Posted by: ritagone | January 18, 2012

The Self-Centeredness of Busy-ness


I’m getting a little tired of constantly hearing how busy people are.

Everyone seems to be competing about his or her activity level, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously.  The conversation swirls around comments and statements like the following:Image

“I am just swamped.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to get all the things done that need to get done.”

“I’ve never been so busy.  Where does the time go?”

I used to know a lady who prided herself on her busy-ness.  I don’t know what exactly she kept busy with; she didn’t work full time, she had grown kids, a small house to manage, yet she seemed to always be fluttering around, waving her arms with great motions of frustration and energy and almost gloating over the amount of “whatever” she had to accomplish each day.  I wondered if she felt that telling people how busy she was made her feel more significant, as if saying she had not much to do would de-value her not only in the eyes of her listeners but in her own eyes as well.  So she insisted on letting everyone around her know that she couldn’t stop to chat, have a cup of coffee, or just be idle: she was just too darned busy!

Shame on her!

And shame on me when I feel like I’m just too busy to stop to chat with a friend.  If I ever verbalize that sentiment and you’re around me, you have my permission to approach and slap me upside the head.  Because no one should ever be too busy to just spend some time with someone who wants to share a moment with us.

So I ask myself: if a president of the United States (notice that I said “a” president rather than any current president so that this doesn’t become a political discussion) can find time to go rest and relax at Camp David or various and sundry other places appointed for his “time outs” while he’s running the government, why can’t you and I find it in our schedules to set aside some time to read or relax or watch a movie?  What is it in our makeup that feels better when we are rushed and busy and frantic over the to-do list that just won’t get done?  Why do we somehow enjoy telling people just how overwhelmed we are?  Are we truly afraid that if we say we are slowing down, people will think less of us, as though our busy-ness is a sign of our importance, and to be less busy is to therefore be less important?

It bears some introspection.  You might look at the title of this blog once again: “The Self-Centeredness of Busy-ness,” because I think it’s true.  When we see ourselves as busy and frantic and racing around town salivating and hyperventilating because of all the things we have to accomplish, and making sure we are letting everyone know just how long that list is, I can see in my mind’s eye the people Jesus talked about in Matthew 6: the giver who put coins into the offering basket with a loud flare, hoping that others would see.  The praying man who yelled his prayers so that those prayers would be heard by everyone in the vicinity.  The fasting lady who wore such an expression of mourning that you couldn’t help but ask what the matter was.  Add to that list: the busy person who just begs you to inquire: “Oh my, whatever do you have to do, that you are running around town with such an important look on your face and such a long to-do list in your hand, that other hand which isn’t holding a cell phone?”

Subtle, very subtle.

We don’t think we’re trying to impress others.  We don’t realize that we’re trying to give ourselves significance.  Yet when we stop, when we slow down, when we relax and clear away the clutter and the detritus of all the “stuff” that we feel we have to get to and just unbend and unwind, often we feel that we somehow disappear, vanish, are deleted and erased.

And that feeling of having no substance is awful, terrible, something to be avoided at all costs.  So the list comes out, the busy-ness increases, and before you know it, we’re back on the treadmill, into the maze, one of the rats in the rat race again.

I don’t think there’s anyone reading this who couldn’t find at least an hour during the day or in the evening in which to relax and unwind if he or she didn’t want to and weren’t willing to work at it.  If he or she didn’t believe that it was important.

So do me a favor: don’t tell me with hurried breath how busy you are.  I’m not sympathetic. I’m not impressed.  In fact, if anything, if you say that to me, I’m liable to sit down with you and try to eliminate a bunch of nonsense from your schedule, so you may not like my interference at all!

I have a to-do list also.  But I have also learned to find time in the afternoons to read, to watch a movie, to just plain relax.

And you know what?  I love it!

And I’ve found that my significance hasn’t deteriorated one iota!


  1. I really wanted to leave a comment but I’m just too busy. Maybe next time.

  2. I have to say the Lord convicted me of this very thing many years ago while doing youth ministry. People often ask me “How do you find time to read so much?” and I continue to reply “How do you not find the time?” It is time I enjoy whether it be thumbing through a magazine, reading the Bible or enjoying a novel…I am so thankful that I have consciously made time to BE STILL! Thanks Rita for your always insightful ramblings! Miss you!

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