Reminiscing a shop in Le Marais, Paris

Nobody expected this kind of mental warfare

This COVID-19 pandemic has taken everyone by surprise. The government pronouncement of a lockdown came so sudden. Consequently, people had no time to purchase provisions for food and medicine. The sad thing is that nobody expected this kind of a mental warfare. Hence, many are suffering from fear and anxiety. This situation is easy to understand on account of the restraints imposed on personal liberties. However, this is precisely the moment when one needs to exercise the power of saying “No”.

On the other hand, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions seem to willingly accept the imposed isolation in the homes. Whether, they are happy or not, it remains debatable.

A simple and yet so appropriate prescription

This brings me to the simple advise of St. Josemaria Escriva in his book, The Way, which states:

Point # 5 Get used to saying No.

So simple and yet so appropriate during this time, Point # 5 is a good prescription for each and everyone to heed. After all, this lockdown hardly gives anyone a choice at all except to face up with and accept reality. Learning to say “No” at this time will certainly work well in combating the contradictions of each day. Everyday is a battle against the disordered desires that we have in our minds. For some, it could simply be cravings for good food or wine, which, sadly, are not available. For others, it could be longing for a loved one in some distant community. Of paramount importance is the ability to exercise self-restraint in the face of the domineering passion. This is done by harnessing the power of saying “No” to one’s inner self.

Some ideas to combat disordered longings

Whilst it may be easier said than done, I would like to share some ideas, as follows:

  • Material Detachment – Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world had succumbed to the lures of high fashion, the pleasures of gourmet cuisine as well as lavish lifestyle travels. Indeed, the new norm after the isolation calls for living a more austere lifestyle. This is what material detachment is all about – saying “No” to the non-essential longings of the self.
  • Self-denial – This involves the practice of restraining one’s self from falling into the temptation of pursuing the disordered desires. For example, consumerism has heavily influenced the buying habits of young people to the point that luxury brands have become the “end-all and be-all “of life. Saying “No” to whims or caprice would definitely strengthen one’s will power.
  • Develop the Habit – Learning to say “No” will require constant practice through willful assent each time the cravings start to creep in. Definitely, it will not happen overnight. On the contrary, it will take many painstaking efforts of beginning and beginning again each time one falls.

In conclusion, I would like to quote St. Josemaria Escriva: “Conversion is the matter of a moment. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” [The Way, No. 285]


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