Do you know what the seven deadly sins are? According to the Catholic Church, they are: pride, sloth, gluttony, anger, envy, avarice, and lust. Sloth? What’s that? No, it’s not a monkey that hangs upside-down from a tree. It’s just another word for laziness, idleness, indolence, sluggishness, or acedia. Do you know what a deadly sin is? (They’re also known as capital or mortal sins.) Well, if you’re guilty of committing one and die before receiving absolution from a priest, the consequence is deadly; mainly, everlasting damnation! Now, perhaps, you can understand my concern. You see, I’m lazy, and what some may call old, so I may be condemned to hell at any moment!
I know what you’re thinking, if I’m so worried about it, why don’t I change my religion? I’m afraid that’s not much help. You see, all religions, as well as the ancient philosophers, condemn laziness. I even tried Zoroastrianism, but one of their demons, named Bushyasp, is actually laziness incarnate. Imagine having a demon named after you! Don’t ask me to try Confucianism either. I already looked into it. Confucius believed that earthquakes and natural disasters were warnings from above that the “son of Heaven” (Emperor) was too lazy! Even benign Buddhism condemns laziness as one of the Five Mental Hazards (the other four are sensual desire, ill will, worry, and doubt).
What’s all the Fuss About?
I don’t have any problem when God commands, “Thou shalt not kill” or “Thou shalt not steal,” but, “Thou shalt not be lazy” seems a bit harsh. However, after thinking about it, I came to realize that when we’re lazy, we are guilty of killing. Killing time. Which is another way of saying killing life. For idling away time is not living; it’s lingering. Don’t we grow old more through laziness, than through age? If we want to be lazy, why not just die? Perhaps that is what the Hindus mean by their proverb, “It is better to sit down than to stand, it is better to lie down than to sit, but death is the best of all.”
We’re not only guilty of killing when we’re lazy. We’re also guilty of stealing. For as the scripture of Zoroastrianism states: “If one does not perform duty to one whom the duty is due, one becomes a thief of the duty.” (Avesta, Videvidad 4.1) Goofing off at work? If so, we’re stealing from the boss! The concept that laziness is stealing is an important one. For we have roles to play and people are counting on us to perform our duties. When we fail to do so, we are stealing from them. Yet, it’s not only others that we steal from. For each time we decide to do nothing, we are shortchanging ourselves, stealing from ourselves, robbing our own potential.
Did you ever take a lot of trouble to select a gift only to find the recipient didn’t appreciate it? Ingratitude or thanklessness is not a trait to be admired. Imagine being God and dispensing the greatest gift of all, life. What if that gift wasn’t savored, wasn’t used, wasn’t glorified, wasn’t appreciated? Is laziness a sign of the appreciation of life, or is it an indication of our ingratitude? This is a question my wife asked herself when she saw me slumped over the computer keyboard. Gently shaking me, she roused me from my slumber and asked, “Are you being lazy again?” I awoke with a startle and quickly explained, “No, I’m not being lazy. I was just meditating on the vice of sloth.”
During my meditation, another point arose in my consciousness. Mainly, whenever we are lazy, we are losing momentum or heading downhill. In either event, not a very good place to be. Before laziness becomes a habit, we should heed the following warning, “How long will you lie there sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:9-11) By now you may agree with me that laziness is not as trivial as I first imagined. How can we tell when we’re being lazy? All we have to do is ask ourselves, “Is there a better way for me to use my time?”
Slaying the Dragon of Sloth
If I were to say, “I am lazy,” it implies that I cannot change. But that is not true. Of course, I can change. So, the correct statement is, “I am a person that sometimes engages in lazy behaviour.” The first step in slaying the dragon of sloth, then, is to monitor our thoughts and correct them when necessary. Once we stop saying “I am lazy,” we are preparing ourselves to slay the dragon before it devours us.
We often avoid tasks because we find them overwhelming. We can solve this problem by taking baby steps, or as Mark Twain explains, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Remember, we are never lazy when it comes to the things we want to do; so, it is not a matter of a lack of energy, but a lack of motivation. Therefore, to overcome laziness, we need to master motivation. If our reason to act is great enough, we will have the will to act. We need to think. Think of the reasons why we want to act. Think of and focus on the benefits we will gain by acting. Frequently reflecting on the person we can and want to be can help motivate us to act.
When the CEO of a large company was asked how many people worked in his office, he replied, “About half.” The other half were goofing off. How come? It’s about motivation or the reason for acting. For many people, the sole purpose of work is to make money. In other words, their job is merely the means to an end (money) and not an end it itself. And why do they want money? Possessions. A new car, stereo, or home. If their only reason for working is to make money, they will soon resent their job for “interfering” with the pleasure of spending money and enjoying their possessions.
Our job is not a chore we need to do to get paid, but an opportunity for us to learn, contribute, grow, make friends, solve problems, overcome obstacles, and experience victories. When we see it for the opportunity it is, we will find our job exciting and have little time for idleness. Opportunities abound. They follow us. Whether we’re at home, in the office, or strolling in a park. Opportunities are the rays of sunshine that banish the shadows of laziness. No wonder lazy people appear to be asleep. They are in a stupor, unaware of the opportunities hovering around them. Busy people are aware, awake, and alive. So, instead of worrying whether I’ll go to hell after I die, I think I’ll start focusing on whether I’ll live before I die.