Confessions of a Workaholic
First there was the Wall Street Journal article about how “4 a.m. is the most productive hour.” Then there was the response from the Washington Post: “If you're having to get up at 4 a.m. to avoid distractions in your day, there's probably something wrong with how we're working.”
You can guess that I resonated more with the Wall Street Journal article, although I respect where the Washington Post is coming from. Many of us just work too damn hard, and compound matters by considering it a badge of honor rather than an indication of deep-seated problems.
But let me explain. Yes, work can become an idol, as can the hyper-efficient persona you craft for the rest of the world to see and admire. But the fact that good things can be twisted into soul-deteriorating things doesn’t change the fact that they can still be good things.
I suspect that when WashPo and others lament today’s workaholism, they are thinking less of lower-wage workers who have to put in extra hours just to make ends meet and they are thinking more of higher-wage workers who take pride in working long hours. And, again, pride is a sin, marring our true value as beautiful creatures made by a beautiful Creator. And yet enjoying one’s work so much that one is willing to wake up early and/or stay up late is not an inherently bad thing and in fact can be a wonderful thing.
People were made in God’s image and as such are inherently valuable; what we do with our days cannot add to or subtract from that. But people were also made to work, and to enjoy work, not only what it produces for others (valuable products and services) or for self (a wage) but also the act of working itself. Whether we build houses or spreadsheets, tend to the elderly or to a company’s legal issues, the work itself can be inherently meaningful and enjoyable and stimulating and life-giving.
Besides work, or bragging about work, manifesting itself as an idol, work can also lead us to ruin if it crowds out time for other things good for our souls. Indeed, if early hours and/or late nights mean we don’t cultivate important relationships or tend to our bodies, then shame on us.
But, despite everyone’s cries (including my own) that there are never enough hours in the day, there are in fact enough hours in the day. I take great pride and enjoyment in my job, and I take great pride and enjoyment in being a husband and father, and I value taking care of myself (body, mind, and spirit), and I try not to cheat myself in any of these things, and most weeks I don’t.
Sure, I have to make tough trade-offs to sacrifice good things to do for better things to do, I am extremely vigilant about avoiding time-wasting activities, and as an introvert I don’t require much social contact to stay happy and recharged. But guess what? We all have the same 24 hours in a day and we all figure out our ways to get it all in. We can all make it work, even including working extra hours at jobs we enjoy and derive satisfaction from.
I take to heart important lessons from those calling for less rushing around and less boasting about long hours. But work and working hard being bad thingsis not one of them.