Abba Abraham continues to engage Germanus and Cassian about their desire to return home to be near their relatives. He warns them that the promise of being taken care of by others will draw them away from the particular hardship and asceticism necessary to live the life of true solitude and to remain focused upon God alone. Freedom to study and pray unimpeded is not the extent of the solitary life. It is also not to be drawn into the affairs of others, good or bad, but rather to remain within one's cell and to limit one's thoughts to God. Acedia, or a kind of listlessness will draw them out from the solitude especially when the environment and the freedom to engage others are there as a temptation. The Egyptian monks have already built up a strong constitution in avoiding this vice and the pathless environment of the desert makes it unattractive to relatives and the curious alike. One must learn to trust solely in the providence of God to provide for their needs and to satisfy the desires of their hearts. Having chosen the solitary life the must see themselves as dead to the world and to all but God.
We now enter into the final Conference with Cassian and Germanus as they speak with Abba Abraham. The name proves apropos given the fact that his task will be to reinculcate in his two charges the spirit that motivated the great Patriarch to heed God's command "Leave your country, your family and your father's house for the land I will show you." Cassian and Germanus were longing for home; hoping their relatives would provide them with the means to support themselves in a life of solitude, prayer and study. Pridefully they also believe that they will be able to convert these same relatives if they are more present to them. Abba Abraham works swiftly to dismantle the obvious self deception implicit in their plan and rather bluntly accuses them of slothfulness.
Throughout the Ladder John Climacus discusses the logical progression from one vice to another. And so it is with the vice of falsehood. It arises out of undisciplined chatter, talkativeness and foolery. Falsehood, or lying, John states, is the destroyer of charity and perjury is the denial of God himself. Thus, he tells us, we must not be fooled into thinking that lying is a minor offense. In reality, it is a sin "above all others."
The effects of one who lies are not restricted to himself, but have the consequence of leading others into sin. Through their ability to deceive, and provoke laughter in doing so, they often distract others from their spiritual pursuits and dry up their tears of contrition. Therefore, John argues that we should seek to separate ourselves from such people, or, when appropriate and helpful, to offer fraternal correction with charity.
To combat such a vice we must foster a genuine fear of the Lord and the judgement He will bring. A strong and well-formed conscience will serve us well in this task. Likewise, true compunction will aid us in this struggle. Sorrow for one's sins will destroy this vice.
St. John explains "tedium of the spirit" in this way: "Tedium is a paralysis of the soul, a slackness of the mind, a neglect of religious exercises, a hostility to vows taken. It is an approval of things worldly." The word for despondency in the Greek is "akidia" and it indicates a listlessness or torpor. The best English word that could be used to explain this is the word "BOREDOM" or perhaps we could even use the word "DISTRACTION." Very often, it begins with a loss of a sense of purpose and ends in despair and spiritual death. St. John gives numerous examples which are sure to strike home to us.
In our day and age, this demon is very much at work. How often does he confuse us with the suggestion that our spiritual labors are in vain!? How often does he suggest to us that our efforts are accomplishing no good result? How often does he point out to us many others who seem to be "gaining ground" without laboring as hard as we are? How often does he suggest that we shouldn't take the spiritual life quite seriously? How often does he remind us of our failures and suggest that perhaps we are wasting our time in pursuing the spiritual life? How often does he weigh our hearts down with earthly cares and thoughts even in the midst of our prayers? How often does he encourage us to take a day off, to sleep in and skip our prayers, to take a spiritual vacation? How often does the demon of boredom confuse our thoughts so that we forget what the goal is and how we are to achieve it?
How do we battle such a powerful demon? St. John suggest two things: Perseverance in the course taken and cooperation with others who are struggling. The only way to beat boredom is to labor through it. Once we have been started on a certain path of prayer and struggle, we must keep on keeping on without allowing ourselves to be distracted. Furthermore, we beat boredom by reminding ourselves of what others have done and are doing. Tedium is rebuffed by the common life and by the constant remembrance of the lives of the saints. Knowing that we are not alone, gives us the encouragement and motivation to persevere when we feel like quitting.