How to Stop Your Hobbies from Overtaking Your Life

Hobbies – from golfing or hiking, to researching stocks or rebuilding old cars – can bring lots of enjoyment into your life. But if you devote more attention to your hobbies than God intends, the rest of your life will suffer. Spending too much time and energy on your hobbies could lead to your estrangement from family and friends, and even from God.

It’s possible to enjoy your hobbies without losing sight of what matters most in life. Here’s how you can stop your hobbies from overtaking your life, and start enjoying the life God wants for you:

Examine your life. Reflect on your life honestly, and ask God to show you how you may be devoting too much attention to your hobbies at the expense of what’s more important (such as your marriage, parenting, or job).

Recognize where the problem lies – not with your passion, but with your priorities. It’s healthy for you to be a passionate person; God made you that way. So it’s okay to feel passionate about your hobbies. What’s problematic is getting your priorities out of order from God intends them to be. It’s unhealthy to run after your hobbies with such intensity that you neglect the other things you should be pursuing. Ask God to show you which of the relationships and activities in your life truly deserve to be high priorities for you. Decide right now to make your relationship with God your highest priority by placing it at the center of your life and revolving everything else around it.

Identify what’s motivating you to devote so much attention to your hobbies. Consider if you’re hoping to get closer to any of these from pursuing your hobbies: respect, fun, self-validation, challenge, rewards at unpredictable times, a sense of belonging, happiness from fulfilling dreams. Then consider if you’re using your hobbies to try to get away from any of these: shame, loneliness, chaos, boredom, or disappointing others. Then ask yourself two key questions: “Does my energy for a certain passion spring out of a healthy, ordered heart?” and “Does my passion signal that there is a problem inside?”

Notice if your passions are causing pain. Even though most hobbies are good, they can be toxic in your life if your passion for them is causing you to bring pain to others who care about you. For instance, even though it may be good for you to hike in the mountains sometimes, doing so too much can lead you to neglect your wife, causing her pain. If you don’t work to fix the problem, you may find yourself divorced.

Confess your brokenness to God. Pray about each of the sins you’ve committed because of devoting yourself too much to your hobbies, accept God’s forgiveness, and ask Him to help you learn how to recognize what decisions are best for your life and empower you to make those decisions going forward.

Shift your focus from performance to grace. If you’re using your hobbies to help you feel valuable as a person and worthy of love, recognize that your true value comes only from the fact that you’re one of God’s children, and that God’s love for you is complete and unconditional. Embrace the grace that God offers you to live each new day, knowing that God delights in you no matter how good you are at any particular hobby.

Live to please God alone. Rather than basing your decisions on what happens to feel good to you at a certain time or on expectations and pressures from other people, choose to make decisions according to what you believe God wants you to do. When you focus on being faithful to God in everything you do, you’ll be able to figure out how to best incorporate your hobbies into your life.

Honor your wife. Your wife needs to know that you love her more than you love your hobbies in order to feel secure in your marriage. If you devote more attention to your hobbies than to your wife, you’re inviting conflict in your relationship. But if you invest lots of time and energy into your marriage, your wife will feel loved and will likely then generously support you pursuing your hobbies in balance with the rest of your life.

Honor your children. Your children need to know that you’re really committed to them, and the only way they’ll know that is if you spend lots of time with them on a regular basis. Make sure that you’re spending much more time with each of your children than you’re spending on your hobbies. Even though it may be more fun to pursue hobbies than to actively engage with the demands of parenting, fathers who neglect their children because of hobbies often damage their relationships with their children in the process. Keep in mind that parents are the most important influences in children’s lives, and the years when your children will live at home with you go by quickly. Make choices now that you won’t regret later.

Honor your friends. Make spending time with your friends a higher priority than pursuing your hobbies alone, and invite your friends to join you on hobby-related activities when possible. Ask your most trusted friends to join encourage you and hold you accountable as you try to change how you pursue your hobbies so your life is in the right balance.
Commit to active participation in a local church. Don’t neglect church because of your hobbies. You’ll find adventure and become your best self at church when you make a commitment to relationships with imperfect people there (through both good and bad), and you’ll grow closer to God in powerful ways that wouldn’t be possible without participating in a church community.

Be fully here now. Develop a habit of giving the people in your life your full attention when you’re with them – free of distractions related to your hobbies – so you can build the kind of relationships with them that God wants you all to enjoy.

Choose to serve others whenever possible. As you move forward with your life in a better balance, remind yourself often to model your lifestyle on the one that Jesus lived – one of service to other people. That’s the kind of life that will lead to the fewest regrets, because loving well means living well.

Adapted from Man on the Run: Helping Hyper-Hobbied Men Recognize the Best Things in Life, copyright 2012 by Zeke Pipher. Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Brentwood, Tn.

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