Beware of the Barrenness of a too Busy Life
erpetual 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."1
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."
5. All articles on the ACTS International website are by Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise noted.
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