The Uses and Misuses of Peacetime

I wrote recently about the uses one can make of one’s own suffering. Read in isolation, that piece might be taken to mean that in tumultuous and painful seasons of life we can grow better or worse, and that at other times we will not. But that’s not precisely correct.

I do not think that the time between tribulations will necessarily be a time of stagnation. It certainly can be, but it won’t always.

When life is rolling along as usual, with nothing particularly noteworthy intruding into our days, we might stagnate, but we might just as easily find ourselves worsening. We might slip slowly deeper and deeper into our vices, finding that the little evils that used to nourish us are growing easier and weaker and need to be embraced in larger or uglier quantities to give satisfaction.

You might on occasion grow unintentionally better. This might happen if a friend or family member confronts us and insists on a change and we decide to make it, even if the motivation has more to do with the relationship than the actual improvement.

Or we can treat our peacetime as a time for training. We can grow in virtue and wisdom and skill, by working constantly at the areas that need improvement, gently overcoming the protests that arise within the reluctant parts of us.

You might be in the middle of a life crisis of some sort right now, but it seems more likely to me that now is a time between crises. If so, how are you using that time? Are you using it intentionally and systematically to become more and more the person you’ve always wanted to be?

If not, start today. Start with one thing. Attempt something that will bring you closer to that person. And if you fail today, try again tomorrow.

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