By Sarah Streitwieser
Detachment is the spiritual fruit that is associated with the mystery of the Nativity. But what exactly is detachment, and how does it differ from callousness or apathy? Certainly the Holy Family was neither callous not apathetic, yet we can rightly assume that they were radically detached. But what exactly does this mean and how would our lives be different if we were detached?
Detachment can also be thought of as poverty of spirit. But, it seems that from our modern perspective, poverty of spirit is a very underappreciated and misunderstood virtue. Imagine what would happen if you took a random survey asking your neighbors and friends, “Would you like to be poor in spirit?” What do you think the typical response would be? I would expect to hear a resounding “No.” Why is this? What do you think it means to be poor in spirit? Does one have to be monetarily poor to be poor in spirit? Is spiritual poverty the same thing as detachment?
In my experience, detachment can best be understood through the observation of my own attachments. Personally, I tend to not be aware of my attachments until they are tested. This is to say, I usually do not even know I am attached until the object of my attachment is taken away from me. This “pruning” process is a great grace offered by God (although admittedly it does not always feel so great in the moment!). “Every branch that [bears fruit] he prunes so that it bears more fruit” (John 15:2).
I often notice that my attachments create small pangs of interior disquiet or unrest when they are removed or provoked. For example, perhaps I observe one of my children behaving in a way that is the very opposite of how I want them to act. I feel flushed with embarrassment and overwhelmed with the need to control or correct the situation. Whatever interior peace I once experienced has now completely vanished.
This is an opportunity to explore my own attachments. Perhaps I am embarrassed because I want others to think well of me, and I am attached to my own reputation. Perhaps I want to control the situation because I want to be the perfect mother or have perfect children, and I am attached to my own desired excellence. The opportunity to explore interior unrest helps me to identify and behold my own attachments. However, only God has the power to remove them.
Being a rather attached individual, I can only imagine what it must feel like to live unrestricted by attachments. I think that it would be radically freeing. I imagine that one living with open hands and hearts (not full of wants or entanglements) would be free to follow God completely and without reservation. Empty spiritual pockets and a trim spiritual waist line (i.e. poverty of spirit) would make one more agile and available for God’s call.
For more on detachment, click the link below. Share your prayer with your family. Come back for something new next week!