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Transformation: The Problem of Hurriedness and Why We Love It

Transformation Blog: Readings from Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus



Transformation: The Problem of Hurriedness and Why We Love It

Brandon Cook

No doubt there are many reasons why The Fast Life is such a part of modern American life.  Heck, it’s often idealized as the life.  “Life in the fast lane!” and all that.  We get a lot from being hurried, even if we hate it.  Why might that be?  Before reading on, try to name at least three things that you, or people in general, get out of being hurried and busy.

Indeed, we do get a lot from hurriedness. 

On a basic chemical level, we get a dopamine rush when we accomplish things (which the makers of Candycrush and Angry Birds devoutly rely upon).  Hurrying and, through hurrying, accomplishing a lot, can be rewarding.  And obviously accomplishing things is a great thing!  But we can also lose ourselves in the process of “getting stuff done.”[1] 

Sometimes hurriedness makes us feel important.  “Look how much I have to do, I’m just so busy!”  One of my old Bible teachers had a poster on his classroom wall that read: A life full of activity gives the appearance of a life full of meaning.  Because we are up to big things, we get a feeling that we must be important, which is one of the deepest desires of our heart. 

Or, maybe what we get from hurriedness is a convenient avoidance mechanism which, unlike other ways of numbing out (alcohol, drugs, sex, or buying things, for a few examples), is actually praised in our work-obsessed culture and even, sometimes, in church culture.  By numbing out, we get to avoid deeper, uncomfortable questions that we’d prefer not deal with.  Perhaps Jesus really wants us to deal with some unresolved pain or unforgiveness rooted in our past, but by staying busy we can avoid his inconvenient voice.  In other words, hurriedness helps us avoid the silence we fear facing because it would make us confront our true selves.  Even if we desperately want the unhurried quiet space by which our souls could meet with God, there remains a fear—driven by vestigial remnants of The Human Paradigm—that is terrified about the idea of encountering God, fearing whether we will survive the encounter. 

All the while, we feel justified because, after all, “Look how hard I’m working and how much I’m doing!”  Indeed, hurriedness can often be a sophisticated system of avoidance with built in justification pre-emptively excusing us.  It is not as immediately self-destructive as other addictions, we rationalize.  And that might even be true.  Nevertheless, it can rob our souls from us, all under the guise of getting stuff done and being important.  No wonder Jesus warned us so consistently about building our lives on false foundations, such as self-importance.  No wonder he said, “Don’t live your whole life trying to save your soul only to find that you’ve lost it.”[2]  Certainly a part of finding our souls, in our context, means recognizing hurriedness and its underlying drivers, and further, that this recognition is an important spiritual matter.  Hurriedness and a lack of margin can cripple the journey of transformation before it begins.

This is not big news; no doubt most of us agree that this a problem.  And we probably all agree on the value of living at a slower pace beyond just “getting away from it all” for a week’s vacation.  Right?

Great, so let’s stop!  On the count of three, you are going to STOP being hurried.  One….two…

But of course, it’s not that easy.  We must confront the very stickiness of the problem and its whack-a-mole nature if we are to live The Slow Life, and this means recognizing and confronting that the problem of hurriedness is firmly instantiated not only in our hearts but also in the society in which we live. 


[1] Notice that, as with most if not all temptations, our temptation to live in constant hurry is the perversion of a positive thing.  We are meant to accomplish things and we are meant, in a sense, to be busy.  It’s over-focusing or over-relying on accomplishing things that is the problem.  Tim Keller points out that idolatry is always taking a good thing—like money or sex--and making it into an “ultimate thing,” which it was never meant to be.  (See Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller.  Viking Press, 2009.)

[2] A paraphrase of Matthew 10:39