The Five Ways Passivity Robs Your Life

I took a hard look at this shady corner of my yard this afternoon.

It was an unpleasant reminder of the consequences of passivity.

You see, seven years ago this was my vegetable garden. Yes really, there were rows of tomatoes and peppers, lettuce and berries where now there is just barren ground over the deep shade of some fast growing trees.

How could this have happened? It was nothing more than my own passivity.  As I stood looking, I thought about the obvious parallel between this soil and the rest of my life. Whether it’s a garden of plants or a garden of an important project or treasured relationship or my own inner soul, the consequences of passivity are stark.

I thought back to the ancient proverb that I thought would never literally apply to me:

I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, 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 man.  (Proverbs 24:30-34)

So, how did I get tripped up?  How did I let passivity rob me of my garden?  On reflection, I saw these five ways that passivity deceived me and then robbed me:

1.  Passivity underestimates consequences. If you had shown me this photo six years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I would have thought, yes, a neglected garden might get a little weedy, a little harder to till up, but I would have never dreamed how radical the change would be, how totally unusable my garden would become with neglect.  It is rare that we accurately see the true extent of the consequences of passivity in our lives.

2.  Passivity clouds vision.  There’s a stand of pine trees between my back deck and my garden, so I had to walk about fifty yards to see just how bad the garden was looking.  The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” wasn’t thought up just for a garden.  The woman who keeps putting that frustrating project at the bottom of her pile, the man who checks out of dealing with a troubled relationship by staying glued to the television screen, are both giving passivity the opportunity to cloud their vision.

3.  Passivity justifies procrastination. With my neglected garden I believed the lie that I could always make up for lost time later. I let procrastination tell me, “You can cut down those weeds next week.” “You can cut those saplings down next weekend.” “You can till it up in the Spring.” Do those excuses sound familiar to you?  Have you ever told yourself statements like “I’ll clean up the garage next week.” “I’ve got the weekend to get that project done.” “We’ll take a vacation together next year.”  The truth is that tasks you put off don’t get done, so don’t let passivity justify your procrastination.

4.  Passivity rationalizes impending failure.  When I saw the garden getting worse and worse, I started telling myself things like “Well, I have higher priorities now.” “It wasn’t a good spot for a garden anyway.” “It’s too much trouble.”  When we start to see the “handwriting on the wall” it’s much easier to rationalize & dismiss our failure than to take a hard, humble look at ourselves and accept responsibility for our mistakes.

5.  Passivity takes us beyond the point of no return. There’s no going back now with my garden. The tree root systems are now so entrenched it would be easier to plow up another section of my yard than to try to restore my old garden.  The final consequence of passivity is that we don’t always get second chances. We deceive ourselves when we assume that we’ll have a chance to patch up that strained friendship someday, that our marriage will improve once the stresses are less, that we’ll be able to catch up with God when we’re not so busy.

The consequences of my passivity robbed me of my garden, but it doesn’t have to take any other part of my life.  I can be vigilant to guard against its deceit, and so can you.  Don’t let passivity rob you of anything in your life.

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