Work and obsession

As a recovering workaholic, I have to mention how Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God describes himself and the work that he loves.

In a word, I’m obsessed.

This is good some days, but most days it’s not. It produces the complete reversal of what I intend. I intend to do my work with excellence. I intend to solve problems diligently, preach fervently, care compassionately. I intend to be heartfelt and skillful in the things to which I put my hand. But I sometimes end up with none of that. I end up withered. I spark with dry static. When I’m really tired, I get mildly paranoid. I suspect conspiracies afoot. I start to distrust people. I resent interruptions. I stop caring. I become a master of diversions. I get sloppy and cagey and prickly and forgetful. I clench my jaw too much, which gives me headaches, which makes me irritable. I winch my shoulders, as if I’m poising to batter-ram open a door in the manner of the old-style cop, which makes the muscles along my neck and back rigid and spasmodic. 146

Buchanan must have been in my office watching me because he describes me much too well. The problem is that when you are in the midst of this kind of obsession (about work or anything else), there seems to be a blindness about the situation. As Freudenberger says, “Denial intensifies that which is being denied.” Although I am sad that it took a near collapse on my part to discover my own obsessiveness (compulsiveness, addiction–whatever), I am grateful for the healing road that I have been traveling. Could I fall back into those unintended consequences that obsession brings? Certainly, but as I stay in community with God and others and practice a healthy lifestyle, I believe the possibility is much less. Freudenberger in Burnout describes what happens.

People who burn out seldom take time for that quality of aloneness. They’re caught up in a whirlwind of activities which they undertook initially because of their abundance of energy, but which have become self-generating and often as useless as they are taxing.” 125

Often, people get on treadmills like these because there’s something they wish to avoid. Some area of their life is fundamentally wrong, but they either don’t know how to deal with it or believe they had better not. 126

While it is not easy to face areas of struggle within that we formerly denied, it is worth it. May God bring companions around you all on your journey that will speak truth into your life and walk the paths of recovery that are needed.

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