Accidie or acedia is one of those half-way point spiritual pitfalls that we as evangelicals haven’t heard a lot about, but many of us who are a few steps along in the journey recognize. (And where the author talks about “monks” or “monasticism,” I think it works just fine to say “Christians” or “spiritual life.”
“[A] danger [in the monastic rule of stability] is the antsy listlessness called accidie…. A day becomes something to be got through, its demands seemingly endless and equally unappetizing. Anything promising diversion has great appeal, but genuine satisfaction lies always out of reach, with someone else, in doing something else. Evagrius Ponticus, the acute fourth‑century monastic psychologist, described it this way: ‘it seems that the sun hardly moves and that the day is fifty hours long; the monk constantly looks out the window, walks around outside, peers at the sun to figure out how long until dinner time; there arises a dislike for the place, for the monastic life, for work; the monk thinks that love has fled from among the brothers and that there is no one to provide any encouragement.’ Accidie depends on the con that life used to be–or will someday be, or could somewhere else be–better than it is here and now. Not so much melancholy as restlessness, accidie urges its victims to surf the World Wide Web of life in search of illusory fulfilment.
The risk in accidie is that one either abandons monastic life entirely or does so internally by escaping into fantasy as a protection from the demands of commitment and community. Anyone who has been married or has made a similar commitment to a person or a group knows the temptation. Early monastic writers urged hard work as a particularly apt remedy for accidie, joining work, of course, to a battery of reality therapies designed to counteract the allure of fantasy and self-deception. Work was not an escape from painful experiences but one aspect of healthy living. Work at that time was simple and manual, with clear and immediate results. The prescription of work as a cure for accidie is somewhat trickier today, when work is often neither simple nor immediately productive. Work can become an escape from accidie rather than a cure. Benedict prescribes service of one another, mutual obedience, work, spiritual guidance and annual renewal in Lent as ways to keep monastic life grounded in the freshness of each moment.” (Stewart, Columba. Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1998, p. 76-77.)
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