The Destructive Power of Neglect
Neglecting God means letting the cares and responsibilities of your material life take precedence
When people hear of the wonders and joys that a true spiritual life can bring, most feel an immediate excitement. The idea that it is possible to know God to such an intimate extreme as to be able to settle quietly into meditation and hear that still small voice sounds incredible.
A life that has purpose, that is free from negative beliefs and patterns of the past, all wounds healed up and addictions conquered sounds really appealing. The spirit in us believes in the possibility of this deep union with the Almighty and enthusiastically proclaims yes! In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no’. On quick glance this teaching seems rather obvious and the reality of its impact is often missed but dig deeper and we find the number one tendency in human beings that derails positive progress towards spiritual development.
Your yes is yes when you say it today and do it today. And tomorrow. And everyday. But for some mysterious reason, we struggle with the discipline needed to see our relationship to God be our number one priority.
We say yes in the excitement of the moment but later our yes degenerates to a ‘yes, but maybe a little later’ or ‘I want it but I have some many other things I have to take care of first…’. In this lesson, we will be learning about why we feel so drawn to spiritual transformation and yet we still neglect God. We will also discuss how to reverse this quiet but destructive tendency.
The etymology of the word neglect is very telling. ‘Neg’ means not and ‘lect’ comes from the latin verb ‘legere’ meaning ‘to choose or pick up’. In simple terms, neglect means we don’t choose something and thus we neglect it. Listen to St. Pauls’ teaching about the will of humans in Romans Chapter 7;
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who does it, but it is sin living in me. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
There are forces at work inside each of us that stir up thoughts and feelings which then lead to us not choosing that which we want but instead, choosing that which we don’t want. You may find it comforting to realize this is a biblical teaching and you can expect to hit these frustrations as you really commit to your own growth. Yes we want God but as it turns out, we want a lot of other things as well.
In order to overcome the habit of neglecting God in favor of your perceived urgent responsibilities, easier activities and other leisure pursuits, we need to spend some time examining what conditions come to pass that lead us to the put off our spiritual life. This is an active process that requires a high degree of blunt honesty. You must define the temptations that give you a more immediately gratifying experience. The development of a relationship with God as an inner experience is not an overnight process. It’s not even a ‘30 days or your money back’ type experience. It will render small but significant gains along the way, with surprising breakthroughs that come at unexpected times and a gradual shift in consciousness that is permanent.
You might wonder why it can seem so hard to stay consistent in the relationship with God. Well, let’s be frank. It’s difficult in a world which values everything transient and appearance based. It’s subtle and not many are doing it so it’s alienating. On top of that, it creates constriction. If you want God, it appears there is a lot we have to give up. This is true. We act on faith that the things we give up are the very things that prevent the deeper peace.
Laziness is an example. While laziness can provide an immediate relief from responsibility, the fact that nothing gets done becomes a burden. Pursuing God means no longer succumbing to laziness. The more we can function as we were made to, the more we feel attuned to the Divine which is the goal.
Everyone has a cocktail of negative habits and vices which are in the way of knowing God. Ultimately a fierce desire for the complete experience of God must be nurtured but even that isn’t enough to overcome neglect at times. So how will we ever be consistent and disciplined on the Path?
It begins with the feminine energy in us, the desire nature and the hunger for love that gets us into the seeking mindset. Our feelings reveal a longing for greater meaning and thus we seek spiritual growth. Not all souls get there in this life but assuming your soul is ready to awaken, something inside knows it is a spiritual issue and not a material pursuit. More material success won’t increase your sense of peace once basic needs are met.
The desire for more meaning stirs a motivation to find either a path, a process, some teachings or a teacher. Consider following Jesus. He says He is the Way. It is a multi-dimensional teaching. He is the example of someone who pursued the relationship so we can look to Him as our guide. As well, He spoke as the Christ so the Way also means learning to recognize the voice of the Christ in you and then follow the direction it gives you.
Once you realize you have found a path or a teacher, it is the masculine energy that has to get proactive. The masculine energy in you makes a firm decision and then your will takes over. You could imagine the voice of your will saying, “I see we are clear this is what we want (as though addressing the feelings). Therefore, here is what we WILL do.” It is the will in us, a God given aspect of the soul that stirs determination and conviction.
The will in you has the intensity to override the various discomforts associated with being true to your spiritual practices. If you have not developed your will (by never challenging yourself to achieve difficult goals) then neglect will seem like your friend because it allows you a temporary relief from the pressure of transformation. Will power is the front line enemy of neglect.
Here is a way to think of the battle. Your desire represents the generals behind enemy lines deciding what you want. You use meditation to identify how strong your desire is for the relationship with God. Don’t assume it’s enough in you and certainly don’t assume everyone has a strong desire for this Way of life. Many will say they do but not many will put themselves through the process necessary to actualize their desire.
This is a way to understand the saying that ‘many are called but few are chosen’. Many hear the call. There is some desire stirred in them when they hear the truth and the Way of transformation is presented to them as a real possibility. But if their will does not show up for battle, they won’t reach the point of preparation for the various initiations and thus won’t be chosen to go the next level.
Developing will power must be approached intelligently. For example, if someone decides they want to lose 10 pounds in a month and has a relatively weak will, they are likely to fail. It’s going to be too much of a strain. A strong will implies the acceptance of discomfort as a sacrifice for the attainment of something deeply desired. Even if the desire is very strong, the flesh is weak (the mind as well) and thus we crave the immediate relief of NOT following through with our willfulness. This weakness sets the stage for neglect to flourish in which we don’t choose that which we really want.
The number one secret weapon against neglect is preparation. When certain of your clear desire for a real spiritual life and you find the courage to take on the transformative work, create a game plan and you etch it into your will. From that moment on, you make your word be your unbending law. What you have spoken must be fulfilled.
You have proclaimed that you will meditate daily and there is no room to negotiate. The challenge for us is that it feels simple when we are in tune with our desire. But when the moment arrives to follow through, we all of a sudden recognize competing desires. The mind, the body and the emotions have other desires such as more sleep, more tv, more wine, more sugar, more whatever just not more damn meditation!
Spiritual disciplines are not always fun and sometimes can seem like a dreadful chore. Examine the life of Olympic athletes and ask if they love every workout. Or great actors having to learn a 100 pages of dialogue. Or great inventors each time another iteration comes up short.
The pursuit of excellence is not about feeling good all the time. It’s about conditioning your entire being to be single focused and believing that the process will deliver. Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount. ‘If your eye be single, your whole body will be filled with Light.’
He also said that He on his own can do nothing. This is another of the secret weapons for you to overcome neglect of your spiritual life. You must constantly invite the Holy Spirit to fuel your desire and strengthen your will. Doing so keeps you humble since you learn that it isn’t you orchestrating your transformation but it is God doing it to you and for you. You must use your tools meaning your desire to and your will to follow through.
The final step is to define the actions you WILL do and create consequences for success and failure. We as humans are motivated by results, some more by rewards and some more by punishment. This is why giving stars to children in school can be so effective in motivating them. We respond well to recognition for our accomplishments. You have to be the one recognizing your own triumph. Meditate on which motivates you more, rewards or punishments and set up systems of accountability. In the long run, it is God who will be your great reward.