EXAMINING THE VICE OF ACEDIA
To recap, we know our use of media can very easily (and often) be driven by the vice of acedia. We know also that our bodies do need rest from our duties and our souls also can grow weary and do need refreshment.
With regards to acedia, the question is not so much, “Should I get rid of these legitimate pleasures that I know are distracting me from my duties or hindering my growth in the spiritual life?” Rather, the question is a matter of exercising the virtues of eutrapelia and temperance to combat the vice of acedia. It is also a matter of detaching the heart from inordinate and excessive pleasure-seeking so that whether we enjoy them or whether we’re deprived of them, our hearts remain free. However, it might mean depriving ourselves of media sources from time to time, or, for a designated period of time. I will get to that in a moment. But first, some questions…
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
- Does my specific action give glory to God?
- Do I impulsively turn to media without even much thought?
- With what forms of media do I seem to spend excessive time?
- Does the content to which I listen or view edify my soul and leave me uplifted to God? Or does it weigh me down, leave me weary, anxious or angry, or make my spirit feel dissipated?
- Immediately after the time I’ve spent on media, do I find it easier to enter into prayer or harder and more distasteful?
- Does my time on media lead me to the Lord or does it distract me away from Him or my duties? (For mothers/fathers and wives/husbands, “duties” includes also spending adequate time and giving attention to one’s spouse and children).
- What disciplines can I implement to avoid distraction and excessive use? What disciplines can prevent me from getting sucked into the “black hole” of media when I do decide to use it?
- On the day of my judgement, would I be proud to tell the Lord that such-and-such an action, recreation or activity was how I spent my time?
The saints warn us about not using our time well. In fact, so important is our use of time that St. Alphonsus Liguori – Doctor of the Church – took a personal vow to never waste a moment of time.
WAYS TO COMBAT ACEDIA AND OUR USE OF MEDIA
I’ve already given a list of questions we can ask ourselves to examine this vice in us with regards to media. Now some remedies:
- Confess it. Every time you confess the vice of acedia, you cast light on it and receive grace.
- Set a “rule of life” with regard to its use. We also seriously need to implement rules with our media use because of newer research coming out proving that its impact on our brain is literally addictive. You can just google it now and have access to thousands of scholarly articles about it, not to mention well-research books such as Noise: How our media-saturated culture dominates lives and dismantles families by Teresa Tomeo. Our own personal “rule of life” for media can be divided into two areas: Actual content we consume and time.
- Content: Perhaps you can eliminate all the “wasteful” programming you could watch and replace it with something more edifying. Instead of popular music (which tends to be offensive to God anyway) listen to Christian music, classical music, maybe a genre of culture like traditional Irish music, or a spiritual podcast or talk. Even better, you can just have silence and try to be aware of Gods’ presence.
- Time: Another option would be to set time limits with your media device. Maybe just check the news for 10-15 minutes, every other day or once a week. (My personal thinking is that if it’s enough of a newsworthy event, I’m sure I will eventually hear about it). Perhaps limit the times during the day which you use media, check email or your phone, etc..
- Leave your source of media out of sight and away. Sometimes, we’ll turn to it just because it’s there. So, leave your phone up on the refrigerator or in your room, not in your pocket. If something is urgent enough it will likely come as a phone call and you will hear it. So relax. The phone doesn’t need to be attached to your hip. Text messages, emails, etc… can 99% of the time wait for a delayed response from you. The cliché here is “out of sight, out of mind.”
- Reduce apps on your devices. I was speaking with a friend recently and it came up in our conversation that we both happened to delete certain apps from our phone. The reason? Because it made it all the more tempting to pull us away from our duties, even if just for a few seconds! One click – boom! A few seconds multiple times a day adds up. Forget the notifications – it makes it even worse! The constant and consistent breaking up of our attention on a certain task or person logically leaves us to become scattered and “bouncing around” in focused attention and thought.
- Designate periods of complete “fasting” from social media. Perhaps every Friday, the day of our Lord’s death. Maybe occasionally fast from it altogether for a week or month or forty days. (And I’m talking about times outside of Lent!)
- Pray for the grace to be detached from media (or maybe to even be released from its bondage) and stout-heartedness to overcome acedia when you feel lured away from your duties or a spiritual practice. Pray for more of an outpouring of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, self-control. It will set the heart and spirit free. Have recourse to the Sacraments.
- Last but not least, the “fleeing” of our duties driven by acedia that turns us to media deprives us of the grace of the present moment. So put it away and try to be fully attentive to the present moment, your loved ones, your duties, and spiritual exercises. As Jean-Pierre de Caussade said in his treatise Abandonment to Divine Providence, “The Divine Will is a deep abyss of inexhaustible graces of which the present moment is the entrance.”
All of these things should be a means to helping us grow in the virtues of temperance and eutrapelia with regard to our use of media; the repeated actions of these suggestions will hopefully set our hearts free to focus on the Lord and our duties – you know, all of those things we should be doing. It will hopefully also help us detach our hearts from media so that whether we can use it or not, it is of no avail because our peace remains in the fact that we are doing God’s Will in the “sacrament” of the present moment.
What suggestions do you have to grow in the virtue of temperance and eutrapelia? What are some disciplines you can suggest to help us use media rightly?
Images courtesy of Unsplash.