ASK POLLY Gets a Letter From a Man with a Spirit of Sluggishness
Heather Havrilesky is one of my favorite authors. I've been reading her since her Suck.com days. Now she has a wonderful advice column, originally published on the late great TheAwl.com, and now posted regularly on The Cut, a vertical of New York Magazine. She is a deeply sympathetic and empathetic adviser, and her readership rightly adores her.
Here is the missing spiritual perspective on a letter from a man suffering from a life-long condition evidently arising from being beset by a spirit of sluggishness, which prevents him from completing anything in a timely manner and that is beginning to threaten his career. Read the entire letter here.
We reveal more than we realize when we write. This letter writer has diagnosed his issue, as well as supplied many clues as to the cause. Here are the most revealing highlights:
"...everything takes me a long time to do... I don’t know if this means I’m stupid or lazy or that something in my brain is broken...the prospect of living like this for however many more decades are left in my life — it makes me feel like I’m drowning."
Before we get too far into this, let's first examine the definition of the word that describes his condition:
Next we need to understand what the bible tells us so clearly in Ephesians 6:12: in life we do not battle actual people, or even ourselves. We are actually fighting persons without bodies, disembodied spirits. They are evil and span an entire hierarchy that is led by satan, whom the bible calls the prince and ruler of the world.
The LW describes when this condition of sluggishness began:
"I guess it started when I was in elementary school...I didn’t know what was wrong with me. What was taking me so long?
And how it followed him, like a person follows another person:
"The slowness followed me into college and into my retail jobs during that time..."
Continuing, he describes what else this sluggishness has brought into his life, and how combined, sluggishness and the accompanying alienation has caused him to gradually give up his will:
"It’s added to a deep-seated sense of alienation that just gets worse the older I become: I seem to be staying younger while everyone else grows up at warp speed. The possibility of catching up seems increasingly remote, and I wonder why I should even try."
He goes on to accurately -- if unconsciously -- describe how he has become a host to intractable guests who have taken over his own brain and threatened his livelihood:
"As I’ve gotten older and taken on professional jobs, this slowness has seriously threatened my career. It just seems like my brain is wooden, like it won’t move when I want it to, and there are all these things inside that I can’t take out."
The letter writer has become painfully (excruciatingly!) frustrated that despite his sincere efforts, he cannot accomplish anything. This brings him to state again, very clearly, that he has lost his will:
"What’s particularly excruciating about all of this is that, when I do anything, I work the entire time, even though much of that work is just me staring at a page I’ve read five times and still can’t quite comprehend...I’ve gotten very good at hiding the slowness...But I’ve just lost the will or the ability to compensate anymore, which means I’ve lost the will to do anything."
Now we get into possible causes and exacerbating circumstances. They bring with them more dark feelings of self-hate and lack of self-worth, which sap his will even further. Finally he concludes with the remark he is too afflicted by his condition to continue living:
"Two years ago, my ex abused me physically and emotionally; he was also a pathological narcissist. For the entire time I was with him, I don’t remember a single conversation we actually had about me, although at the time I thought that was acceptable because I’m ugly and unlikely to ever have a partner again. Anyway, the abuse seriously depleted my energy to keep up appearances, which affected my work."
"The boyfriend and I split...But ever since then, I’ve been slower than ever at everything. All I want to do is sleep. I feel like I’m just too slow to survive."
"I think it matters here to tell you that I’m gay..."
Again, the choice of words here is so revealing. Why does he think it matters to mention he's gay? Why does he think being gay has something to do with his unhappiness? The bible tells us it's because deep down - unconsciously and even despite not wanting to know - he knows he is not in alignment with God's will for his life.
There's a lot here to unpack. And it's going to be quite grim before getting to the good news that there's a solution to this rather difficult problem. To the letter writer the solution might seem worse than the problem, but it's the answer. The alternative would be for the letter writer to continue deeper into the woods with less and less hope of escaping alive.
We are approaching this problem from the biblical point of view, since it is the single greatest source of truth regarding the human condition and how we might survive and prosper during our brief time here on earth. The bible is clear this world is not our home and that essentially everything about our lives here is meaningless, except for one important thing: that we are to know God and follow his instructions for living.
And this is where our LW has gone off the rails. By his own admission, we know he is living a life in rebellion of God's commandments, specifically one that promises transgressing it will result in a punishment the perpetrator will suffer within his body and personality: Fornication, but more specifically homosexuality.
"And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working that which is unseemly and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet." Romans 1:27
This is what it all comes down to: there are only two sides. You are either with God and on His program, or you're on the side of evil, headed up by satan. You're either a servant of God or a servant of satan. The way you live your life reveals who you work for.
Satan is a legalist. He knows his rights. He knows when you violate God's law, you're on hell's territory. And unless you're covered by God through repentance and salvation, the enemy knows your actions have opened a door into your life that he and his demons are free to walk through.
Enter the Spirit of Sluggishness, a.k.a. lethargy, heaviness, sloth. The bible has much to say about all of these states/spirits.
Demons and unclean spirits like Sluggishness travel in packs. The letter writer named a few: Alienation, Hopelessness, Rejection, Self-Hatred, Worthlessness, Death, Depression...
The next earmark of demonic oppression is also spelled out in the letter writer's own words: his own will has been overcome. Demons manipulate, intimidate and dominate. From within himself the LW is at the mercy of his own body and personality, his own soul. From without, he has attracted a narcissistic boyfriend who is the personification of that demon psychology to also manipulate, intimidate and dominate the LW.
The soul is the mind, will and emotions. LW has lost primary control over all of these parts of himself and his soul in sum. His body is following along. He is in a state like death, always wanting to sleep, feeling wooden and unable to think or move as he wants to, he's already like a corpse.
Back to Romans 1:27. God punishes us by giving us over to ourselves, to what our nature -- which is not naturally good -- wants. As David Pawson says in his potent lesson on Romans, "God takes the brakes off of us." He uses the metaphor of the human being as a car parked on a downward slope, and God is the parking brake. God doesn't have to do anything to us, per se, he just removes His restraining hand. And then we are at the mercy of what the Apostle Paul calls our "body of death."
We don't know the circumstances of the LW's life when he was a child and this condition came upon him. He very well could have been victimized by a generational curse handed down in the family through doors opened up by any number of things. Familiar spirits are called such because they stay with people through generations, handed down like terrible heirlooms. This is how they're able to imitate the deceased when a person goes to a medium and thinks he is speaking to dead relatives. The person thinks, "Who else could possibly know what only the relative would know?" Only a familiar spirit that has been watching that person every moment of their lives.
Regardless of who is responsible for opening the door, the LW is being actively oppressed. And if he is to escape with his temporal and eternal life, he must fight fire with fire. He has to engage in spiritual warfare.
But first he must get on the right side: God's side. He must put off his "old man" and be made new. This happens by being born again of the spirit and the water. It is the only way a person like the LW will ever gain victory over what is oppressing him. It is the only way any of us can live the life God intended us to live before we were even born.
First we confess our sins to God and not a priest because that is unbiblical - Jesus is our priest.
Once we confess our sins, we repent. That means we turn away from those things and stop engaging with them. Otherwise we're just apologizing, and not sincerely.
People think they cannot possibly give up whatever sin it is they're grappling with. But they don't have to do the heavy lifting because sincere repentance brings help from God. He can break an addiction in an instant, I am a witness.
The last step is to be baptized. Full immersion.
It all begins with giving your life to Jesus and asking him to be your Lord and Savior.
Some people are lost, however. They have a permanently closed mind, what the bible calls "reprobate." This happens when a person wants anything but God, and God finally gives them what they want. They are left to live their life as they want to until it's over and they face judgement. Sadly, people envy and emulate people like this since they are typically the most rich and famous people in the world. After all, wealth and fame are satan's to distribute how he wants. Though it never quite ends up for people what they bargained for.
If you want to learn more about being saved by grace through faith and living the life God wants to you live, here is a good place to start.