As I have attempted to find some sense of normalcy in this season that has been so impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, I have noticed a surprising and concerning tendency resurfacing in my life—a desire for busyness.
Before the pandemic, I attended school in New York City, the epitome of hustle and bustle. In the Big Apple, what you do defines you and your success, and so, most people are always on the go trying to get to the next item on their agenda. In many ways, I got wrapped up in that busy lifestyle without even knowing it. I would brag about how little sleep I got the night before or how much I had accomplished in one day. I would feel guilty if I relaxed. But in March my life, along with everyone else’s in the nation and around the globe, came to an abrupt halt as I moved back to my home in North Carolina and was more or less forced to adopt a slower pace.
Months later, as I started planning for my upcoming semester, I noticed that busyness naturally crept in. I inadvertently sought to reproduce the lifestyle I had in New York City, filling my schedule with things to do.
It seems as if I am not the only one who values busyness. Research, coming from the Journal of Consumer Research in 2016, “found that a busy and overworked lifestyle, rather than a leisurely lifestyle, has become an aspirational status symbol.” The study found that people, especially celebrities, complain about their busy lifestyle, particularly on social media, in an effort to display their high status. Others subsequently view people as higher in status the busier they are.
Becoming more aware of how prevalent busyness is, I have begun to ask myself, “Why?” Why do we tend to gravitate towards a hurried lifestyle, and are there harms in this mentality of busyness?
While I do not fully know all the reasons why we value busyness, I think part of it has to do with where we place our identity. If our identity comes from what we do, then naturally we would seek to do more. In an effort to “feel” fulfilled, we fill our lives with things to do. Busyness can even be comfortable because when we are busy, we often do not have the time or energy to deal with deep, difficult issues. Certainly, there will be seasons of life that need to be busier than others, but an overall mentality of busyness can rob us of the gift of being present with others and abiding with the Lord.
A resource that has been helpful—and convicting—for me in understanding the dangers of busyness and how to combat them is the podcast Fight Hustle, End Hurry. John Mark Comer and Jefferson Bethke, who have both written books on the negative emotional, social, and spiritual effects of hurry, together host the podcast. They show how busyness can become an idol, taking the place of God, and can even turn into an addiction. Addictions are pleasurable at first, but ultimately do not satisfy and reveal a deeper need.
A hurried life can prevent us from enjoying the moment we are in, finding contentment in our current season, and meditating on God and His Word. There are numerous verses that speak about the worth of being content and abiding. One that always sticks out to me comes from Matthew 11:28 where Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus promises rest, but we have to abide in Him first, and we cannot do that when we are in a hurry.
With God’s help, let us together find the beauty in resting, the strength in saying no, and the willingness to be grateful for the present season. While we long for many things to return to the way they were, let us not allow busyness to be one of those. As Christian philosopher Dallas Willard put it, “Hurry is the enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
POVs are point of view articles from NC Family Staff and contributors