Is Complacency Masquerading as Productivity?

“When you waste time, you disdain God’s gift – the present – which He, in His infinite goodness, relinquishes to your love and to your generosity.” – St. Padre Pio

Have you ever spent consecutive weeks jumping from party to party, movie after movie, or going out every night – only to come home feeling oddly empty, unsatisfied, or unaccomplished? Chances are, something inside you knows you should be pursuing activities that are more aligned with your greater purpose.

Complacency is a “silent killer” because it’s so subtle. Unlike dramatic life events that turn your world upside down in a matter of seconds, complacency is a slow deterioration that is hardly detectable. You only recognize it five or ten years later when you look back and realize you barely did anything with your life that was truly meaningful.

Now “meaningful” can mean slightly different things for everybody, but for us Christians, it generally means using our time, talents, and treasures to advance our primary and secondary vocations, to fulfill our God-given missions, and most of all, to love and be loved—because God is love.

But the tricky thing about complacency is that it’s not always easy to spot.

Sure, the “couch potato” kind is easily recognizable—someone who sits around doing nothing all day. But most of us probably don’t sit around doing nothing all day (although we definitely have our moments). My guess is that most of us are trying our best to keep busy.

But even “busyness” can be a form of complacency in disguise. Where does most of your time go? Would you consider these activities “productive,” or are they simply keeping you “occupied?” There’s a difference.

I’m not suggesting that you should feel guilty every single time you go on a Netflix binge, play videogames, or go for a night out. But when these activities become the norm and you find yourself living from weekend to weekend chasing leisurely pursuits that do nothing to help you become the person God has called you to be, or to give back to your community through service or living out your vocation, then it becomes complacency.

There are also tasks that are technically “productive,” but can be directed towards the wrong things.

For example, if you pursued a career as a banker, even if you felt deeply called to be a missionary, wouldn’t that still be complacency? If you devoted all of your time on your job (secondary vocation) rather than your family (primary vocation), wouldn’t that still be complacency?

None of these things are inherently bad – in fact, they are all good – but it’s often a choice between “good” versus “greater.” If you are spending most of your energy on the “good” rather than “greater,” now may be a time to reassess your priorities.

At World Youth Day in Poland last summer, Pope Francis gave a powerful address that functioned as a major wake-up call:

“Dear young people, we didn’t come into this work to ‘vegetate’, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on.  No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark.”

“This is itself a great form of paralysis, whenever we start thinking that happiness is the same as comfort and convenience, that being happy means going through life asleep or on tranquillizers, that the only way to be happy is to live in a haze.”

“My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, he is the Lord of the eternal ‘more’.  Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease.  Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths.  To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy.  To take the path of the ‘craziness’ of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned.  To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists.”

These words rattled me. Although I was technically “busy” during the weeks leading up to World Youth Day, somehow I still felt like I was sleepwalking through life. I was focused on accomplishing my “duties” rather than immersing myself in tasks that were deeply meaningful and moving to me.

And that is why I wrote this post. If you, too, have had a moment of realization that your time has not necessarily gone where it should, it’s not too late to redirect your steps. Let the Lord help you.

– Celine


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