Relaxing in my recliner yesterday afternoon, I was beginning to feel guilty about the process of sitting there, doing nothing. You’ve just published a book, I reminded myself. There are numerous actions you can take to promote said book. A few people in your address book haven’t been told about it. You could always create a press release. And on and on it went.
Suddenly, I began to think about the Protestant work ethic that we learned and practiced, no matter what our religion, geography, philosophy, socio-economic level, or shoe size. The gist of that was that if you work hard, and are thrifty and efficient, you would be entitled to eternal salvation.
To those of you who are too young to have heard of the Protestant ethic, we were introduced to it when we were forming methods with which we would be living our lives. Laziness is not an acceptable option. Neither is wasting time. While my personal religious beliefs don’t allow for buying or working my way into heaven, it’s curious that I was feeling that I was committing some type of sin by doing nothing at all.
How do we get to such beliefs? One easy answer is that many of us make ourselves responsible for ongoing hard work and producing results – at all times. In other words, if you are relaxing, you are not accomplishing anything and that’s bad. In addition to working on promoting my book, I could be working on cleaning some clothes out of my closet, dusting, writing my next book, or beginning dinner. In other words, sitting on my chair with only my thoughts for entertainment was a mistake and something inherently negative.
Clearly, I need to redo this type of thinking and allow myself the ability to do nothing without benefit of guilt. But before I do so, I will still need to persuade myself that the Protestant ethic as I interpret it is obsolete or irrelevant. I’m pretty certain that demanding activity and energy from myself is a reasonable expectation. But maybe, ethics, Protestant or otherwise, can and should be suspended in deference to peace of mind and self-preservation. Shalom.