The Seven Deadly Sins of Highly Effective People: Sloth

[Previous Posts – Part 1, Part 2, Lust, Gluttony/Avarice]

Next up in our tour of the seven deadly sins of highly effective people: sloth.

“Sloth?” you say, “Aren’t successful business folks known for being hard workers? Isn’t that how they got to where they are? ”

Well, yes – succesful people do tend to be very hard workers. But the fact that they tend to put in long hours and are more productive than their peers doesn’t really complete the picture.

On one level, sloth can be seen as idleness and laziness. A slothful person neither produces nor consumes, opting instead to withdraw from society and relationships. Dante, however, hits much closer to home when he says that Sloth is a “failure to love God with all one’s heart, all one’s mind, and all one’s soul.” In short – it is a life that is free of meaningful, properly directed passion.

Behind a lot of mid and upper management jobs (and behind a lot of professions), there is a well-kept secret, acknowledged only rarely by those who have the courage to confess it – these jobs can crush your soul.

It doesn’t happen instantly, to be sure. But, over time, it becomes very easy to get to a point where you simply stop caring. Everything becomes about numbers, dollars, minutes, hours, days, schedules, procedures, and precautions against litigation and complaints. Eventually, days and weeks full of deadlines and meetings can run into months – then years. In that grind, especially if you are working long hours, you lose touch – from family, from friends, from doing the things you love. Life becomes about little more than feeding the corporate beast – with all of its deadlines, budget reports, personnel decisions, and profit margins.

Sloth sets in when you are overwhelmed and you just stop caring. You may go through the motions of life for a while – without passion. But soon, even your faith walk begins to feel more like a cardboard stand-up figure than anything that is vibrant and alive. And eventually, inevitably the lack of passion results in slacking off in every other area of life – including one’s faith walk. Sloth attacks with a vengeance.

I’ve seen it happen. On occasion, I’ve felt it nipping at my heels.

This is more than a problem with losing sight of what is important – it is the stuff of which mid-life crises, complete with sports cars, extra-marital affairs, and Rogaine, is made. Many a marriage has disintegrated because because a spouse has simply become worn down to a shell of his/her former self by the weight of demanding work. Eventually, everything collapses.

The challenge, then, for the effective person, is to find a way to escape the grind of red-tape, reports, and spreadsheets that threaten to become life, and to instead bring a small outpost of the Kingdom of God to work every day. No small task.

Up next: Wrath.

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