduce you to some principles and practices to overcome the demon of acedia.
Grace and peace, friends.
Frank is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside church. He is also a husband, father and Jesus-follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee.