I can’t quite wrap my mind around the phenomenon of thinking sloths are cute and wonderful. When I see those creatures I think first of all of the gunk growing on them, and then about the deadly sin from which it gets its name. I have a nasty habit of believing that I am slothful at worst and lazy at best.
Laziness vs Slothfulness
As I understand it, laziness is putting your comfort over a greater good. I’m lazy when I don’t bend down to pick up that piece of trash, just because I don’t want to (lame, I know, but it happens). Laziness is not self-care.
But when I am tired and need to give myself a little attention? This is not lazy. Putting those dishes off until the morning, because I need to go to bed? Not lazy. Rest is not lazy. In fact, the Lord gives us a weekly day of rest for a reason. It is important, in even the most chaotic times in life, to find some way of catching our breath and resting even for a moment in God.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, is sloth. I have accused myself (wrongfully) time and time again of being slothful. Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins, and it basically means being apathetic to the life of the spirit. While charity compels us to honor God and care for our neighbor, sloth doesn’t care. Being good is too much work. It’s not JUST being lazy, but being lazy specifically about things of the spirit and with an attitude of no concern. Yuck.
Depression vs Slothfulness
Depression brings with it apathy or disinterest, which is why I’ve at times falsely equated it with the sin of sloth. When I was a young adult, I was going through a period of depression, but I didn’t know the name or how to get over it. My once-zealous self wasn’t motivated by or drawn to my usual, simple prayers. Talking to people required gobs of energy, and to talk about God and joy and love and peace seemed impossible. I managed, but my heart wasn’t in it and I really, really didn’t want to be doing it. Someone close to me noticed my changed demeanor and gave me a book on the seven deadly sins (I know, it probably wasn’t actually all on the sins, but that’s all I took from it). This person told me to read the chapter on sloth, and noted that it would help me find my zeal again. Wrong. Very Wrong.
I was horrified. It sounded like me, and it was a DEADLY sin. I went to confession and nothing changed. This fed the discouragement. Unfortunately, this persisted for years before I realized what depression is and what sloth was not.
The main distinguishing factor for me was that a slothful person still likes to party, hang out with friends, eat good food, even work. They are still attracted to the “things of this world.” Their mind and heart are not on the things of God. A truly slothful person would not be concerned with their vice; they’d hardly give it a thought. They don’t seek the divine. They don’t care about the life of the spirit.
Instead, I was (perhaps overly) concerned about my spiritual life. Even if I didn’t have a burning desire to be good, I wanted to care “like before.” I wanted to love people. Plus, and this is what really cleared the air for me, I was not attracted to the things of this world, even the things I typically enjoyed. It wasn’t just God, I didn’t feel like I loved anyone. I didn’t have fun with anyone. I didn’t enjoy anything. I was depressed. I had not (at this point) forgotten God, but I thought that he had forgotten me.
Depression is Not a Sin!
Of course, my feelings were real, but my thoughts were not justified. God never forgets us nor his promises. The fact that I desired to love people, and did what I could to be charitable, was proof enough that I loved. That I managed to pray daily at all, looking back, was not only a huge grace, but an authentic act of love, no matter how “slothful” I felt.
If you are struggling to love God, that’s not lazy or slothful! Depression is not sloth; it is not a sin! Our Lord honors your efforts, your acts of real love. Remember, a single act (not feeling) of love is enough to bring a grievously wounded soul to life. Imagine what it can do for our little souls?