Attachment and Detachment
The bumper sticker on the truck reads, “The One with the Most Toys Wins.” The driver, a passionate fisherman, is fond of saying, “You can’t have too many fly rods or reels,” while the passenger, an avid shooter, will tell you the same thing about guns and ammo. But if you’re not into shooting or fishing, what other pastimes capture your passion and your interest—collecting antiques or art, refurbishing cars, bicycling, motorcycling, or…?
And, we can be attached to, or distracted by, doing “stuff” just as easily as we can by owning “stuff.” Does your life include so many activities that you find it difficult to spend quiet time with Jesus every day? Even if these activities are admirable and for some eleemosynary objective, they can become barriers to a strong and growing relationship with our Lord. Spiritual directors and confessors tell us that the evil one plays to our habits. If we have a tendency to volunteer freely, it may just be a hop, skip and jump to the point that we’re over-committed in charitable volunteering, and falling down in our personal spiritual life as a result.
The point here is that at least some of us (I know I have, over the years) end up devoting more time and attention to, and becoming attached to, these and other things and activities of this world, at the expense of our progress towards a life that will lead us to eternal happiness in the next world. During this season of Lent, it’s appropriate to give some thought to our attitude about “stuff,” whether it involves owning it or doing it, and the notion of detachment. Over the centuries, the pitfalls of attachment to, and the benefits of detachment from, things and relationships that move us away from God have been discussed and explored in writing by many notable saints. For example:
"The soul has but one will; and if this will be occupied or embarrassed, it is not free, perfect, solitary, and pure, as it ought to be for this divine transformation.”1
"We should seek to practise such indifference with respect to all that concerns our natural life such as health or sickness, beauty or deformity, strength or weakness, honour, rank, and riches; so, also, in all fluctuations of the spiritual life, dryness, consolation, and the like."2
In Consoling the Heart of Jesus3, Fr. Gaitley explains that an attitude of indifference is something that comes to us from an unwavering fixation and focus on the goodness and glory of the Lord. In other words, if we stay focused on the end game, life eternal with our Lord, we’ll get the grace to, over time, be able to discern what brings us closer to God, and what doesn’t, with the result that we can detach from things that don’t get us closer to God.
And, by the way, if you know someone who’s read the book or been to the controversial movie about the rich guy with a desire to dominate his partner, ask the reader or viewer if they think this pornography gets them closer to God, and send this link to them:
1 - John of the Cross, S., Zimmermann, B., & Lewis, D. (1906). The Ascent of Mount Carmel (p. 50). London: Thomas
2 - Francis de Sales. (1888). Of the Love of God. (H. L. S. Lear, Trans.) (p. 292). London: Rivingtons.
3 - Michael E. Gaitley, (2010). Consoling the Heart of Jesus (p. 88). Stockbridge: Marian Press.