Conquering familiarity and complacency PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 July 2016 14:05



This is the common concern of all of us who in one way or another enter into some commitment, be it marriage, priesthood, etc. This is especially so if the commitment is of the lifelong type, like a vocation.

It’s understandable that with the flow of time, we fall into some familiarity, lukewarmness, routine, complacency in our commitments. We should not make a big fuss over it. We are quite aware that “familiarity breed contempt,” a phenomenon that should not be surprising given our wounded nature. Obviously, we have to do something about it.

In the Book of Revelation, an apocalyptic book with a dreadfully prophetic character but this time with a dash of hope, we are told about the predicaments of the seven churches, actually a figure of the universal church, meaning, all of us.

It describes the good aspects of each of these churches, as well as their weakness and predicaments. To the Church of Ephesus, for example, the Apostle John said: ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear evil men…But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (2,1)

To the Church of Sardis, he said: “I know your works. You have the name of being alive, and you are dead.” (3,1) And to the Church of Laodicea, he said: “I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (3,15-16)

As I said, it’s not good to get stuck with the negative things of our life, like our usual penchant to get too familiar with people and with our commitments, or to fall into spiritual and moral lukewarmness and complacency.

We have to learn to grapple with these eventualities and learn to move on, always relying on God’s grace and assurance. He has already given us everything so that we can be what we ought to be, we can do what we are supposed to do, we can be faithful to our commitment not only in a dragging way but rather with great zeal.   We just have to do our part. Our attitude should be that we just have to begin and begin again. We have to learn how to renew ourselves, or how to have another conversion since conversion is going to be a lifelong necessity for us.

This is how we can distance ourselves from the constant threat of familiarity and complacency. What we need to do is to continue, without let up, having to begin and begin again. This is a practical law of life that we should apply in our daily affairs. Let’s not get too sentimental and wait for some strong inspiration before we move. With a simple act of the will, let’s just do it—that of having to begin and begin again.

We need this attitude and practice, first of all, when we commit a mistake. We can always begin again, because even if we have to contend with the consequences of our mistakes, we can always count on God’s mercy and the power of atonement and reparation that always produces beautiful effects.

We have to begin and begin again because we are also subject to our continuing tendency to be lukewarm.  That’s an undeniable condition we have to contend everyday. Besides, we easily get distracted from our proper goal.

And lastly, we have to begin and begin again because in spite of our best efforts, our ultimate goal to be with God forever always beckons us. Thus, in the Book of Revelation, we read the relevant passage: “He that is holy, let him be sanctified still.” (22,11)

This attitude of having to begin and begin again makes the need for constant renewal attainable, and not left simply as a mere desire. It keeps us going, fanning the love that is at the core of our being, until that love gets consummated when with God, we will always be new, never to grow old.

This does not mean that we have to do some extraordinary effort to begin again. As I said, a simple act of the will is enough, carrying it out with simplicity and humility, in silence, and everything will be different because the colors and the passions of love will again start to appear.

If we are prompt and consistent in this attitude and practice, we can manage to nullify the workings of familiarity, lukewarmness and complacency.