How to Combat Workism

Today is talking about a problem and that is how to combat workism. Now that’s a word that I think was actually coined by Derek Thompson, a writer for the Atlantic in an article where he talks about that. And we’ve actually mentioned him here before because he’s a brilliant writer. And real kind of quick succinct version of what that is, is essentially kind of this work idolatry, meaning your meaning, your purpose, your value, and your identity is mostly taken from what you contribute and what you do at work and in work.

And there was another article that me and Jeremy had just recently read in Foreign Policy that basically talked about how the plummeting fertility rate and the plummeting nature of kids and child rearing and people having kids at a later age, and what does this mean economically and as a society on the macro level. And this article kind of came to the conclusion, and even quoted actually Derek Thompson, saying that there’s a lot of factors, but one thing that’s really, really interesting is kind of this inherent ideal that climbing the summit of work is the highest ideal. That is the best good. That is the big, the thing you can do at your work should be what you should sacrifice everything for. And so it’s a natural byproduct that families will no longer be that.

And I don’t think families need to be there for everyone by the way, so let me be clear on that. But there’s clearly a loss there, of that we see that as a hindrance, that’s a better way to put it, that one of the biggest hindrances to workism has actually then become the family, the children, the marriage, and things that are actually bedrocks to a foundation of a society. But yeah, Jeremy, what did you think when you read it are things that you kind of thought stuck out?

Yeah. When I think about workism, you guys, which is obviously a huge problem, I wanted to kind of talk through a little bit about how if you find yourself in the situation where you love going to work, right? And you really enjoy what you do, and it is really taking a lot of your attention intentionality away from your family, what do you do? And I will just say to you guys, one thing I don’t think you should do, just maybe one answer isn’t that I wish you shouldn’t go get a job you’re miserable at. I think it’s amazing if you love your work. I think that’s great. God made us to work. In Genesis 1, he created us because he wanted us to work.

Now, the disintegration with family, we’re going to challenge a lot on this podcast and talk a lot about and write a lot about. But you guys, having a job that you really enjoy is an enormous blessing, and I think that you should receive it as such. The way that you deal with being too in love with work or idolizing work or making it too much of the ultimate thing is you need to lift up other things that should be at the same level or higher, right? There’s a sort of a tradition in the Christian Church that the way that you overcome one sort of overweening affection, Tim Keller talks a lot about this, is not by diminishing good things that God’s made, but it’s by making sure that you increase your love for things that ought to be higher order.

And family is just a higher order in a lot of ways, in terms of when you think about the whole of your life, you’re to really look back and think about your family a lot more than your work. But a lot of times that’s confusing in the day to day, especially when you’re frustrated with your family and you love work. So what do you do to increase your love and family? That’s how you overcome workism.

And the way, you guys, that I’ve overcome over-loving work, and I really enjoy the work I do, guys. I get up every day and I’m looking forward to work every day, but I still really have learned to love family more. And the reason is it’s captured my heart as I’ve begun to realize what the family is. And this is one of the reasons why we talk to you guys about a family being a multigenerational team on mission. There’s usually, inside of that definition of family, something that will capture the heart of a man of a father beyond what their work can offer.

And so for me, every one of those three elements, the multigenerational nature of family, means that’s going to last longer than anything I do at work. The team element that I get to experience with my children, with my wife, as I get better and better at leading that team, is begun to overcome any team experience I’ve ever had at work. And the mission element means that there’s more meaning in what I do in and through my family than the meaning that I get in and through work.

And so that’s how I’ve overcome this. It’s not by diminishing work because I love work, but I really love family more because family, I’ve begun to realize what family is and I’ve experienced so many wonderful things about the family that my love for family just has begun to grow and grow and grow. And so I can really enjoy work and get into work without it necessarily completely destroying my intentionality or my enjoyment when it comes to the family.

So I encourage you guys, if you’re find yourself in a miserable job, don’t say, “Well, that’s good because I will just focus on family stuff.” No, I really want you guys, do work you enjoy and begin to work your way towards the kinds of vocations that you’re built to do. That is a gift and not everyone has that gift, I get that. But all of us should really try to migrate that direction. Of course, we want to do things that we’re built to do and we enjoy. But, you guys, don’t become so obsessed with those things that you miss out on this much bigger and much more valuable thing that God’s given you to steward, and that is your family. And so holding both of those high, I think is really-

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