The Importance of Distractions

When it comes to work and various forms of non-work, there are two, rather obvious extremes to avoid. The first is the lazy bum who can’t be bothered to get off his couch in order to stop being a potato chip. The other is the workaholic who works himself into an early grave. Both are rather common in America. The latter was more common when there was a better work ethic, which ethic has all but disappeared recently. However, it is the workaholic that I am addressing in this post.

There are at least two aspects to being a workaholic. The first is simply never taking a break. They would work 24/7 if they could, but they get as close as they can. Sometimes, they are motivated by thinking that busyness equals holiness.

The second aspect, which usually but not always accompanies the first, is obsession over certain parts of the job. Maybe it is a negative relationship that has the worker obsessed. Maybe it is an obstacle to doing the work correctly. Workaholics usually obsess in some way or another over their work.

This is why I believe that distractions are vitally important for the person who is tempted to be a workaholic. What do I mean by “distractions?” I don’t mean the five minute interruptions of work when a colleague drops by, although those can be welcome breaks as well. I am talking about having some form of distraction that takes a person out of the world of their work, and places them in an entirely different realm.

Just to take an example, I do not read much fiction that is about pastoral ministry. Why? Because that does not take me out of the realm of pastoral ministry. I might read such fiction as part of my regularly scheduled work, if that fiction were valuable enough (usually it gets buried at the bottom of the reading list, though). If I am going to read fiction, then I want to read something that takes me out of this world, so that I can come back to this world more refreshed, and with a less cynical eye. Epic fantasy usually does the trick for me in this regard. It is quite literally another world.

Another example from my personal life will help. 2015 was an extremely difficult year for my wife and I in many, varied ways. In fact, I can confidently assert that it was the worst year of our lives. Obsession about the church was always lurking right around the corner, wanting to grab me and ruin my work days, and keep me from sleep. If it hadn’t been for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I think my wife and I would both have gone insane (2016 is proving to be FAR easier so far, with many of the issues of 2015 resolved). It didn’t always work completely. Sometimes I would go back to obsessing over the church after watching STDSN. However, even the break was still helpful.

Remember this, however. Any distraction that might be healthy in itself can become unhealthy if it becomes itself a new obsession. This blog post is not addressing lazy people, but obsessing people. The dangers of becoming enslaved to entertainment are many, and many have pointed them out.

So, what kind of distractions would help fill the bill? Hands down, the most important thing about your chosen distraction is that it be full of humor. The cliche “Laughter is the best medicine” is not less true just because it is a cliche (to use another cliche).

So, stop obsessing, and take a break. I will close with a story of two woodcutters who decided to have a wood-chopping competition. One woodcutter started with his axe, and took no breaks whatsoever. The other one took frequent breaks. At the end of the day, the one who took no breaks was astonished to find that the other man had cut much more wood than he had. So he said, “I didn’t take a single break. How come you cut so much more wood than I did?” The other man replied, “Ah, but you may not have noticed that when I rested, I was sharpening my axe.” Let him who has ears to hear, let him hear.

6 Comments

  1. Howie Donahoe said,

    June 9, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Good points! Francis Schaeffer once visited Pittsburgh for a couple weeks and stayed with my fellow Session member, Jack Todd (now both with the Lord). Jack asked me what I thought Dr. Francis did most afternoons at 4. I proposed several guesses; all wrong. He laid on the family room rug and watched Star Trek.

  2. June 9, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    I once had a cartoon in which one character said, “Work is its own reward.” To which, a second character thought to himself, “No wonder people hate it so much.”

    This is another problem – the more work you do, the more work there *is* to do. Work tends to build on itself. Thus, the frustration of the obsessive.

  3. Kevin said,

    June 10, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    I certainly don’t look at my time in terms of how much work and how much distraction. When I work, I work, and I’m taking it easy I’m taking it easy. When I’m relaxing, I never think, oh God really wants me to be doing something something else this is a distraction. Jesus prayed Father sanctify them in truth, your word is truth. I am being sanctified when I’m working or when I’m playing music or chess. Rejoice always, again I say rejoice. I know so many people, our society, that is always on the go, the phone, with a list a mile long always feeling guilty. Scripture says live a quiet and simple life in all Godliness. I think this is advice Christiansn should heed. My wife and I live a simple life, and God has blessed us in it. K

  4. Reed Here said,

    June 10, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Sorry, too busy to comment.

  5. Frank Aderholdt said,

    June 10, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    I love DS9, too, and have often found it a wonderful distraction, a pleasant time among good friends. Sometimes I imagine myself as commanding as Sisko, as fearsome as Worf, as dashing as Bashir, as reliable as O’Brien, or as Mysterious as Odo. Most days, though, I’m as sensitive as Quark and as exciting as Morn.

  6. September 10, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    I once heard that Martin Luther said that what the world [or legalistic evangelicals] views as wasting time is often the best use of time. You cannot work or worship 24/7. God has made us in such a way that we need time to relax. Perhaps are avoidance of legitimate recreation is indicative of a lack of trust in God to provide for all our needs?

    Daniel


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