"How are you doing?"
We hear this conversation all the time. We say these words all the time. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the idea of being too busy is a sham that we buy into over and over again. It is a lie that sucks the life out of us until we have nothing left to give. There are so many reasons to be conscious of the lie of 'busy,' but here are just a few:
1. We use busyness to self-medicate our issues.
This is one of the biggest things I've been guilty of in the past. I have the tendency to fill up all of my spare time with social activities or volunteer commitments to avoid addressing things in my life, and it is a really unhealthy coping mechanism. We all do this at times, stack commitments on top of each other in order to avoid thinking too hard about the difficult things that are lurking under the surface.
Because the thing is that self-medicating with busyness is not a long-term solution, and in reality it just causes breakdowns in other areas that tend to crop up at the most inconvenient times. For me, it meant that my immune system completely failed me and I spent a significant chunk of time sick in bed, unable to do anything for anyone. Because I was so concerned with serving others and keeping my schedule packed to the brim, I forgot to make sure that I was actually healthy enough to do it in the first place. If I had actually addressed the underlying issues, I probably wouldn't have ended up in that situation. The temporary distraction really wasn't worth it.
2. Being 'too busy' indicates our priorities, not the amount of time we actually possess.
Everyone has the same twenty-four hours in their day. Sure, we fill those hours with different things that take up different amounts of time and energy. But at the end of the day, no one has any more or less than anyone else.
There is nothing wrong with having a busy patch. We've all been there before, where we find ourselves with an abundance of commitments that leave little wiggle room. Life happens. There are weeks and months that fly past because of the number of things that come up. That's normal, and even though those seasons can be overwhelming, they usually pass quite quickly.
But there's a saying that rattles around in the back of my brain from time to time: If it's important to you, you will find a way. If it's not, you will find an excuse. How often do we make being 'busy' our excuse for not spending time with people, or avoiding issues we know we need to address?
Just as chronic tardiness tells people that we don't respect their time, chronically telling people that we are too busy for them communicates that they are not a priority to us. Think about it. We make time for the people that matter, regardless of what is happening in the rest of life. If we truly believe that something is important, we are going to stop at nothing to ensure that we see that person or follow through with that commitment.
3. We turn busyness into an idol.
For the love of all that is good, we need to stop sacrificing relationships on the altar of the hustle. The prevailing attitude of our culture is to be constantly in motion, going from one activity to the next. Even on our days off, we tend to run around, trying to fill our time to the brim.
A good work ethic is a quality we should all try to possess, but there is a point where it crosses a line into obsession. We venerate busyness, with the idea that downtime automatically equals laziness. But we are not made better simply by being in motion; that is a lie that only ends in burnout and broken relationships.
I listened to a sermon once that talked about being busy, and one particular statement resonated with me: "If the devil can't make you sin, he'll make you busy." I had to pause the podcast for a few minutes just to take in what exactly had been said. And it's true, because when we are so caught up in being busy, we miss out on the things that we were created to do. In our worship of the hustle, we stop doing the things that we are actually supposed to be doing. Even our best intentions can get derailed by hustling right past the places that should be our destinations.
4. We become busy being busy.
We stop considering other options when we feel like we are 'busy.' As soon as a few things pile up, it becomes easy to shut down entirely and say no to everything else that comes up out of sheer anxiety. Learning to say no to commitments and develop boundaries in healthy ways is important, but we become self-absorbed in our busyness. It turns into a monolithic force that makes us feel like we will never accomplish what we need to.
We need to take stock every once in a while of what is actually making us feel overwhelmed. I find that it often makes life seem a little more manageable once I break down all the things that I have to do (read: make all the lists), and prioritize from there. It helps to see where we actually need to be spending time, and what can be knocked off of the to-do list with only a few minutes of effort. As it turns out, we're often not nearly as busy as it feels like we are.
At the end of the day, life is all about prioritizing. Someone once told me that "you can do anything, but not everything." We have to decide what is truly important to us on a daily basis, what we really want out of our days. We have to consider whether we want to make the people around us a priority and live accordingly. Let's put the first things first this week. Let's think about the way we respond to new opportunities, and not just reflexively jump into (or away from) them. Let's make room for self-care and reflection. Let's remember that the winner at the end of life is not simply the one who completed the most tasks, and live knowing that there is enough grace for us all.