The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Inner Work

This "living simple" thing requires what some folks call "inner work." Although simple living (as action) can lead to simple living (as thought process), I want to focus here on the kind of honest, personal attitude shifts that can help you seek and maintain simplicity.

As I look at the simple livers I've known over time, it seems that they share some similar ways of thinking. They have the mindsets that I seek in my journey toward simplicity. Some thoughts about their thinking:

• They are usually humble, sometimes to a fault. They don't seek attention.

• Although they live in admirable ways, they are aware of their own shortcomings.

• They willingly confess that they are still pilgrims along life's way, and thus remain eager to learn from others.

• They find little joy in accusing or excoriating others.

• These folks are generous where it counts: In their offering of attention and time to whomever needs it.

• They work at simplicity with dogged determination, sometimes born of cathartic experiences earlier in life when they were living grand lifestyles.

• They are sensitive, aware, mindful about more than what meets their eyes or greets their ears.

• Their simplicity is undergirded with a sense of purpose that's manageable and realistic.

• They are short on rhetoric and long on example.

• They are willing to edge up to poverty, danger, ill-health to maintain a simple lifestyle.

I don't presume to know what inner work you may want to begin or strengthen, but I want to encourage you to name the simple living capabilities you already possess as already-existing blessings. And as you encounter simplicity adherents, observe their personal characteristics, seeking to imitate them.

One good place to start: "the mind of Christ."


Patricia Digre

Patricia Digre

Posted at 2:44 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/17/2012

Katherine Harms

Katherine Harms

Posted at 8:08 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/24/2012

I am struck by your statement about people willing to edge up to poverty, ill health and danger in order to live simply. Clearly, people can live simply by sheer will, but when I read this comment, I realize that you are talking about a person who is fulfilled by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. To live simply is to say with your whole way of life that you are not needy because Christ fills all your needs.
I am learning that the less needy I am, the richer I feel. I could never do it by force of will, because I simply don't have that much strength. I can, however, give thanks for all that God has provided for me, and when I do that, I don't feel so needy. I think our culture is dominated by neediness, a neediness so pervasive that both the government and our individual citizens consider all their wants to be needs. I can't do much about either the government or my fellow citizens, but I can do the inner work of daily humbling self and bowing before Christ. He is my model for living a generous life rather than a needy one.

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Embracing diversity