Business of being busy

Several years ago, there was an interesting study released that focused on Christians and how their level of busyness interfered with their faith. It involved data from 20,000 Christians around the world, ages 15 to 88, in 139 countries. The results were astonishing in terms of just how many Christians were basically too busy for God.

The Obstacles to Growth Survey found that, on average, more than four in 10 Christians around the world say they “often” or “always” rush from task to task. The busy life was found to be a distraction from God among Christians worldwide. Around six in 10 Christians say that it is “often” or “always” true that “the busyness of life gets in the way of developing my relationship with God,” the 2007 report stated.

Here we are, 10 years later, and the situation hasn’t improved much. As a matter of fact, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, it’s even worse. Not only are we just as busy, but the latest study shows that busyness has apparently become a new status symbol.

While the latest examination did not factor in its participants’ religious affiliation, given the number of Americans who still identify as Christians, this survey on busyness should be reason enough for all of us to slow down, if just to take a closer look at the challenging results.

According to the Journal of Consumer Research, it was the life of leisure that would normally be associated with status, prestige and even well-being. But in the United States, that attitude is long gone and has been replaced by busy and overworked people being perceived as having the ultimate life or high status.

“We examined how signaling busyness at work impacts perceptions of status in the eyes of others,” wrote the study’s authors. “We found that the more we believe that people have the opportunity for social affirmation based on hard work, the more we tend to think that people who skip leisure and work all the time are of higher standing.”

So how should we busy Christians perceive this study? For me personally, it’s caused me to stop and ask myself some tough questions on how I view not only the busyness of others but my own busy life.

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How many of us, when asked the usual “how are you?” question, almost automatically respond, “I’m so busy,” or “I’m well, but super busy.” If you’re like me, you probably respond in a similar fashion — and quite frequently. But why? Is it just small talk, an automatic reaction reflecting the reality of our daily schedules? Or are we doing this on some level to impress our circle of family and friends and maybe even make ourselves feel more important as well?

Two years ago during Lent, Pope Francis tweeted: “Humility saves man: pride makes him lose his way.”

Even though Lent, a season set aside for prayer, penance, almsgiving and, of course, reflection, is over, there is no time like the present to allow ourselves to go deeper and do a little spiritual inventory on that pride factor.

The motivation to take stock in our faith lives doesn’t always have to come from a religious or faith-based source. Sometimes it comes from just looking at the ways and habits of the world and then comparing them to the way we live out our own lives.

We are often reminded that, as Christians, we are to be “in the world but not of the world.” This report on busyness as a status symbol might help serve as a reminder that we often could be better at doing just that.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and SiriusXMChannel 130.