Monday, September 19, 2011


Recently I watched the movie "The Help" (after reading the book, of course). In a scene the main character, Skeeter, is walking through a newspaper office full of cigarette smoke to the enclosed office of the manager. When she opens the door and walks in she does not shut the door behind her. The manager yells at her (and the quote is not exact here), "Shut the door! Eventually they're going to figure out that those things'll kill ya!"

I have just returned home from Crucible, a leadership development program for ordained and provisional members in the West Ohio Annual Conference. The first retreat was a personal development retreat that focused on wholeness, wellness, prayer, and solitude. Among the many topics we addressed, we talked about workaholism.

Our presenter, Ruth Haley Barton, stated that workaholism is the -ism of our generation. It is important for leaders, both secular and religious, need to understand that workaholism is an addiction. It will not only destroy career, but self, family and many other vital aspects of our lives. I was so surprised to hear how many pastors in the room don't take even one day off per week. Many confessed to feeling a drive within them that would lead them into self-destructive behaviors. Perfectionism, overdrive, and technology mix to form a fatal cocktail that will seem successful until the great crash and burn that will cause many to leave vocations, families, and even life behind.

Why don't we understand that workaholism will kill us?

I tweeted last night about being frustrated that I would likely have to do work on my day off as a result of being at the Crucible retreat. One pastor working in a non-parish setting replied, "Day off?" I know that she was joking, but why do we expect pastors and people in so many other vocations to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

I think the attitudes are beginning to shift, but but how can we honestly examine our own work patterns and realize that when our work cannot be accomplished in 50-60 hours it does *not* mean that we should simply work longer and harder! Our spirits, our minds, and our bodies are not made to function as a workaholic.

I have made a few goals to start examining my workaholic ways. Here is one:

I will buy an alarm clock so that I can turn my cell phone off each night. Not just on silent and ignoring it, but turning it off and not attending to twitter, facebook, and email in the middle of the night.

What will you do so that you do not succumb to the addiction of workaholism?


chirschf said...

...pick up a second job? ;) :D


Michele said...

a) you heard ruth haley barton speak?! loved her book on sabbath rhythms. did she tell the story about getting hit by a car? (I must've heard her on a podcast because i'm remembering this story audibly).
b)agree. i think workaholism is one of the biggest unhealthy addictions of our time and I think the Church needs to stand up and confront it head on. Sabbath is a command, not a recommendation. But we don't know how to do it well.
I think pastors - along with other helping professions, like doctors, have an extra challenge of having to truly decipher "life and death".
I love that you're taking steps to define this in your own context. I just decided the other day that I think cooking is something I shall abstain from in my own. I feel like it's a chore that never ends, so one day a week we can reheat and eat out.
Love your thoughts.

~ Anna G ~ said...

I did hear RHB speak, and YES she shared about getting hit by the car. I remember her stating "I laid under the van and though, 'yeah, this hurts really badly.' Moment of clarity."

For me it is cleaning. G and I are deciding that of our two days off, one needs to include cleaning and one needs to not.

Last note: Do you know that if you purchase any book from the link on RHB's name in this post, they send it out signed? FYI.

La Peregrina said...

Hmmm... I think I need to do the opposite:
spending one day a week cleaning and cooking would be a GOOD thing for me because currently I do neither. I can tell when I'm depressed because I tend to eat & drink only toast and soy milk (bought because it doesn't get old as fast as regular milk...). I also don't have the energy to do anything to take care of myself because looking at the mess in my house makes me feel overwhelmed and tired.

I don't take time to do those things daily (cook & clean) because I'm "too busy"... this is the attitude/behavior that I need to change! If I am dedicating all of my time to the church, then I have no energy to do those basic things that make me feel good (eating healthy food, relaxing in a house that doesn't have clothes strewn everywhere, that sort of thing).

So taking time out from my self-imposed church duties to go grocery shopping will be a good thing :-)

Also, I need to fly in and out of an airport near Rambling Anna so we can catch up on both ends of my journey :-D