In our previous blog entry we considered accidie – spiritual sloth and heaviness.
Francis Paget, after he had looked at how Christians through the ages had felt and described accidie, went on to suggest four helpful steps to move us away from the experience it in our lives.
First of all, Paget suggests, we should quite simply think about someone whom we know or whom we have heard of who has great problems at this time. This is to help us see our lives in context. Paget writes ‘remember and consider more the real plain sufferings that others have to bear,’ and goes on to quote the Psalm 41:
Blessed are those who consider the poor and the needy; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble. The Lord protects them and keeps them alive
Look around, Paget encourages, and see the suffering and needy – look beyond yourself.
Secondly, when we are flagging and can’t do the things we would like to, aim to do small tasks we can achieve, sorting out a cupboard, sweeping leaves, cleaning a window… The great pastoral priest, John Keble, wisely said: When you find yourself overpowered as it were by melancholy, the best way is to go out and do a small act of kindness to somebody… Now we may not be able to ‘go out’ so often as before but we can, for example, make a phone call or send an e mail.
Thirdly, Francis Paget suggests, we pause and look at a crucifix or imagine of Our Lord crucified. Consider how even at that time when all was in darkness and gloom love was there, waiting in the silence, longing in hope. By looking to Christ crucified we train our selves to have deep within us hope, even in bleak times. Hope that in the darkness love does not let us go.
And fourthly, Paget encourages us to look at our leisure time, how we occupy our minds. Our leisure thinking and being comes through in our personalities. Gently we should look to what is beautiful and good around us and allow good thoughts to enrich our minds, and our lives. Paget encourages us to take the words of St Paul to heart:
whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippans 4.8)
The point is made that whilst these four points can help to overcome accedie they are also spiritual disciplines which will strengthen our spiritual lives if practised regularly.