Positive Steps to Regain Your Balance3 min read

Those of us who were alive in the 1970’s can remember Harry Chapin’s #1 hit, The Cat’s in the Cradle. It tells the story of a man who is always too busy working to spend time with his son. As he grows older and retires, to his dismay he realizes that his son now has no time for him.

I’m not sure when the word “workaholic” became part of our vocabulary, but I imagine the human race has wrestled with this problem ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden. Church workers are not immune to it, and can end up with work, family, and rest dangerously out of balance.

Are you a workaholic? Are you married to one? Do you know someone who is? Here are some common characteristics of workaholics. He or she:

1)  Has no hobbies;

2)  Feels stressed when not working;

3)  Either takes no vacation or works while on vacation;

4)  Goes to work even when sick;

5)  Has work-related health problems (high blood pressure, feelings of burnout);

6)  Hides work from spouse or family;

7)  Tries to do everything instead of delegate;

8)  Can’t say “no” to work-related requests;

9)  Feels guilty when not working;

10) Won’t listen to those who tell them to slow down.

The culture we live in adds to the problem by rewarding workaholics! The business world wants employees who are at it 24/7, come in on weekends, and never turn off the smartphone. Likewise the church holds workaholics in high esteem with praise like, “Our pastor is such a go-getter!” “She puts in such long hours and is so dedicated to our school!” and “He does the work of two pastors!”

However, there is a price to pay if work dominates our lives. In addition to health problems, the other people who suffer are members of our families. Some wives carry a lot of pain because they feel their husbands are married to their work. I’ve heard of pastor’s children who left the church because they resented how dad always had time for work, but not for them.

Are you a workaholic? The first step in dealing with a problem is to recognize it. If you see some of the symptoms of workaholism in your life, consider these positive steps:

1)  Listen to others, especially your family, when they tell you they need a better relationship with you;

2)  Keep regular office hours, and have an accountability partner if needed;

3)  Schedule other things (family time, recreation, days off) and stick to them;

4)  Delegate work to others and learn to say “no;”

5)  If necessary, meet with a professional counselor. Do you feel like you have to impress others? Is your self-esteem tied too closely to your work? Do you feel a need to prove yourself?

When I was a young man considering a career in the ministry, the pastor of my church told me, “You can always find more things to do in the office. You can always make more visits or write more sermons and Bible studies. But remember, a man’s first obligation is to his family.” Looking back on raising my own children, I realize the value of his words. Our Savior Jesus attended wedding feasts, stepped aside to quiet places, and spoke of the need to get some rest. May we likewise follow His example!

Photo (c) Alex Brylov/iStock

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About the Author

Rev. Wes Gillaspie attended Concordia University Ann Arbor and is a 1986 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Ind. He has served St. Michael's, Richville since 1995. He and his wife Anne have been married for 35 years, and have two sons, Erik and David.

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