What Does Detachment Mean?

Several friends and I are doing the devotion “33 Days to Morning Glory. ” St. Louis de Montfort suggests that we detach ourselves from all things. What does he mean by that? From what? From whom?

Detachment is about living more and more honestly before God, in one’s own eyes and with others. I think you will best understand it by considering its opposite: inordinate attachment to someone or something.

I could be overly attached to someone if I described our relationship as much deeper than that individual sees it. We should seek not to avoid friendship but to ensure that my description of a relationship is recognizable by the other person. Otherwise, I could be starting down the path of obsession.

If I am spending an inordinate amount of time using social media, then I need to start admitting this and weaning myself off it. In a society where people sometimes boast of their addictions while refusing to identify them as such, detachment is the path to greater honesty, to living out what I claim to be very important in my life.

Every addiction disguises itself as a shortcut toward something good; the deeper a person gets into it, the more normal the addiction seems, and “it’s not hurting anybody ” starts to become a mantra.

A person could say that family life is her or his No. 1 priority and yet, in fact, not be very present to family members at crucial moments. When couples go for counseling, they may realize that one or both may be too attached to someone or something else that is interfering with their relationship. When a single person seeks counseling, he or she may identify some attachments that are constantly creating problems.

Refusing any type of loyalty or self-sacrifice is not genuine detachment. It’s extreme selfishness.

We should be attached to God, grateful for the gift of life and our ability to use our freedom wisely, lovingly, and generously. Unfortunately, dishonesty can creep into every part of life. Claiming a noble motivation can disguise a selfish reality.

If someone said, for example, “I don’t believe in feeding the hungry because that only encourages them to act irresponsibly, ” we can justifiably ask whether a noble motivation (helping people to be responsible) is the real explanation. Is it being used to hide a selfish and self-serving agenda in the name of detachment?

Detachment reflects what I consider normal. Honesty before God, oneself, and others will reveal which attachments may have become excessive and what steps are needed to tame them.

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