It's such an easy vice to fall into, but here's why it's important to guard zealously against sloth.
How many times do we think “I’ll do that later” or “I don’t feel like doing that job right now”? Laziness is like the roots of a fig tree that extend far and wide, covering as much ground as possible; by the time you notice them, they’ve become so strong that they can lift asphalt off the ground or knock down nearby walls that we thought were indestructible.
If we give in to laziness in small things, we’re already beginning to lose the battle. As is true with all vices, laziness is a slippery slope. Once we willingly open the door to it, we become more and more used to it, and indulge it in greater and greater ways. Tasks we used to do relatively easily seem to become more difficult. We feel less like working, and we become more reticent to confront challenges and situations that demand effort.
Giving in to laziness means accepting failure. Every time we decide not to get up on time so we can lounge around in bed, every time we put off the day’s work, every time we do a job poorly and only do it at all so we can check it off the list, we’re undermining ourselves.
Here are some more concrete reasons why laziness is so damaging to our lives:
1Because character is forged by habits, day by day
If I decide not to do my duty today, and make the same decision tomorrow, soon I’ll make a habit of not doing my duty at all. It’s difficult to break bad habits, and we have to redouble our efforts if we want to get back on the right track. Recuperating from a bad habit is like having a broken leg: We have to do physical therapy, and it will be harder for us to perform the simple act of walking.
2Laziness is linked to pride, vanity, greed, and lust
If I give free rein to laziness, I’m lowering my level of preparation against the rest of the vices. Indulging in laziness is like letting cold air in through a crack: Even if it’s a small crack, it cools off the entire room and makes it harder to heat.
3If we're lazy, we may miss out on interesting—and important—things in life
For example, it’s difficult for a lazy person to prepare for an exam or for anything else that requires constant work for a certain period of time. It’s also possible that if we don’t get out of bed on time, one day we’ll miss a bus or a train to an important appointment, and lose a professional opportunity because of laziness.
4We deform our consciences
If we’re lazy, we tend to come up with explanations that justify our actions: “Nobody told me,” “I thought I’d be able to do it but I didn’t know about …” This is a mental process (one we freely choose) by which we make our conscience lax. The first day that we skip class, we think about it a lot and know it’s wrong, but by the fourth time we do it, we don’t think twice.
5If we're lazy and leave things for later, we have less time to do what we should
If we’re always catching up on things we should’ve done before, it forces us to work in a hurry and do things with less attention than they need. We’ll be stressed all the time and we’ll rarely do things well.
6If we're lazy, we become slaves to our whims
Laziness blurs our priorities, and we end up doing last what we should have done first, because often what is most important is also most arduous. I remember that, when I was a student, at exam time I was tempted a thousand times to stop studying and start tidying up my workspace instead. Has something similar ever happened to you? It keeps happening to me in a thousand ways now, but these are distractions that we must ignore in order to concentrate on our priorities.
7Procrastination causes tasks to pile up
If we procrastinate in our housework, in a very short time we’ll find ourselves with a mountain of clothes to wash or fold, a pile of dishes in the sink, or an inch of dust on the shelves.
8Laziness not only harms others but also ourselves
It destroys virtue and therefore harms our character. Being lazy makes us irresponsible, soft, fickle, dishonest, and unreliable.
9Laziness has many masks
For example, it hides itself behind feelings. “I don’t feel emotionally prepared to do this job right now” or “We’d better leave this conversation for tomorrow.” Another mask is that of false concern for others, which would lead us to give priority to social activities (of a sports team, of an association, etc.—“I can’t let my teammates down!”) while we abandon our more important personal, religious or familial duties.
A quote for reflection
There is a biblical text that summarizes the evils of laziness. It’s in the Book of Proverbs, and it says:
I passed by the field of one who was lazy, by the vineyard of a stupid person; and see, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior. (Proverbs 24: 30-34)
We must not understand this “poverty” only in the material sense, but also as poverty of the human being as a whole. So we see that the fight against laziness is a glorious struggle that we must take seriously.