Strange creatures roam the land these days. Being efficient, diligent, and productive, they are remarkably impressive . . . but beneath the surface they are suffering from a miserable malady. Compulsively driven with an obsessive desire to achieve, these creatures give themselves to labor like alcoholics give themselves to booze.
Workaholics. You will find them in every imaginable occupation, and unfortunately, they are usually successful. I say “unfortunately” because success only increases their drive. In sales, they are always at the top. In school, they are always in the books. In sports, they are always in the lead. In subjects, they are always in the know. To these creatures there is one and only one reason for existence—WORK.
This applies even to vacations! Give a workaholic an opportunity to get away for a few days and he will find a dozen logical reasons why it isn’t possible. Force him to do so and he will wear himself down planning out each day, each mile, each step of the trip. Once there, he will begin to feel anxious after ten minutes of quiet relaxation. To the workaholic, unplanned moments are lethal . . . rest is senseless . . . enjoyable fun times are “irresponsible activities for children!” With a long, stinging whip, guilt—the inner taskmaster of the workaholic—pounds him into daily submission, whether he is at work, at home, at church, or at school.
This creature finally begins to show the cracks of his stress-ridden conscience. He becomes increasingly more demanding of himself and others—especially those nearest him. This neurotic intolerance slowly begins to isolate him. Muscular tics appear. His smile erodes into a frown. Performance and greater achievement become his security . . . and any setback or failure fractures his equilibrium.
As I write this I think of the need for balance. A measure of efficiency and discipline in life is absolutely healthy and necessary. Being faithful and dedicated to our work is commendable. “Redeeming the time” is biblical. But there is a point where we no longer enjoy ourselves. We can go to strange extremes—extremes that create inner functional disorders which turn us into slaves. We find ourselves blinded to other areas of life which are just as significant as our work—sometimes more! Harold R. Nelson, director of the Department of Pastoral Care at the Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, describes this tendency that gives birth to workaholics:
All of us have our own ways of hating or degrading ourselves. You may do it by being a hard-working perfectionist, and I may do it by being a disorganized, lazy nonconformist. If all you know is “work and achieve,” you may be consciously or unconsciously trying to prove your worth to yourself and others.
Well, let’s discover if you are one of these strange creatures, okay? The following chart should help you determine the answer. Numbers one and two pretty well describe a workaholic. Number three is fairly well balanced. Numbers four and five—you’ve got other problems, but you are definitely not a workaholic.
Quality of Work
1) Leaps tall buildings with a single bound.
2) Must take a running start to leap over buildings.
3) Can leap over only short buildings.
4) Crashes into building when attempting to leap.
5) Cannot recognize buildings at all.
1) Is faster than a speeding bullet.
2) Is as fast as a speeding bullet.
3) Not quite as fast as a speeding bullet.
4) Would you believe a slow bullet?
5) Wounds self with bullet when attempting to fire.
1) Is stronger than a locomotive.
2) Is stronger than a bull elephant.
3) Is strong as a bull.
4) Shoots the bull.
5) Smells like a bull.
1) Talks with God directly.
2) Talks with angels.
3) Talks to himself.
4) Argues with himself.
5) Loses those arguments.