Constancy: A Virtue for the Distracted

Sep 23, 2022 | Articles, The Interior Life, Virtues

By Amber Kinloch

I came across an intriguing post on an online forum. The commenter talked about how he would challenge people to focus on doing one task at a time.  If you are driving, drive.  Don’t listen to the radio or an audiobook.  If you are eating, eat.  If you’re doing a task, finish it before moving on to another one, etc.

This comment reminded me of the virtue of constancy.  Constancy is a natural virtue, “[a virtue which] can be known by reason and can be cultivated to a significant extent through human effort” (The Art of Living, pg. 7).  Author Edward Sri, drawing on St. Thomas Aquinas’ theology, defines this virtue thus:

“The virtue of constancy helps me maintain my focus and not be distracted by other pursuits that are not bad in and of themselves but are bad in the present moment because they divert me from what I should be doing” (ibid., pg. 145).

This virtue seems to be an answer to our common problems of procrastinating and multitasking.  Instead of trying to do too much at a time, we can focus on accomplishing a single task to the best of our ability.

I tested this out by not streaming music from my phone while cooking, like I usually do.  It helped me work more efficiently as I wasn’t pausing regularly to skip to a different song or playlist.  I’ve also been trying to live this virtue in other areas of my life.  

You, too, might cultivate this virtue.  Consider the following areas where it might be lived out:

  • During conversations: Give the person you’re with your full attention.  Don’t check your phone, let your eyes roam around, or let yourself be distracted by other people or the music playing at a venue.
  • While working: Finish the task at hand.  Don’t hop about and attempt to multitask.
  • When pursuing leisure:  Enjoy the activity, e.g., walking outside, watching a movie, or playing a game, to the full.  Live the present moment instead of letting your mind roam to another time and/or place.
  • While praying: Focus on being with God.  If something is weighing on you, bring it to your conversation with Him.  Otherwise, earthly matters can wait.

Constancy will help us lead—and enjoy!—a better life on earth while preparing our souls for Heaven.  It is a potent form of mortification that will purify us of selfishness as we train ourselves to stay focused on the duty of the moment.  In learning to forget our petty whims, we will also grow in love of God and our neighbor.  Thus, at our death, we might hope to hear God say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23).

Amber Kinloch

Amber Kinloch

Amber  writes from the bunker of her living room.  There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life.  Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.

Comments

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17 Comments

  1. Natalie Grim

    This is SO helpful – thank you for writing this.

    Reply
    • Cindy Brown

      I enjoyed the article and pretty much concur with the premise given. However, your write-up of the author is a complete dichotomy from the article.

      Reply
  2. Deacon Tom

    Inspired reminder and tips. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Frances

    Thank you. Great suggestions even I knew these things I had quit practicing them. 👍

    Reply
  4. Terri

    What a blessing to find the gift of your writing this morning, Amber… Thank you for this!

    Reply
  5. Beth

    Great article/perspective! Thank you for sharing. Strange though, that the bio of the author contradicts exactly what the article is about! 🤔

    Reply
    • Florence

      I noticed that as well! 😊

      Reply
      • Florence

        Being a wife and mother seems to demand multi tasking including praying while you work and finding your private time with God during those rare moments of quiet.

    • Cindy Brown

      I wrote exactly the same thing in my comment which is awaiting review.

      Reply
  6. Faye

    A lost art in our culture. Thank you for inspiring us to go back to the basics which is what really matters.

    Reply
  7. Lynn

    Is this a joke? The article about single tasking directly contradicts the author’s bio!

    Reply
    • Amber Kinloch

      Thanks for your comment, Lynn. I wrote up this author bio well over a year ago while I only discovered the virtue of constancy recently. Before I’d never heard of it. As you might imagine, I have a long way to go in learning how to live out this virtue. Still, I wanted to share what I’d learned in the hope in would be of benefit to others.
      Blessings,
      Amber

      Reply
  8. Laura

    The timeliness of this is very much on target.
    Blessings+

    Reply
  9. LM

    Great article, but I agree with others; Time to update the bio. 😉

    Reply
  10. Stephen Pezzuto

    I tend to agree with all of these things except for music. Music can be played in the background and has scientifically been proven to increase focus of mind. One technique I have used throughout my life is using the rhythm of a song to memorize other material, to increase focus while driving while easing tension, and to also help as I am cooking. Create a playlist beforehand or just shuffle, and it won’t be a distraction, and may increase productivity in all forms.

    Reply
  11. SJ

    Those are some harsh reprimands about the bio! 🙂
    Great article. Greatly needed by me.

    Reply
  12. VJV

    Great article! When I multitask, I know that I am not doing any of the things I undertake particularly well. Sometimes it just seems to be the only way to get it all done. Maybe I just need to spend more time prioritizing. I can’t imagine listening to music and doing nothing else, but maybe I should give it a try! A silent retreat was the last time I didn’t try to multitask!

    Reply

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