Ignatian Indifference

I've been spending some time with Ignatian practices. One of the central practices is what St. Ignatius calls "indifference."

There's some similarity between the Ignatian practice of indifference with the Buddhist practice of non-attachment and the stoical practice of apatheia. But there are differences as well.

The basic idea of Ignatian indifference is to let go of anything in the world that interferes with our love and service of God and others. Some, however, might be put off by the word "indifferent," thinking that indifference means lacking concern or care. But that's not the idea. Most of us have an instinctive hungry, greedy, acquisitive stance in relation to the world. We're rushed, restless, addicted, distracted, triggered, greedy, competitive, jealous, and on and on. We live automatically and reactively, our hearts pulled this way that that.

Indifference, as I've come to understand it, isn't about not caring about the world or being apathetic about the world. Indifference is a pause. Indifference isn't about a emotional resignation and detachment. Indifference is about discernment.

Indifference is about creating a pause, a season of discernment, between the world and our response to the world. To be sure, some emotional control is required to create this space. In that sense, indifference can look stoical and ascetical. But the goal isn't to stand stoically before everything in the world. Christians believe the world was created good. The world is full of the gifts of God. And we should receive and delight in these gifts. Indifference is, thus, the pause that allows us to discern if what stands before us, what we are currently craving and hungry for, is drawing us toward or away from God.

All that to say, don't be put off by the word "indifference." Indifference isn't about not caring, detachment, resignation, or apathy. Ignatian indifference is a pause, a season to survey our hearts, creating the time and space to think about how things in the world are drawing us either closer or further away from God.

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