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Sloth, when mediocrity is virtue #laziness, #sloth

Sloth always conjures images of someone who sits on the couch with a bag of chips in a dressing gown. We typically understand it as someone who simply does not want to do anything but in my practice I see something different.

I have seen many people who tell me 'they will try' or 'they will think about it'. They are satisfied, albeit unhappy with the status quo but when confronted with the possibility to change they reply 'they will try'

Younger people are content to live in their parents basements as they 'save' for a home. They want all the comforts that come from a lifetime of work and sacrifice and are satisfied to remain dependent and limited and appear to lack ambition in anything.

They arrive in my practice unhappy with their lives and yet when confronted with anything that requires work or perseverance they shrug and say 'they will try'

It is not that they sit on a couch but that they lack any ambition to attain excellence.

To some extent one can blame in part the educational system where students were given awards for showing up. The idea was not to hurt anyones feelings and so applaud everyone. Today of course the greatest offence is to hurt someone's feelings and so not only is mediocrity tolerated, in the guise of fitting in and being tolerant to all sorts of behaviour mediocrity is now hailed as a virtue.

In the movie Amadeus, Salieri explains to the priest who is hearing his confession that he has come to learn that we are all mediocre and none of us shine with brilliance, and God chose Mozart to be His voice. Salieri unable to accept his lesser gifts chose rather to give up and hail mediocrity as a virtue to be accepted and relished.

The effects of sloth, which is when we do not persevere with passion and strength but rather settle for second, third or fourth best, are devastating to ones character. At its heart is a terrible fear of failure. A fear of failure has it's roots in anxiety. I am afraid to fail lest I be not accepted or lest I be thought less of.

A fear of failure also comes from a distorted view of who we are. We either value ourselves so highly that rather than suffer the shame of not succeeding in the eyes of others, we only do tasks where we are assured of success. This means of course that we will never take risks within our personal or professional lives

On the other hand, we can have a very low opinion of ourselves such that we are terrified even to try. We continue doing what we always have been doing. As Uriah Heep proclaimed in David Copperfield "I am a very umble man sir" Meaning, I will not try that which is above my station as I see it.

In each case, our distorted view of self leads to an unwillingness to put forth an effort to master a task, or to work on a relationship or to engage fully in anything. The result is a deep but often unrecognized malaise whereby we find ourselves unable to enjoy anything. The malaise is akin to depression and indeed sloth can lead us to become depressed where we believe nothing is worth the effort.

My slothful clients arrive in my office in what can best be described as pyjamas. They do not make any effort into dressing or at times even taking a shower. An iron is completely foreign to them.

The treatment

In treating such clients, I emphasize the fact that they are unhappy. They are dissatisfied with everything. Often this points to disorders in other aspects of their lives which cause them essentially to 'give up'. They tell me how afraid they are to fail but I let them see that by not trying, they have failed so their behavior actually promotes failure.

I believe it is important to address failure and the fear of failure. In most cases my clients fear failure because they don't want to lose esteem in eyes of of others. They spend a tremendous amount of energy avoiding anything where they could fail, They spend an incredible amount of energy attempting to keep up the image that they have so carefully cultivated. For these people their boss, workmates or neighbours are of paramount importance and their opinion even more so.

In our spiritual life it is our embracing of trials and sufferings that will provide many graces. Rather than avoid failure, we in fact not only accept but we welcome it as our failures will lead us to God. It is our very failures and recognition of them, that lead us into a greater reliance on the mercy of God which in turn allows us to develop the virtue of humility which is the cornerstone or foundation of virtue. The one who embraces but does not seek failure can apply themselves and indeed work for excellence in their professions or private lives. Fear is displaced and replaced by the love and mercy of God. Indeed perfect love casts out fear.

The treatment therefore involves a journey of trust and abandonment to the mercy of God. I liken this to being a child. When a child is with his or her mother they can face the monsters under their bed or strangers or anything that produces fear in our young and tender hearts. As adults when we have encountered the living God and tasted of his mercy, our trembling hearts are calmed. We know if we fail God will not judge us and He will reach towards us in an indescribable love and let us stand to try again.

Mediocrity is not a virtue but it is a clear disorder where it shows that we despair of the mercy of God. Our cry should not be "I will try" rather it is "Do or die!" #laziness #sloth

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