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by Estee in

I'm reading a book that has made me very aware of how often I tell others that I'm busy (The book is The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson). When an old friend calls to chat and asks me how life is, a common response is "Great! But busy!" When I'm with my parents, enjoying a family meal over the weekend and they ask me how my week went, I say "very busy!" And most commonly in the evenings when Jason comes home from work and asks me about my day, I sigh out an exasperated "It was busy."

And you know what, I am busy! And I bet you are too. There is always more to do than I can get done.

But this book that I'm reading has made me aware that referring to my own busyness is both vain and lazy.

Telling people that I'm busy is vain because with this label, I am communicating that I'm important. That I have lots to do. That my schedule is full of impressive demands and commitments. It also is a way to produce sympathic respect from another person, as if to say "I know you are so busy (read: you're so important), but can I just have a moment of your time?" Such a response from someone feeds our vanity and makes us feel better than others.

Telling people that I'm busy is also lazy as it allows other people to set my schedule for me. Because I'm so busy anyway, I concede to filling my schedule with requests from other people instead of setting my own agenda. A "busy" person can't say no when others ask them to complete tasks. Instead, they let the demands of others pile up on them and struggle to ever get free.

I read all of these things early last week, and made a commitment to myself that I'll no longer respond with the phrase 'I'm busy!' And then, guess what happened? I ran into my wonderful mentor Mary a few days later and she asked how things were. As my mentor, I know that Mary is sincerely asking after me, not just in passing, but in authentic concern for me. And my response? "Oh, I've been really busy."


Jason Valendy said...

I am glad you were not too busy to post these good thoughts.

Just another spin on this theme:


S. Martin said...

Ha Ha ~ old habits die hard, eh? I've noticed the "busy" syndrome too. When people get together, often, they just swap a telling of their "to do" lists as though they're trying to impress each other. Thanks for drawing our attention to this tendency in your Ash Wednesday message!

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