Accidental detachment

posted in: Prayer and Virtue | 14
File:Tissot The Mess of Pottage.jpg
The Mess of Pottage by Tissot. Detachment enables us to have the right priorities.

The title of this post is a bit misleading. I don’t really believe in “accidental” detachment, any more than I believe in accidental holiness. But I’ve noticed something interesting in my life over the past several months. I’m seeing success and growth in areas I haven’t been focusing on, and I believe I am seeing God’s hand at work.

As my longtime readers know, I like to focus on one area of spirituality to work on each year. In 2013, I chose to work on trust. That led to a huge change in my life and my book Trusting God with St. Therese. For 2014 my plan was to work on detachment. I did start the year with a few blog posts on detachment. I also made a habit of turning my mind and heart immediately towards God when I enjoyed or thought about food and drink.

I planned to start working on another small area next, but I didn’t get very far. As the publication of my book came closer, all my mental energy was focused on completing it. I have a hard time entering fully into two projects at once. So I just could not focus my mind on detachment in the way I wanted to.

However, I have been praying for help on detachment, and over the past few days I realized that God has been answering those prayers, even without my noticing it. Here is how it happened.

Naturally speaking, I have wide interests and an opinion about almost everything. If a friend was discussing politics on Facebook, I would jump into the conversation, defending the side I agreed with.

While writing and proofing my book, I had less time for discretionary activities. I had to pare down my interaction with others on social media. I had to pass by all those political posts in my Facebook feed without commenting. I reserved my comments for prayer requests and posts on spirituality. Nearly everything else was filtered out.

Last week I did jump into a political conversation. In the midst of it, I realized I didn’t think I had all the answers any more. I saw issues as more complex than I had in the past. And I suddenly saw that while I still had opinions, I didn’t care much about them now. Defending them seemed a waste of time, even when I had more discretionary time.

As the political season gets into full swing, I find I no longer care much about candidates’ economic policy, or their opinion of how to handle the situation in the Middle East, or states’ rights, or gun rights. I reserve my energy for fighting for life, the family, and religious freedom. All else appears trivial.

So what lesson can we learn here? As we spend less time and less energy on anything, its significance in our lives decreases. If we act like something is unimportant, we begin to see it as unimportant. The same thing happens in the reverse. If we make time for a certain person, activity, or object, we begin to value it more highly.

We’ve probably all experienced this over the course of Lent. At the beginning, giving up sweets for forty days might seem impossible, but if we endure, we find that by Easter our taste for sweets has waned.

When we learn that detachment is necessary for intimacy with Christ, we might want to give up the Christian life before we’ve even begun. We don’t think we can live without all the things we love. We don’t realize that detachment becomes easier as we mature, that things we love now will seem trivial to us when compared with our growing love for Christ.

I could choose now to go back to arguing about politics on Facebook. But I pray I do not. I have a new freedom, a new peace. It is so much easier now to say no.

Thank you, Lord, for your hand on my life. Thank you for the gift of “accidental” detachment.

Connie Rossini

Note 1: Please pray for me as I give a talk on Trusting God at our parish Council of Catholic Women meeting this evening. God reward you!

Note 2: As you comment on this post, could I ask you to focus on spirituality, not politics? Although I used politics as an example, that is not what this post is about. I’d like to keep it centered on detachment. Thanks for your cooperation.

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Hi, I'm a Catholic writer and homeschool mother of four boys. I practice Carmelite spirituality. Check out my Books page for publications to help your whole family grow in holiness.

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14 Responses

  1. Theresa

    Enclosed in prayer Connie!

    Great post!! I have experienced this myself in regards to FB (which I am not on right now) and also other areas. For instance…food. I was not practicing self-control with certain foods. I started seeing a naturopath doctor who helped me focus on a healthy diet which meant *fasting* from certain foods that were not good for me. It has helped me *detach* from certain foods. Even with the computer, by giving up certain social media, I was on the computer less and less…and experiencing the freedom that comes with that.

    I have more areas to work on, of course : )

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Connie Rossini

      I’ve had a similar phenomenon going on with my book promo. I work hard to promote it, and some of the things I expect to get me a lot of sales completely fall flat. Then another person promotes the book without my asking him to and I sell a bunch of books unexpectedly. I hope to write a post for my new Indie Catholic Authors blog (when I have time, haha) called “God is My Marketing Director.” It seems like God is rewarding my efforts, yet doing so in a way that makes it clear He is responsible and not me. It’s another lesson in trust. Does that makes sense?

      • Theresa

        Yes…thank you…it does make sense. Sometimes we have to become detached even from good desires. It is putting EVERYTHING in God’s hands…even the holiest of desires.

  2. Mike

    Thanks for this great post. This virtue is so important today.

    There’s also an aspect of detachment that is not simply “staying away, or “losing taste” for something, such as sweets at Lent, etc., which we could gain back once we begin eating them again, etc. I think true detachment let’s us walk in and out of any and all licit joys/delights (as well as all pains and sufferings, etc.) following a purified reason, without heed to our mere predilections. I think of a quote from St. Teresa of Avila when she said something like ‘I eat quail when there’s quail and (implied “just as happily”) eat gruel when there’s gruel”.

    So for the political commenting you discuss – and I’m confident you would agree – the virtue of detachment would allow you, not to simply stay away from it or not desire to comment, but to go in and comment when reason called for it to bring other participants to a position which glorifies God or offers an explanation according to the faith, and walk away without comment when it’s simply for voicing a needless, maybe vain, opinion or any other reason that doesn’t place God at the center of the conversation.

    • Connie Rossini

      Thanks, Mike. I agree. I think the first step towards detachment often requires a fasting from the thing we are attached to. But, as you said, we eventually need to be at a place where we can enter the activity (or taste the food) without blowing the action out of proportion. There is nothing wrong with having political opinions or voicing them. There is something wrong with always insisting that others agree with our opinions, even when they have good arguments for not doing so, or for getting all angry or disturbed when others disagree. St. Paul says something very similar to the gruel reference. He found the secret to being content with much or little. What does either one matter in itself? What matters is that God is glorified. If he wants me to speak, I should speak. If he wants me to be silent, I should be silent. And I should be equally content to do either.

  3. Lisa Nicholas

    I have experienced “accidental” virus such as you describe. I think that when we are consciously struggling to acquire a virtue such as trust or detachment, we are thinking too much about our own efforts, rather than relying on God, Who can do all things. So He allows us to be distracted by other things so that His Holy Spirit can work in us the things we thought we had to “achieve” ourselves. This is a lesson He has been teaching me (over and over, because I’m a slow learner) for the past several years. I’m looking forward to the day when I’ve finally got it and can move on to the next lesson. 🙂

  4. franciscanmom

    Maybe these virtues are less “accidental” than serendipitous, keeping in mind that God is behind everything we view as coincidence or serendipity.

  5. Michelle

    I am also experiencing this benefit of which I attribute to my “letting go of” and trusting God more. It’s slow, but moving for sure. Thanks again and again.

    Oh, and I never mentioned that my brother’s name is Terry. He is disabled from a head injury in 1988 that left him in a coma for about 6 weeks. He is a living miracle. I also prayed for your sister’s intercession last week.

    Have a great week.

  6. marilynrodrigues

    I always felt that simply by virtue of having children I’m getting accidentally detached from all kinds of things all over the place 🙂 Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

    • Connie Rossini

      LOL, Marilyn. One thing that really challenges me as a mother is always having to be last. Naturally speaking, I really don’t like it and sometimes I complain. If I can just embrace it, my vocation can truly lead me closer to God.

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