Catholic Husband

Love / Lead / Serve

Idle Hands

I recently watched an interview with a Benedictine monk done by a local TV station out West. They were profiling this monk and his jam-making business that he'd started on the monastery grounds. The reporter walked us through the monk's day, starting with prayers and then going immediately out into the fields to begin working. One of the lines from the story was the monk saying, "Idle hands are the Devil's tools."

This is a common phrase, but hearing it from a monk was particularly impactful. We tend to idealize members of the clergy and think of them as being above temptation and reproach when, in fact, they are human just as we are. We know that priests and religious spend a significant amount of time in prayer, so when a monk tells us that he works so as to avoid temptation, it should speak volumes to us.

There's plenty of work to be done in our daily lives and there's also plenty of opportunities for idle time. The best way to beat temptation is to avoid idle time though good scheduling.

Temptation strikes us all. Priests, nuns, sisters, brothers, married and single people alike. All of us face temptation and often the same ones. Temptation goes after the weakness of humanity and the tendency that we all have to be selfish. Sin, like any other activity, has a time requirement. When you've got plenty of good to do, there's simply less time to do evil. There's less time to stew about something your wife did, there's less time to surf Facebook and gossip, and there's less time to gorge yourself on food. We're weakest when we're rudderless. By implementing a solid time management system, you can deprive sin of time and choke it out.

Beyond keeping a calendar or a running to do list, it's important to set your own boundaries. I've written numerous times about being self-aware in the sin department and avoiding triggers to your most commonly committed sins. Setting boundaries can help you steer clear of those triggers and thus keep you happier and sin-free. Laziness is its own form of evil. It's ok to enjoy a slow pace, but it's also important to keep it in check. Boundaries created by time can help regulate your life so that you'll have plenty of time to take it easy while not, at the same time, falling into sin.

Time management has everything to do with what you do during your waking hours; it's not only about boosting productivity at work. Rather, it's about the sum total of how you spend your days. Incorporating hobbies, and keeping a few on standby, will help you make decisions during lulls in your day. You certainly have more to do than there are hours in the day and having a standby list can help you make better decisions about how to use unexpected free time. You could play with your kids, work on the car, update your home inventory, or even update the value of your stamp collection. Having hobbies on standby will help you make better decisions in the moment.

There could be any number of reasons, but we all commit sin because we think that we'll benefit from it in some way. Once we commit the sin, we usually feel guilt and shame. Initially believing that a particular sinful action will benefit us is what keeps us in the habit of sin. We hold to a mistaken belief that if we give up sin we're somehow giving up something good or fun. Contrary to this line of thinking, it's only when we give up our sin that we can be truly free. It's only when we give up our sin that we're happy. It's only when we give up our sin that we're able to enjoy all of the good that life has to offer. Breaking the habit is hard, but waiting on the other side is a peace and happiness that we haven’t known for a while, maybe even years.

Idle hands are the Devil's tools. Don’t be a tool.