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SPECIAL SERIES: The Seven Deadly Sins
Sloth: the easiest of the Seven Deadlies – it requires
Hello. I'm Sloth...
Some people say I'm a shiftless, lazy good-for nothing. That's simply not so. I am not 'good for nothing'. Far from it! I am always good for a nap, good for a daydream, good for a rest, good for finding an easier way. I work hard at being the role model for Humans. Always have, always will. Shiftless and lazy? Not on your life! Sure, I work slow and easy, never seeking the spotlight or bragging about my many accomplishments, but that doesn't mean Sloth is not busy in the background.
True to his name, my much more famous co-worker — Pride — likes to take the credit for being the most serious precursor to sin, sometimes even arrogantly claiming to be the original sin. Ridiculous! Pride wasn't even there when it all got started. Let me tell you how it really happened.
It was my finest hour! Yep, Sloth was right there in the Garden with the star role in the drama that came to be known as "The Fall". You probably never saw me but without Sloth the story might have had a different ending. The Serpent got top billing with a masterful portrayal of Deceit. It was just a supporting role, though, to set the stage for Sloth's triumph. Serpent convinced the Woman to eat from the Forbidden Tree. The rest was easy, just the way I like it. It only took a few seconds for Sloth to change the course of human development.
The Man had spent a long day tending the Garden. All day he'd been thinking about getting home for a nice meal with his lovely and loving wife. Instead of browsing on the delectable delights of the Garden, all free for the taking, he wanted a home picked feast. What did he get at the end of the day? Leftovers! The partially eaten remains of the Woman's lunch. He knew exactly what it was! After all, it was his job to take care of the garden! But he didn't care. He ate it anyway.
Aha! There it is. Sloth. My moment to shine. One of my earlier names was Acedia, a Latin word that roughly means "not to care". That's what I'm all about — not caring.
If you don't believe that Sloth caused "The Fall", look at the punishment that God imposed on the Man. The ground is cursed to produce thorns and thistles. The Man has to toil and sweat all his life to get anything from it. If that's not the exact opposite from Sloth, then what is?
The changing perception of sloth through the ages...
Christian tradition considers Sloth to be something more than the popular 'laziness'. It includes apathy, boredom, and turning away from God and creation. The person afflicted with Sloth is not only inactive but also lacks hope that there is any point to activity. In the 6th Century, St Gregory the Great introduced "The Seven Deadly Sins" and changed the earlier acedia into 'sadness'. Later, the rather vague term was changed again to Sloth. [And some people say Church teaching never changes?]
Although I haven't read Gregory's writings on the subject, he may have been on the right track in using the term 'sadness'. What we today call depression contains many elements of deep sadness and powerlessness. Sloth is very much like depression in the sense that one afflicted with either may not be able to see a way out. Both can involve the loss of joy in living.
Sloth is not always inactivity. A person can become so involved in trying to meet the wishes or expectations of others that they stop spending time doing what they want to do. Sloth can exist where a person has given all initiative and purpose to others — whether individuals or institutions. There may be a great deal of outward activity yet without any thought-out and intentional self-direction other than a belief that they are doing what is expected of them. A "church" example of this sort of sloth could be the person who attends mass for no reason other than that it is an 'obligation'. They say the right words and go through the motions without really being involved in the experience. (This is sometimes called "Idle Worship".)
Sloth is probably the easiest of the Seven Deadlies. It requires no effort, no thought, no intent. Sloth happens. Can we do anything about it? Probably not. Besides, nobody cares if we sleep through the homily — as long as we don't snore.
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