I learned a new word recently from reading my friend Charles LaFond’s book, Fearless Church Fundraising: The Practical and Spiritual Approach to Stewardship. The word is “acedia,” a kind of boredom that has much to do with all forms of organization. Charles is very thoughtful. I find his views on stewardship of many kinds to be very helpful — check his blog here.
Acedia or spiritual boredom is a strong poison that can sicken the most thoughtful stewardship program. Acedia is a technical term in Christian spirituality, and it signifies joylessness, weariness, boredom, listlessness and, at its worst, a spiritual depression which clouds the mind and dulls the heart.
Sounding like a fair description of an epidemic in many organizations yet?
With acedia, nothing is “bad” — exactly — it is just that nothings seems good either…. The danger of acedia is that it is so like depression that you may not know you have it. Like alcoholism, the more drunk you are, the less likely you are to realize you are drunk. Similarly, the more spiritually depressed you are, the less likely you are to see the depression.
Acedia results in a dull pain, not a sharp one. The person, family, group or organization suffering from acedia will simply become immune to the blessings around them. For a person with acedia, the sun is too bright, the water is too wet, the day is too long, the hours are passing too slowly, and the apple is never sweet enough. It is the spiritual equivalent to riding in beautiful farmland with a blindfold on.
It is the dull pain, the numbed quality that stands out to me here. I meet so many people — brilliant people — that are in pain and a bit numbed in their organizational contexts. It is my experience that many of us come alive when invited to be more real, more engaged with each other.
Fearless. Practical. Spiritual. This combination of energies matter pretty much everywhere I go these days.