Understanding and Overcoming Acedia

Amongst my friends and family, I am known for my joy. As I have navigated becoming more myself, I have discovered I am a woman of joy and I shouldn’t have to hide that. My life changed when I made the decision to embrace my God-given joy, and wanted to become a friend with whom other women can feel unashamed of their joy.

I found myself at a place where I was being myself with those who would accept me, continuously providing a space for people to be themselves by encouraging them to embrace their own joys. Because my joy is God given, it is what gets most strongly attacked by the evil one. 

I have moments where I fall into a dark hole filled with dread, annoyance, and sadness. All of my joys in my life, like writing, traveling, and creating become tiresome and pointless. I never understood why all of these things I loved suddenly became annoying. I didn’t know why I would suddenly experience these negative feelings or why it seemed like there was no way to overcome them. 

During our 2nd Annual Little With Great Love Retreat, I was able to finally put a name to the feeling: acedia.

Understanding Acedia

Have you ever felt procrastination, not in the sense of not doing anything, but doing everything except for the one thing I’m supposed to be doing? This is known as acedia, aka the “noonday devil.” Fr. Mike Schmitz explains it best in his video on the topic, and shares that this feeling stems all the way back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers who would be sitting alone in their huts, where they were supposed to be praying. But they would get the urge (around noon) to want to do something else. They would justify it, saying they were doing good deeds like feeding the poor, but ultimately they were avoiding where God placed them to be in the present moment.

Acedia is tied to the sin sloth, where we can feel annoyed or impatient with the work God has given us to do, which prevents us from feeling the joy of the Lord. The Brothers of St. John share some consequences of acedia in a video, and some that I find myself experiencing:

  • Losing religious attitude (not going to Mass, prayer, reading the Bible)
  • Hopeless – holiness seems too far; give it up.
  • Instability and distractions
  • Fear of solitude; we don’t want to be alone, nor with God.
  • Lost faith in vocation to holiness, feeling lost 
  • Mental wandering
  • Curiosity and gossip

The noonday devil overall sends us feelings of hatred to trump our feelings of joy. This is what I’m currently (even while writing this blog) trying to overcome. 

Let’s Overcome Acedia Together

My joy is my biggest gift from the Lord, and all of the feelings of hatred, annoyance, and hopelessness that have come up in the last few months have been a deterrent from the noonday devil. I have been wishing to be anywhere other than where I currently am, finding all the work I do annoying and pointless (even this blog), and just feel frozen. 

However, I hate feeling this way. I don’t want to fall to acedia (hence me writing this blog), and I want to regain my joy. I have to regain it anew, and not try to dwell on how joyful I used to be. Women, if you want to join me in regaining your joy, let’s follow some tips by Fr. Gregory Pine’s video together. Find the three ways he highlights, summarized by our founder Lisa, who shared this with us on our retreat:

1. Don’t compare your gifts to others 

In an age of social media, it’s really really hard not to compare ourselves to others. We see all the wonderful, and knowingly false, lives our friends and families (and even ourselves) lead online, and we can become jealous. In my life, I see all the thousands of makeup artists online who do much better work than I do, and while most of the time I try to draw inspiration from them it can be hard to not compare follower counts and likes. 

God loves us each in a particular way and gives each different graces. We are each intended to make something unique, to the glory of God.

Alyssa Sanchez

However, God loves us each in a particular way and gives each different graces. We are each intended to make something unique, to the glory of God. St. Therese tells us that we do well to make ourselves small, to play our part, and God will make us great in our place and in our time.

Fr. Gregory encourages us to compare ourselves to Christ, not so we might suffer, so we might draw strength from the graces He gives to us. Our vocation is to become who we are called to be. 

2. Take small steps to smooth out the highs and lows 

Sometimes when we are feeling lazy or dread what we have to do, we will seek motivation. For me, when I’m having trouble cleaning or getting organized I watch my favorite youtubers clean their own space and share their organization tips. After watching these videos, sometimes I want to make a radical life change and completely downsize, organize my whole closet, or do whatever the youtuber was doing. However, when I try to take these drastic steps I tend to become discouraged and lazy again at the thought of what it takes to become what I just desired to be. 

Instead of trying to take these large steps towards overcoming our acedia, Fr. Gregory Pine encourages us to take small steps to grow habitually. Forming a habit can alleviate the extreme highs and lows we may feel when trying to take on a new task or overcome negativity in our lives. 

When we build healthy habits we make it so that we progress step by step further into the will of God and have a kind of confidence to abide there. The goal is a life of virtue where we can become stabilized in character so that we incline towards the good, turn from the bad automatically.

3. Stay close to sacrament of confession 

This is a simple yet easily overlooked way to help us overcome our acedia. Confession will not only heal our sin, but can elevate us in the life of grace. Confession can help us view sins in a way of feeling sorrow or a hatred for them that’s right, instead of feeling a regret for our sins that can make us feel worse about ourselves, falling back into our acedia. 

Even while knowing all of the benefits of confession, we can still feel paralized in our steps to actually get to confession. I know this happens to me, and I fall into the acedia all over again. This is when we need to look back at the previous steps, and make sure we are taking small steps, asking God for the grace to desire it. 

Confession can help us look back in our life in the ways that Christ is present. When we return to the Lord’s forgiveness and understand His unending mercy through this sacrament, it ensures that we don’t become hopeless. 

During my times of acedia, I want nothing more than to overcome it. This desire alone gives me the hope to push myself in these ways to help alleviate this sin. If you are feeling acedia like me, I am praying for you, and let’s do this together. We can overcome our acedia one day at a time.

About Author

Alyssa is a 23-year-old master’s student studying communications. She lives at home in sunny Florida, enjoys watching movies and binging tv shows, hoping to one day produce films of her own in which to act. Creatively she enjoys writing in any medium, fashion, doing makeup and dressing up in costumes. She loves to travel by plane, train, car and especially cruises, and hopes to see the world. Caring, kind and loving, she tends to see the good in all people. Alyssa’s calling is to make people smile through her creativity, sharing God’s message of love through how she lives. Her motto is to live every day with a spirit of gratitude.

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