The ‘Busy’ Trap

I feel like everyone is busy. Some busy people are busy for obvious reasons, others I simply cannot believe they are busy. I am a pastor, so if I tell people I am busy, they aren’t going to believe me anyway. The question is, Am I busy with the right things? Sometimes we need to be busy resting. Other times we need to be busy praying, or thinking, or talking, or eating, or laughing. Some people need to be busy fixing, building, assembling and others need to be busy writing, speaking, creating.

Being properly busy takes a tremendous amount of discipline and self-awareness. Rarely are we to be busy watching TV, yet I find this is the source of why most people say “I just don’t have time.” If I am too busy with the wrong things, then boasting in being busy is an indictment against my morality, not a confirmation of it. Remember that the next time you say “I’m busy”.

What we need is perspective. We need to say “no” to some things so we can say “yes” to other things. We need to know how to make the important things take priority. If relationships with friends and family is the most important, then why do we not structure our lives accordingly? If worship, Bible reading, or church is so important, why are we so busy we exclude it? There are some good diagnostic questions we can ask ourselves: Does my busyness lead to profit/desired results? Does busyness stem from disorganization/inefficiency? Is busyness caused by the need to justify a job/position? Are we creating work to feel meaningful? As a Christian I believe the best perspective is found in knowing and following Jesus. We develop a hierarchy in our schedules based on what we deem most important and typically ourselves are that determining factor. Knowing and following Jesus means that he takes that position, not me. Our schedules will probably look vastly different, just make sure you are busy the way you should be, not the way you shouldn’t be.

Today I read an engaging article called “The ‘Busy’ Trap” that got my mental cogs turning. You should read this whole article, but if you are too busy, here are some excerpts:

It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.

He mentions Thomas Pynchon’s essay on Sloth, which is certainly worth reading. It can be found here. Now go get busy doing what you must do…or get busy not doing what you should not do…whichever.


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