Monday, February 17, 2014

Acedia: The Silent Enemy? (Part 1: The Demon That Lost Its Name)

Ok, raise your hand if you can relate to doing any of the following:

  • Wasting away numerous hours each week watching mindless TV
  • Avoiding your husband when things are “tense,” and choosing to spend the rest of the evening in a different room
  • Ditching the housework responsibilities and going for some shopping therapy instead
  • Rapidly scrolling past another blog post about children in need in some country you can’t pronounce because you feel too helpless anyway
  • Looking at the mountain of dishes that needs to be done – and going to take a nap instead
  • Looking at the mountain of paperwork that needs to be filed – and going to scroll through Facebook instead
  • Caring more about the matchy-ness of your kids’ Easter outfits than about the plight of the children that probably made them
  • Feeling ready to just walk away from your whole life and responsibilities if one more small child asks you for one more thing

As I look down this list, I can say, “Check, check, check, check, double-check, double-check, check, and check.”

Would it surprise you to know that at the base of all of those impulses there could be one common enemy?  It’s an old, old word called acedia, and although the word is no longer in fashion, I believe the concept itself is very relevant in our culture.  In fact, it may be more prevalent now in our daily lives than it has been in previous eras…. perhaps because the name has been lost?

So what is acedia?  Originally taken from the Greek words meaning “a lack of care,” acedia was a word quite common in the monastic tradition as early as the 3rd or 4th centuries.  In fact, the monks used to refer to “8 bad thoughts.”  Later most of those 8 were transposed to the “7 deadly sins” list – all except acedia.  It was left off the list…. but surely was not gone from practice.

Acedia can be described as listlessness, a deep boredom, or a desire to run from what is in front of us.  It can be confused with depression.   But, according to Rebecca DeYoung, who wrote an article about it, its roots go much deeper.  She says acedia is resistance to the demands of God’s love.  We’re not ready to surrender all our desires/treasures to Him so we won’t fully enter into the relationship with Him.  We don’t like the work of discipline or transformation required by our new identity as God’s beloved. 

She says, “As a result of its resistance to love’s demands, acedia can take two opposing forms: despairing resignation or desperate escapism.”

Well, doesn’t that sound like a common plight among moms today?  Despairing resignation (“If I have to wipe one more butt today, or do one more load of laundry, or clean those floor one more time….”) or desperate escapism (“How much longer until Downton Abbey is on?”).  What is in front of us – the housework, the whining, needy children, the meals that need to be prepared….Sometimes it can become overwhelming, and seem meaningless at the same time.

I could go on and on here... and I will.... but so as to not overwhelm anyone with words, I will take it in pieces.  Tomorrow I will post a segment called, "Why Moms Are Especially Prone To Acedia" The third segment will be, "3 Common Acedia Traps" and the fourth will be, "How Do We Avoid -- Or Throw Off-- Acedia?"  So, stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment