Spiritual Toads: Sick of Being Good

You come from a Catholic family. You’ve always been a pretty good kid. Maybe you were a bit mischievous, or you struggled with a bad temper, but you had a good heart. Sometimes, when no one was watching you, you spoke with Jesus or Mary in your heart. You start growing up, and something inexplicable happened. You got sick of being good. You are like a toad. You seek dark and humid abodes, far away from the splendor of the sun. 

It is said that St. Thomas Aquinas’s sister once asked him what the key to holiness was. We can understand holiness here as reaching the heights of goodness, which is participating in God’s goodness. He responded, “Wanting it.” I imagine the young woman was disappointed with this blunt answer, at least initially. I was as well when I heard the story! However, we often underestimate the role of a determined and grace-strengthened will in the quest for holiness. St. Teresa of Avila reminds us of the importance of kindling in our soul an intense desire for holiness in her autobiography: “If we make continuous efforts to do so, by little and little, we shall, though not at once, reach that height which many Saints by His grace have reached. His Majesty seeks and loves courageous souls…” (Ch. 13). 

If the key to reaching holiness is wanting it—collaborating with God’s grace, St. Thomas would specify, and putting our trust in God while walking in humility, St. Teresa would add—it makes sense that the greatest obstacle to reaching holiness is not wanting it. If that is the case, getting sick of being good is really the worst thing that can happen to you. It is relatively easy to help someone who is struggling to overcome a certain sin, vice, or imperfection. It is difficult but possible to help someone who wants to overcome abundant sins, vices, and imperfections. But what to do with a young person who simply is sick of being good? What to do if that young person is one of your friends? What if it is you?

We can start by asking, “Why?” Knowing the causes of a problem is a critical step to finding a solution. 

1. Your flesh drags you down. Being good requires making efforts. Making constant efforts can be tiring. If you don’t stop to reflect about your behavior and where it could lead you, you will easily make excuses and start letting your flesh drag you down. You stop getting up on time in the morning. You spend more and more time on the couch using your phone or watching TV. Your sensuality begins to dominate you and you seek instant gratifications. 

2. The world attracts you. You are worried about your image. What are my friends going to think if they find out I’m “so Catholic”? How am I going to make friends if I refuse to do everything they do? You start by justifying your friends’ behavior, thinking, It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll just hang out with them… Then you end up falling into the same things. You discover how beautiful you are and start showing off your beauty. Or you discover how ugly you are and become obsessive about covering up your supposed ugliness. 

3. The devil tempts you. He takes advantage of these weaknesses to separate you from God. He snuffs the flickering wick of your love for God and desire for goodness. How? It depends on what your weaknesses are. He bombards some people with pleasures of the flesh and recognitions of the world. He convinces others that goodness and love are pretty ideals that have no place in the “real world.” He chains souls down in their vices and then tries to persuade them that God is not merciful enough to forgive such grave sins. He whispers doubts about the truth of the Catholic faith or the existence of God Himself. 

Sound familiar? These are the three classic enemies of the soul. The problem is that if the devil has been so successful as to cause you to get sick of being good, there are only two possible solutions. One, God Himself can break into your life and give you an intense and sudden grace of conversion, or two, God can delicately inspire you to desire, even if very weakly, to change. If you receive that “delicate inspiration” with an open heart and have great confidence in God, He will triumph in you. These graces can be direct, but they can also be indirect, hearing the Word of God, for example—perhaps while being forced to go to Mass—or having a conversation with a good friend or family member that really “makes you think.” 

If your desire to be good is lacking or inexistant, open your heart to God and beg Him to teach you to love Him. You are called to be much more than a toad! Do concrete acts of surrender to Him and His will. Ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to protect you under her mantle. Open your soul to a good spiritual director. Frequent Confession and Communion are fundamental in this battle! As St. Teresa suggested, make continuous efforts, little by little, not just to be good but to reach holiness. Trust that He will triumph in you!