Admit it. You know this exchange well …
“Hi! How are you?”
I’ve come to expect this as the typical Singaporean reply. If you don’t believe me, try it. I will be surprised if you do not almost always get the same answer … BUSY! From students, to mothers, to executives, to pastors, everyone is BUSY! The question is, are we really that busy? Or do we only desire to appear and sound busy? Has it become a social norm to be busy? If not, does it present you as an oddity?
Out of curiosity, I tried googling this phenomenon. I typed “busy is overrated” and it confirmed for me that it was not a local problem but a global one! Everyone was busy or wanted to be busy! Busy is the new buzzword of our age. Busy means good, means important, means sought after. It wasn’t surprising to discover an image that read: “Stop the Glorification of Busy!”
I must confess that the four-letter word readily rolled off my tongue whenever someone asked after me. Almost instinctively, I would reply, “Busy.” I didn’t have to think or ponder. It was just the right thing to say. Or so I thought. Then I began to realise this problem when the question was presented a little differently. People would see me and ask, “Hi Henson, how are you? Busy, ya?” They didn’t have to wait for me to declare my busyness. They simply presumed it!
I have to admit that it felt good to be considered busy by others. It meant that I just had so much to do because my skills and expertise were so highly in demand by so many people in as many places. I am busy because I am just so important and indispensable that the whole world would stop if I didn’t attend to it. And if anyone wanted a little of me, they had to queue and wait because I was just so … yes, you guessed it … busy!
I would wear “BUSY” as a badge of honour. Without realising it, my busyness became my pride. Hey, don’t disturb me, ok? Because I am busy. And if you get to meet with me, you’d better be honoured and appreciative. Because I am carving out time for you from my busy schedule. Even worse, I began to judge others by my own busyness. If I am so busy and I can get things done, why can’t you? I am busy but that’s because I have so many important details to juggle and I do it so well. But others are simply lazy and dis-organised, procrastinating when they should be effective and productive … just like ‘busy’ me.
As one in full time ministry, it also became a mark – horrors! – of my spirituality! It is true that I have messages to prepare, classes to teach, people to meet and counsel; not to mention a wife and seven children to love and care for. Busy. Busy. Busy. But I still manage to fast, to pray, to read the Word and to hear from God! If I can do it, why can’t you?! O ye of little busyness!
At times, I would use ‘busy’ as a cry for sympathy and for attention. Look at poor me, so busy. No one cares that I am doing so much. And since no one notices at all, I guess I have to tell them that I am busy. And along the way, I might be able to canvass some prayer and appreciation. After all, I am so faithful and sacrificial to be carrying out so many things for the good of others and often on their behalf too. Yes, poor, busy me.
It is true that we live in a highly-pressurised and performance-oriented society. There are many things to do and just as many details to look into. I am not suggesting that everyone drops and stops everything for that would be ridiculous and ludicrous. I am however reminding myself to evaluate the way I see ‘busy’ and the way I declare ‘busy’. I am very thankful that I am not aimlessly wandering through life without meaning, that people trust me enough to allow me to do stuff with and for them. This is not to be taken for granted at all and most certainly is to be celebrated and appreciated. That said, when ‘busy’ begins to define and describe me, it is no longer healthy and that is precisely the point of this little article.
And so, I am making a conscious effort from this day forth. If you ask me, “How are you, Henson? Busy?”, as tempting as it might be for me to readily agree, my answer would be, “Let’s just say that I have things to do; and I am so thankful for that.”