The Ignatian Year XVI: Understanding Active Indifference

I wrote in a prior post about Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation, which invites us to make ourselves “indifferent to all created things” such that we do not seek health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty and so forth.

Indifference is a term people struggle with, doubtless because we think of it in terms of not caring a whole lot about the outcome.  “Where do you want to eat?”  “Wherever.  I’m indifferent.”  “Do you prefer the red or the purple dress?”  “No preference; I’m indifferent.”

Ignatian indifference has a very particular meaning.  As George Ganss explains, indifference means

Undetermined to one thing or option rather than another; impartial; unbiased; with decision suspended until the reasons for a wise choice are learned; still undecided.  In no way does it mean unconcerned or unimportant.  It implies interior freedom from disordered inclinations.

So it is neither devoid of desire or impassive.  Rather, in the words of Dean Brackley it means being so “passionately and single-mindedly committed, so completely in love, that we are willing to sacrifice anything, including our lives, for the ultimate goal.  It means magnanimous generosity, abandonment into God’s hands, availability.  It is not so much detachment from things as ‘detachability.’”

This interior freedom reflected in the phrase active indifference does not mean we are completely without disordered desires.  While we are human, they will always arise.  But it does speak to our ability to learn to overcome those disordered desires when they arise. 

Note that this is a the sixteenth in a series of posts in celebration of the Ignatian Year, which began on May 20 of this year.