Busyness: 1. The state of being or appearing to be busy or actively engaged in an activity. 2. Having a great deal to do, achieve or accomplish in a given amount of time.
“Surely every person walks to and fro like a shadow in a pantomime; they hustle and bustle and rush around, but it doesn’t mean anything – it’s pointless. They are busy for no reason.” Psalm 39:6
“There cannot be a crisis this week. My schedule is already full.” Henry A Kissinger, June 1969
What is usually the first answer people give when you ask them how their week has been?
What’s the first thing you usually say when someone asks you how your week has been?
I am busy. You are busy. Being busy in our Western culture is just a fact of life. Between my family commitments, my career, study, church activities, exercising and my social responsibilities, there’s never a shortage of ‘stuff’ I could (or should) be doing. I have a job. And my job has a definite start time and an end time. I can’t be late or there will be consequences. I have children. They must be dropped off to and picked up from school. They can’t be late. Or there will be consequences. I catch public transport. I have to assume the train will run on time. And if I’m late, I will miss it. And there will be consequences.
Like many other people, I (choose to) live life in the fast line, constantly on the go, constantly moving, constantly keeping busy. And sometimes keeping up the appearance of being busy. I read a quote that said “being busy is like a drug that people are addicted to” and I admit (somewhat sadly) that I am probably addicted to being too busy.
I know things are ‘out of whack’ when I do have a few moments rest between activities and I find myself feeling (dare I admit this?), bored, and looking ahead towards what’s coming up next. Always busy. Always wanting to appear as though I’m actively engaged in some important activity. And feeling guilty for actually stopping.
Yes I am also guilty of telling anyone who asks, “Oh I’ve been sooo busy”. But recently I have also detected in my answer an undertone of boastfulness. A sense of competition. An “I’m more busy than you” attitude. A hidden message that was implying “because I’m so busy, I’m also so important”. That being more busy than the next person somehow makes me better. Yuk. And Ouch.
There’s nothing nice about this because here’s the truth. No-one cares how busy I appear to be. As C. S. Lewis once said “the future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
Being busy is not going to get me to my future any faster. Not only that, the Bible tells me that “Too much activity and being too busy gives you restless sleep and bad dreams…” Ecclesiastes 5:3
But what’s even worse than no sleep and nightmares is this: being too busy and always in a hurry might actually be hindering me from helping others.
I recently read a story where three groups of students were each given a different task: The teacher gave the first group of students a piece of paper telling them to go immediately across the campus to a certain building. They were told they had 15 minutes to get there and if they didn’t arrive on time, it would affect their final mark. A minute or two later, he handed out a piece of paper to the next group of students. They were also told to go over to the same building but they were told they had 45 minutes to get there. The third group were told they had 3 hours to get to the same building. What the students didn’t know was that the teacher had arranged for three drama students to meet the groups along the way. Close to the beginning of their walk, one of the drama students had his hands on his head and was moaning aloud as if in great pain. About half way to the building, on the steps of the school chapel, the students passed a man who was lying face down as though unconscious. Finally, right at the doorway of their destination a third drama student was acting out a seizure. In the first group of students, (those who had only 15 minutes to get across campus, no one stopped to help). In the second group, two students stopped to help. In the last group, (those who had 3 hours to complete their assignment), all of the students stopped to help at least one person.
Yes, I DO need to stop and smell the roses, but first I need to see the roses. If I don’t, then “life” is going to happen all around me and I just might be too busy to notice. And what a tragedy that would be.