Dismantling the Progress Machine!

Lamentations 3:40

Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!

Bob destroyed himself, his marriage, his children and his happiness with overwork. Why? Because he had to pay the bills on the yacht he couldn’t afford. Why? Because he bought the yacht to prove he’d Made It and parting with it meant Defeat. Why? Because owning a yacht felt like being a millionaire. Why? Because millionaires often own yachts and this symbol therefore mattered enormously. Why? Because Bob vowed in college he’d be a millionaire. Why? Because Bob’s rich jerk of a roommate in college reminded him (though he never articulated it to himself) of his older brother and Bob had vowed to switch his major to business (like the roommate’s major) in order to get rich faster than the roommate (rather than stick with photography which he loved but would not get rich at). Why? Because back in third grade Dad remarked at the dinner table that Bob’s older brother was a better chess player and Bob could learn if he’d watch him. His brother had smiled at him gloatingly, and Bob then and there had made an inner vow to defeat his brother in every competition. Why? Because back when he was four, Bob’s brother had stolen the chip dip from the fridge and managed to make it look like Bob had done it. Bob had never forgiven that sin. And because of that refusal to forgive that long forgotten, trivial grudge, Bob’s “progressed” to a ruined marriage, a hellish job, and children whose lives are devastated by his rages and his weeks immersed in work. Moral: It is not progress to make a little bad choice and then spend years (sometimes a lifetime) reinforcing and elaborating an immense psychological, physical and moral defensive mechanism to protect that (often forgotten) choice. Progress, in such a case, is to admit that our elaborate mechanism isn’t working and to take it apart, piece by piece, and give it all back to God till we arrive at the central sin that we have been guarding and incubating like a cancer at the core of our being.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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