Beware of the Barrenness of a Busy Life - Richard Innes

Perpetual activity is one of the great hang-ups of contemporary society. And success, in Western culture at least, is almost without exception defined in terms of one's performance and achievements. That is, what one does. Rarely, if ever, is it defined in terms of an individual's growth and maturity.

An artist's success is judged on the basis of his or her talents and performances, never on the person. A businessman's success is measured by the size of his company and bank balance, never on how his family feels toward him. His bleeding ulcers or impaired relationships with his children simply are not seen.

There's nothing wrong with activity of itself. Not at all. To be mentally healthy, every person needs not only a happy family life, but also worthwhile interests of work into which he or she can put his or her heart. The greatest teacher of all times, Jesus Christ, forever sanctioned work in the carpenter's shop. And the greatest book ever written, the Bible, says that "if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat."

Work, busyness or activity, is only a problem when it is perpetual; that is, when it is compulsive or over-done. This indicates that its roots lie in unresolved conflicts from the past.

Take John, for example. He was a minister who worked extremely hard for many years to build a large church. John was a very likable person and was always able to function very well outwardly.

However, John went to pieces when his father passed away. When sharing his true feelings in a share/growth group, John came to realize that as a child he simply had not received sufficient love and approval from his father. So all his life he had been unconsciously striving to gain his father's approval. It took the pain of his father's death for John to see his real motives for building a large church.

All his life John had been unconsciously striving to gain his father's approval.

When John was honest about his true motives, did he quit the ministry? No. He became free to resolve his inner conflicts and grow to serve God more out of a motive of love rather than out of a sense of compulsion.

On the other hand, when some people come to terms with their true motives, they may need to change their whole life-style.

Perpetual activity is an escape from inner pain. Like perpetual withdrawal, it is a sure sign of inner conflict. And unless a person honestly faces and resolves that conflict, it will drive him or her relentlessly to the grave.

In fact, it isn't possible to live fully until one's inner conflicts and true motives are sorted out. Activity for the wrong motives profits nothing.2

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the story of Jesus' visit to his friends, Mary and Martha. Read the story in Luke 10 and you will see that Martha was a compulsive worker.

This was because she was troubled about many things. She was the jittery type and a worrier. She was more concerned about her performance (and what others would think of her performance) than she was about relating to people. Her sense of self-worth was dependent on what she did rather than on who she was.

Many people struggle with this same type of self-conflict.

As children, their parents were too busy for them so they didn't feel fully loved. Or approval was based entirely on their behavior and performance. If the child conformed to the parental over-control, he or she felt approval. If not, he or she felt rejection. Time and time again the child is put down. "You bad boy." "You naughty girl." "You are so aggravating." "Sit still." "Be quiet." "Stop annoying me." "You're hopeless." "You'll never amount to anything."

The result? After years of this type of conditioning, the child is programmed to feel not okay about him- or herself. The rest of this person's life is spent in perpetual activity trying to prove to him- or herself that he or she does amount to something.

Another person keeps over-active to avoid getting close to people.
He or she has been hurt before and doesn't want to get hurt again.

A woman may intentionally become pregnant again to avoid facing her loneliness when her other children are off at school.

Whatever the cause, if the over-active person sits still for long, his or her inner pain of not feeling okay begins to rise to consciousness. He or she then feels empty, bored, lonely, tired, depressed, or restless. To quieten this pain, he or she just keeps busy, busy, busy.

One escapes his or her pain by becoming an alcoholic. Another, a workaholic. In God's sight there's no difference.

One of the most important lessons in life for every individual to learn and teach his or her children is this: One's worth as a person is never dependent on his or her performance—good or bad. Every person is worthwhile because he or she has been created by God in his image, and loved fully and unconditionally by him.

Those caught in this overactive trap and those who don't feel okay about themselves need to reprogram their feelings of self-worth. One way to do this is to pray out loud each day: "Thank you, God, that you love and accept me exactly as I am without my having to do anything. And because you love and accept me as I am, I love and accept me as I am, too."
It can be helpful to write this prayer on a small card and keep it in your purse or wallet so you can read it every day.

Unfortunately, many people seem to feel that if their performance is good enough, God will love and accept them, too. But this isn't so. God loves and accepts you because you are you. And he accepts you into his Kingdom on the basis of Christ dying on the cross for your sin and on your accepting his free pardon—never on the basis of what you do or fail to do.4

With God, performance is secondary.
Jesus said to Martha, "There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won't take it away from her."

What was this one thing Jesus spoke about? Perhaps it could be summed up in one word: Relationships.

I believe Jesus was saying that just being a person who relates well to other people and to
God is life's number one priority.

No matter how great one's achievements are, if his or her relationships with people are impaired, he or she is not a successful person. His or her relationship to God will also be impaired. God's Word says that a Christian's love for God was perfected only as he or she loved other people.

In other words, a person can only love and accept God and relate to him to the degree that he or she loves and accepts other people and relates to them. And an individual can only love and accept other people and relate to them to the degree that he or she loves and accepts him—or herself in a healthy sense.

As Jesus said "There is only one thing to be concerned about." And that is, your relationship—to yourself, to others, and to God.1. 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
2. See I Corinthians 13.
3. Romans 3:23.
4. Ephesians 2:8.
5. I John 4:7.

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