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Negligence

Negligence

If someone was to ask us: “are you ever negligent?”, we would probably be tempted to nod in agreement, if only to make sure we do not come out as smug. But things would get much more complicated if we were asked to answer the follow-up question: “but in which areas and in what ways are you negligent?”. Because how are we supposed to identify in which situations we tend to be negligent and to what degree (occasionally/systematically, minor/serious), when by definition, negligence results from a lack of attention and thus cannot be clearly and directly perceived? Or since, in other words, we do not attach any importance to it.

Of course, there are times where the thin voice of our moral conscience will make itself heard in the back of our mind, right when we are about to do something negligent. But it will likely instantaneously drown in the nonstop muddy flow of our quasi-automatic thoughts, and lack the energy to push us to exercise our willpower to thwart that negligence.

Further, it is generally easier to knowingly be doing something and realise that we shouldn’t be doing it, than to identify what we should be doing when we aren’t doing it. Our ego can demonstrate almost flawless dexterity and has an impressive range of tools at its disposal when it comes to concealing this little fault to ourselves or exonerating ourselves from it—negligence, a little fault, after all so natural, so ordinary, so universal…

How then, can we find out how our negligence expresses itself?

By pausing for a instant and assessing the situation:

  • Do I often postpone the same tasks?
  • Do certain unpleasant events often happen to me: tickets, late payment notifications, urgent house repairs, etc.?
  • Do I get criticised for missing deadlines, not keeping promises, not cleaning up after myself, leaving tasks unfinished, making improper comments, etc.?
  • Have I returned everything I ever borrowed, every favour, every invitation, etc.?

In addition to this material and social assessment, it is possible to make an assessment from a spiritual point of view:

  • Am I aware of why I have come to this earth and of what I should then give priority to in my life, both in terms of the nature of my activities and of how to carry them out?
  • Do I have a spiritual programme (moments of attention to the divine, a plan to fight against certain manifestations of my imperious self, altruistic actions, etc.)?
  • Do I feel that I never manage to properly implement this programme?
  • Am I able to make a clear and detailed assessment of my day in the evening?

It might become clear to us, merely from answering these questions, that negligence is… consubstantial with us, and flows from both our actions and our inaction, with a vigor inversely proportional to the attention we give to other beings and things. Further, the material/spiritual distinction, which can seem quite convenient at first, may not be that relevant at all. Because from the moment our material negligence leads us to infringe on the rights of others, doesn’t it become a spiritual issue and turn what our ego likes to call a “little fault” into an actual misdeed?

And symmetrically, from the moment we start struggling against our tendencies to be negligent (cautiously targeting one or two recurrent patterns to start with) with the intention to carry out our duty as a human being or for God’s satisfaction, aren’t we right in the middle of spiritual action?

The problem is that finding the motivation to fight against negligence isn’t easy. The backlash we may experience in various ways as a result of our negligence can easily lead us to become aware of the material consequences of negligence (by Nick at dhead support). But it is much more difficult to grasp the spiritual consequences: unpleasant mental states (lack of well-being, feeling out of control, pessimism, negative feelings toward those who convey—not always with great tact—the inconveniences they are suffering because of our negligence, etc.), which will be all the more difficult to link to our own negligence if we tend to put the blame on circumstances, society, others, etc.; stagnation in our process of ethical perfection through lack of concern for the rights of others; lack of spiritual attention because our mind is cluttered with worries created by our negligence, etc. So many opportunities for progress lost, negative causal chains generated and doors to a better material and spiritual future locked and that will remain invisible until we find and turn the key that will enable us to trigger a reverse causal process. And that key is attention.

It is difficult to feel motivated and to mobilise our will to stave off negligence. There is a vicious circle here: the less willpower we have to fight, the stronger the grip of the imperious self is and the more we minimise negligence; and the more we minimise negligence, the less motivation and will we have… But as with all struggles against the imperious self, let us remind ourselves of the divine presence. As long as we don’t… neglect it, that is, as long as we humbly and sincerely ask for divine help, divine energy will inevitably come and strengthen our will.

To conclude, here are two proposals for concrete action:

  1. We may first identify one way our negligence has repeatedly infringed on somebody else’s right and address it at all costs. For example, putting away, systematically and immediately, things we have just used and no longer need (and that somebody else will probably spend the time and energy to put away if we haven’t done it ourselves).
  2. We may force ourselves to think about our relation to the divine two or three times a day, by focusing on the meaning of the words and addressing Him as if He was in front of us. (see the post “A Successful Prayer”).

Any and all mnemonic tricks can be used (post-it notes, alarms, electronic reminders, etc.), but always duly paying attention to others around us—the potentially critical look of others on a slightly too visible and too loud practice should perhaps not be neglected…


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8 comments

  1. David Jul 10, 2013 12:31 pm 1

    Thank you Mrs. Duplessis for this gripping and thought-provoking article. I was internally shouting “Yes! / No!” to your questions. 🙂

    To aid your two proposals for action, it seems that your last question (assessing my day in the evening) will be the tool for knowing if we are on track to fighting this “little fault” of our ego.

    Thanks again, I will keep re-reading this article every so often to be reminded!

  2. A. Jul 10, 2013 1:23 pm 2

    A frequent source of negligence on my part is to set moments of prayer for myself (at the beginning of the day) and to then listen to the arguments of the imperious self that convince me to postpone these moments. The net result is that at the end of the day I have failed to stick to my plan.

    As far as I am concerned the root cause of this failure is that I pay heed to the following imperious self’s arguments:

    1. postponing moments of attention to the Source is no big deal because these are just unimportant little deeds
    2. I already feel well, I feel happy, serene and at peace with everyone around me, there is no need to say a prayer
    3. it is not possible to pay attention to the Source because there are lots of people around me
    4. it is not possible to properly say a prayer from beginning to end just now, I will thus do it later as soon as I find a more appropriate time

    But all of these are fake arguments, for instance:

    Argument 1) to fully appreciate the negative effects resulting from postponing one’s moments of attention to the Source, it is sufficient to analyze one’s state during the day or at the end of a day : increase in one’s negative thoughts and emotions (“unpleasent mental states”), decrease in one’s motivation towards spirituality or to help others etc …

    Argument 3) If you really need something (urgent need) you always find a solution but having a moment of attention to the Source does not seem to be a priority.

    Argument 4) If time is really an issue (and sometimes it is) one can tell a shorter prayer or have a brief moment of attention to the Source

  3. A. Jul 10, 2013 1:32 pm 3

    Thank you for this article

    I have analyzed my actions in order to « identify one way our negligence has repeatedly infringed on somebody else’s right and address it at all costs. » and I realized that my wife spends a lot of time helping my eldest son with his homework, and that she invests a considerable amount of energy doing so whereas I barely ask him how the day at school went/about the grades he got etc.. (and sometimes I even forget to do that!). Hence this is an excellent opportunity to fight against my negligence, to relieve my wife, to strengthen my relationship with my eldest son and to avoid infringing upon their rights.

  4. MA Jul 10, 2013 3:17 pm 4

    Thanks for this self awareness information, and thanks for your practical suggestions to help remove negligence. to become a better person.

  5. H Jul 16, 2013 8:20 pm 5

    This article came at such a crucial time in my life. Something I wanted to add is that I have found that negligence is almost like a food for the imperious self – it directly thrives off of one’s negligence, and it seems as if every time one is negligent, the imperious self becomes stronger almost exponentially. Thank you very much for this article and for bringing this to my attention.

  6. Photon Jul 21, 2013 2:37 am 6

    Thank you for this practical article. As someone who is trying to get back on his spiritual feet, neglecting spirituality in my life was causing me go on a downward spiral. Thankfully Divine help came to the rescue. I cannot afford to be negligent about negligence.

  7. Naghme Aug 04, 2013 6:46 am 7

    Not to be negligent means being mentally and emotionally present in situations, and understanding how our actions affect people. Not to be negligent is, however, not as simple in practice. NATURAL MEDITATION is the key. Praying and opening our heart to Him. Taking some time when we are at work during lunch or on our commute back home to talk honestly and openly to Him. He hears His children. We should take every opportunity we can to speak to Him.

  8. Juneone Aug 18, 2013 3:51 pm 8

    Thank you for the proposals for action. I tend to get so much more lazy in the summer, and I have been experiencing the material manifestations of spiritual negligence that you have pinpointed here. I knew I needed something and would not have been able to draw such clear lines to what parts of my behavior need to change.

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