Busy Isn’t a Virtue
In the January-February edition of Relevant magazine (relevantmagazine.com) there is an article by Christine and Adam Jeske entitled “13 Signs You Need to Get Unstuck.” Number 7 in their 13 signs is this: “Your Standard Response to, “How Are You? Includes the Word ‘Busy.’” Their article got me thinking about several things but especially about a problem which I think many of us have. Whether we are “busy” or not—and we usually are—that has become everyone’s stock response. How many times have you told someone you’re “busy” in the last week or heard others say they are “busy”? I know I have. It seems like we are addicted to busy-ness.
We treat busy as if it is some virtue, but it is not. Drug dealers and sex-traffickers can be busy. So can health care workers and CEOs. But busy is not a virtue. In fact, it can be a real problem for our souls if we think somehow our worth is tied up with how busy we are. Are we trying to justify our existence or our value? Are we trying to underscore that we have skills that in short supply? As Christine and Adam point out, we are all expendable, the sooner we realize that the better.
The real virtues, the real excellence of life, are found in other things. Aristotle set the course for ethics when he defined the virtues as a balance between deficiency and excess. The four cardinal virtues are: temperance, prudence, courage, and justice. The Church over the centuries added to this number three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love (see 1 Corinthians 13). As you read carefully through the Scriptures, you will come across various lists of virtues. Nowhere will “busy” be listed among them. Here’s an example. Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit as: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Do you see “busy” in there. No. I didn’t think so. Virtue, not busy-ness, is where true excellence and value are found.
The answer to our addiction to busy-ness involves repentance. The Greek word which translates “repentance” means literally, “a change of mind.” In other words, we have to change the way we think about these matters. We must realize that busy-ness can and will kill you physically and spiritually. We must confess to God and ourselves that our true value is not found in how much we accomplish but in becoming a person “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (Romans 8:29). We must create sacred times and spaces to rest and live according to a different rhythm. The Scriptures call this “the Sabbath.” Take a nap. Read something just for fun. Go for a walk. Share a meal with a friend. Take a real vacation. Your work—for yourself, for your boss, and for God—will become more meaningful and productive if you learn to live into a restful rhythm of life. A friend of mine says it this way (pardon the alliteration): divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually. The point is this: God made us to rest regularly in order to be at our best as we partner with Him in the ongoing work of creation.
The next time someone asks you, “How are you?” Resist the temptation to justify your existence by saying , “Oh, I’m busy . . . “ Instead, break the cycle of addiction and try some other response like, “I’m learning to rest.”
What do you think is the best response to the question: “How are you?”
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