Indifference is usually defined as a lack of concern or disinterest. It is viewed negatively. To be indifferent is to be callous or unfeeling toward others. This kind of indifference is, rightly, seen in a negative, pejorative light.
Over the last few weeks, I have been pondering the concept of freedom – true freedom. I’ve wondered what would it be like to be truly free to make choices and live without fear of consequences – things like what others might think or death or loss of something I value. In my reading and meditating one word has come up over and over again: indifference. In this case, indifference has a positive, spiritual sense. Let me explain.
Back during the Middle Ages, Ignatius of Loyola affirmed that human beings were created to love God with all their heart and soul through loving others. To be able to do this properly, he wrote, “it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent toward all created things…wanting and choosing only that which leads to the end for which we were created” (Spiritual Exercises 23 translated by George E. Ganss). He suggests that we will ultimately live best and will be happiest when we love one thing or more precisely some One. To do this we need “interior freedom” to be able to pursue that some One without distraction or competition. Hence we need indifference – indifference to everything that is not God; indifference to anything that is not God’s will; indifference to anything that prevents us from loving well.
Indifference, then, is defined as “being so passionately and single-mindedly committed, so completely in love, that we are willing to sacrifice anything, including our lives, for the ultimate goal” (Brackley, The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times, p. 12). In this context, the ultimate goal is loving God alone. Indifference then allows us to pursue that ultimate goal. It creates the freedom we need to actually move in that direction. Such indifference allows our hearts to reach a place where we can truly say with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). It allows our heart to be in quiet resolve in the midst of confusion and fright so we can resond in a similar way as Mary in Luke 1 when the angel told her she would have a child by the Holy Spirit, With a heart for God she said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Whatever the Lord wants, no matter the personal cost, I accept.
When we reach a place of indifference, we are truly free to be used by God for his glory. Indifference is not an easy attitude to attain. The truth is we cannot, by our own effort alone, get to a place of true indifference. We need God’s help. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. But like many transformational attitudes, we can create space in our lives for him to do his work.
1. Pray. Ask God to give us a holy detachment; a true indifference to anything that is not his will; does not lead us to love him and others more.
2. Wait. It sometimes takes time for God to move in us to remove our attachments and bring us to indifference.
3. Seek. We can ask ourselves during this time what might be something that needs to die or something in me that stands in the way of my being open to God’s purpose or desire? Take time to quietly sit before the Lord and ask him to show you what might be keeping you from truly desiring his will above all else.
4. Love. Continue to love and worship God well studying his Word and doing all you know for certain you are to do. Keep pursuing him and loving others even as you pray, wait and seek indifference and true inner freedom.