Is Overcommitting an Idol?
Many of my friends claim to be overcommitted, but when they do so, a strange thing happens: They say it with a smile.
Though we might complain and groan about it, we love to stay busy. We love that we have plans, that our schedules are brewing with activities, that we are productive and not sitting still.
While it’s easy to acknowledge idleness as a sin, we can’t also forget that busyness and overcommitment is a sin too.
Why? Because it’s not what we were made for. We were designed to practice rhythms and limits. That’s why the Sabbath is so influential for our lives—it establishes rhythms and adds a limit to how much we can work in one week.
Overcommitment is a subtle sin today because everyone does it. And it’s a destructive habit that’s easily able to become an idol in one’s life.
For some reason, we love to stay busy, but maybe the problem is we love to stay busy too much. We’re looking for our busyness to solves insufficiencies about ourself, at which point it becomes an idol.
As Tim Keller defines an idol: “An idol is something that we look to for the things only God can provide.”
So what is overcommitting giving us? Why do we love it so much we can’t let go of it?
Here are a few possibilities for why we love overcommitment in our lives:
1. Busyness gives us pride.
People wear their busyness like a badge of honor. I don’t know why this is, but somewhere in the trajectory of human life, we’ve decided that the only way to feel worth is to be busy. Thus, we overcommit ourselves as a way to be satisfied with who we are.
But what shaky ground are we putting our identity and worth in?
It’s harmful to put our value into how thin we spread ourselves. Instead, God says our value and worth is in our identity in Him—that we are children of God. This means we are loved, and we don’t have to jump through hoops for it. No more being spread thin. No more keeping busy.
God’s love for us is a better badge to wear than our busyness.
2. It gives us an excuse to not connect.
It’s hard to make friends. It’s easier to do work in place of being vulnerable with friends. Emotional labor is much more difficult to maintain than the mental and physical labor of work.
So in the times when we feel like we don’t want to be with friends, we’re happy to use the excuse of having too much work to do.
It’s fine to do this sometimes. But eventually, you’ll feel the absence of connection in you. You’ll feel a loneliness that can’t be solve with more work. It can only be solved by the courage to be known and free with true friendships.
3. We want more stories.
We live in a culture that loves to share stories, especially over social media. So when you don’t have a story to share, you can feel as though you’re not doing life right—at least, not like your friends on social media are doing it. So how do you respond? You try to collect stories by overcommitting yourself.
But at what cost are you willing to tire yourself for a story to share with friends? And does that story even give life to a person, or is it just about yourself?
When you feel like your life isn’t exciting enough to share with friends, that’s when you lean in closer to God. See how He’s working the your daily routines. Don’t seek Him in the big and loud parts of life.
Maybe all we need for better stories is to notice how He’s working in front of us every day, not pile on more radical things to do.
4. We’re afraid of the quiet and stillness.
Finally, maybe we love overcommitting because it’s scary to not be doing anything. When we’re still and alone, we’re faced with a mirror—a mirror that shows us if we’re really happy to be with ourselves. This moment can be frightening if we don’t love ourselves. If we can’t show ourselves affection, then being still and by ourselves means we have to put up with the very person we don’t like.
But guess what? In those moments, you’re not alone.
God is with you when you’re still and quiet. So instead of being bothered by who you are or what you’re doing in life, choose those moments to worship Him. Direct your attention on Him in the still times, and maybe you won’t fear being still anymore. Maybe you’ll welcome it.
I know something is an idol in my life when it has negative side effects. People around me might encourage it—especially when that idol is overcommitment—but that does not mean it is good for us.
We feel health in the depths of us when we pursue God and His purposes.
This means the more we find our contentment and satisfaction in God—who He is and what He’s done for us—then the more health we’ll feel in our spirit. Hopefully then we won’t turn to our overcommitted lives to give us what only God can give us. Maybe then we’ll have the courage to put down our schedules and sit still with Him.