A Common Mistake Made in the Pursuit of Holiness

Popular Catholic author Fr. Joseph F. Girzone, in his first non-fiction book Never Alone (1994,) wrote:

14497251 The mistake many people make when they start trying to be holy is they multiply religious practices and burden themselves with a host of activities, attending endless religious services, thinking that the more good things they do, the more spiritual they will become. Spirituality doesn't work that way. The spiritual life is something that grows slowly, imperceptibly, way beneath the surface of our lives. Pressuring ourselves to do all kinds of nice things for people and performing a multitude of good works does not make us holy. It can, if we are not careful, make us extremely nervous and pressure us into commitments that can overload our already overburdened lives (14).

I do not think this is, somehow or the other, a Catholic problem. This is a universal problem among all Christians, myself very much included. Over the course of my life I have added this activity and that new thing thinking that I could draw closer to Christ if I remained perpetually busy in his service and ministry. In reality this way of being often led me to a neurotic form of Christian living that was neither spiritually or physically healthy.

I have discovered, just like my friend Father Girzone, that “pressuring ourselves to do all kinds of nice things for people” can lead one into a deep hole. I like to please others. It comes easily to my personality type. But it also gets me into deep trouble. I take on too much, try things I should not and work too intensely for my own good. I never had a problem adopting a Protestant work ethic, contrary to many younger adults who seem to have an aversion to hard work at times. My problem was the exact opposite This made for many spiritual dangers like those cited in the quotation above. I wonder about you. Is your spiritual growth truly healthy? Do you pressure yourself unduly to do “nice things” and neglect your own heart and well-being in the process?