Paula looked up at the clock. It was after seven, and her son’s program at school started in less than fifteen minutes. Luckily, her husband said he’d get the kids fed and Caleb to school early. She was supposed to meet them there, having explained she needed to finish up a project at work.
Her husband had been less than pleased, given this was the third night in a row she hadn’t made it home in time for dinner. Paula had argued this was an emergency situation that would be handled by week’s end. Her husband countered with the fact that her job had contained “emergency situations” for more than six months, ever since she became a manager.
Paula wanted to concentrate just on what was happening today and find a way to get everything done. Her husband, with his exasperated tone, made it clear it wasn’t just about tonight and the school program, but her increasing pattern of later and later nights. With all the stress she was under at work, Paula was furious he’d use this time to pressure her about working so much. After all, it wasn’t like she had a choice.
Behaviors become addictive when they are continued, even in the face of negative consequences to important aspects of a person’s life. Often, whether or not a behavior is addictive is measured against whether it has a negative impact on someone’s ability to work. But what happens when work itself becomes addictive? This is colloquially called workaholism, with the “ism” part meaning a behavior that’s way out of hand. When the demands of work overtake obligations of self-care and your relationships with others, it’s a problem.
It’s said that people vote with their feet. I also believe that people vote with their time. Time is the new commodity, the new treasure, in this culture because so many people seem to have so little of it left over. So, how a person spends his or her time says a great deal about what they value. If time is the new money, it might be instructive to reword an admonition from Jesus in Luke 12:34, switching treasure for time: “For where your time is, there your heart will be also.” What you spend your time on indicates what you really care about.
I firmly believe people should care about their jobs. It’s what I expect from myself and from those who work for me. However, there can come a point where you are out of balance, investing too much time in one aspect of your life to the detriment of others. I guess the biggest place I’ve seen this played out where work is concerned is the emptiness and longing I’ve heard from adult children whose fathers, generally, but also mothers sometimes, simply were unavailable to them because of work.
No matter how old the adult is, the heartbreak of a child left wanting is unmistakable in her voice, questioning why she wasn’t important enough to make an impact on her parent’s time. She wanted so much to spend time with her father or mother. Instead, all she received were adult reasons and grown-up excuses, all couched in words of great import and consequence. Often, she heard, “I really want to spend time with you, but this job is important.” She figured out if her father or mother had to spend time on the important things in life and didn’t spend time with her, the obvious conclusion was I’m not important.
In this world of downsizing, two- and three-day vacations, if at all, and the increasing pressure to produce more in the same amount of time, it’s easy to understand the stress people feel surrounding their work. Work, however, takes on an addictive quality when you begin to either equate all your successes or bundle all your fears of failure into what you do as opposed to who you are. If you feel you either must work or you won’t be recognized and praised, or if you feel you must work so you won’t be found out and punished, your work has become more than a job. It has become the source of your identity and security. This is completely at odds with God’s desire for your life.
Your identity comes from being a child of God, and your security comes from His provision and protection in your life. Right before you die, do you honestly think you’ll be sad because you didn’t work more? Or, will you regret the time you’ll never be able to recapture with those you love? Where you time is, there your heart will be also.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.