By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Our instinctive reaction to this question—especially if you are one—is “NO!”. The urgency of completing tasks, projects, working toward success, and potentially even the love of what we do, sets some of us up to fall into a rhythm of work that is far more rigorous and exhaustive than we may realize. Actions that seem normal to us may be major red flags to people around us.
Are you getting to work earlier than everyone and leaving the latest—or not leaving at all? Maybe you do leave work but bring a lot of it home with you. You know, have dinner with the family and then retreat to your home office to “catch up” on a few things? In this world of technology, it could be watching a movie with the family while multi-tasking on your phone/tablet to answer email communications. Then there’s the ever-present weekend that work seeps over into, draining the hours to a minimum. Or maybe you’re having a conversation with your spouse or friend, but your mind is wandering to that project you’re working on. Vacation? Be sure to pack your work laptop. Success? It’s constantly slipping away from you if you dare to pause. Guilt if you take time off? Well, of course! Think how your absence affects everyone at the office!
Do you see a pattern developing? If you relate to much of the above, there’s a good chance if you’re not already a workaholic, you’re well on your way to becoming one. And it’s easy to justify. So easy! Your family needs the income, you need to maintain your value to the position you hold so you don’t lose it, financial implications on the business and ultimately the bottom line are impacted by the choices you make, and if you’re not available, you hold up other people, and that is an infraction against their valuable time too.
There may also be another factor you haven’t considered: work has become your hobby. If you can’t name things you do for fun, hobbies you pursue, or regular secondary activities, you’re probably a workaholic. Or, if you find your identity is solely centered around your job, that’s also a big sign that your life may be imbalanced.
Is it wrong to be a workaholic?
Ehhhhh, there lies a sticky-wicket of a question. Knee jerk reactions would immediately say “yes!” But you may be able to make a valid argument that if you’re single, have no children, no obligatory family situations, etc., that work can be your hobby.
Let’s look at what you could potentially be sacrificing, and then you can determine for yourself. If sacrificing these things is worth it to you, and you find fulfillment in being free of them, go for it!
Obviously, this is a big one. This includes not only your marriage and children but also extended family. We’ve all seen that character in a movie where at a family reunion, they’re off in the corner with the phone to their ear as they direct work from afar. Or they’re answering texts during a hospital visit to see their aunt after surgery. Pick a scenario. If your attention is competing with work-off hours and family is being sacrificed, that’s a good sign work is your priority.
Maybe not as often considered, but if you are not taking the opportunity to give back in service to the Lord through ministry of some sort, you may want to think on that. So often, work becomes the foremost priority at the sake of ministry and service. Working at the local food pantry, ushering at church, visiting shut-ins, etc., becomes less critical than the deadlines of your employment and the demands they put on you. Some may argue work also doubles as a place of ministry, and that may very well be true depending on how active you are in incorporating faith and service. But it’s worth giving a thought when weighing what you may be sacrificing.
3. Mental Health
This one is so easy to set aside because it feels self-focused, or we feel we can’t have good mental health if we’re running behind at work or somehow letting the juggling balls fall because we decided to take a break. But then we can also risk becoming the proverbial hamster on the wheel trying to get out ahead so we can take a break, but the fact remains, unless we jump off, that wheel will just keep spinning. Mental health affects everything else in our lives. Our patience, stamina, joy, feeling of worth, and more. This mustn’t be on the list of okay things to sacrifice.
4. Spiritual Health
Along the lines of mental health, but even more important is your spiritual health. If you are not aligned with the Lord and your faith, it will be a domino effect of negative results. Spiritual health affects your mental health, which affects the energy you have to commit to ministry and family. In the end, you may find yourself parched and weary of soul, which is a dangerous place to leave yourself. And we haven’t even touched on physical ramifications that can manifest in exhaustion, digestive issues, and more.
So are you a workaholic, or just someone who loves work? If you’re just a lover of work, that means you can also set it aside and not be wracked with guilt, obsessive compulsions to return to it, anxiety, panic, or depression. You can take a vacation and look forward to coming home, but not be driven to get home as fast as you can. It is okay to love what you do! If that’s the case, you’re blessed! Many despise what they do and would give anything to get away from it. Once they clock out, they are gone, and they wish they never had to go back.
On the one hand, be thankful you love your job so much. Be grateful it offers you challenge, success, fulfillment, drive to compete, and more. But, be balanced in your approach so that you’re not winding up sacrificing the most critical parts of yourself and have a Scrooge moment years later in life when you find yourself alone and grouchy with the ghosts of your past, your present, and your future.
In the end, as it is with all things in life, balance is key, and foundation is critical. If you can plant your foundation firmly on the rock of your faith, then the Scripture you find, the application of it, the relationship between you and God, will center you for all things that stretch from that center point. And this is critical—that foundation. Because balancing anything on shaky ground leads to an imminent crash and burn. There isn’t a gymnast in the world that would risk their body to compete on a floor made of shifting sand. So then, why should you?
Prioritize your focus. Spiritual health. Mental health. Ministry health. Relational health. If you can say you’re balanced and in good condition in all four of those areas, then more than likely, you’ve found an excellent approach to work-life balance. If you’re struggling or shriveling in one of those areas, it’s more than likely time to step back and reevaluate your priorities. In the end, your job will eventually go to the wayside, and you’ll only be left with what you cultivated in the other areas. Cultivate them with as much passion as you do your career.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.