The problem with collecting all your internal courage and getting control of the time at your disposal is that you find you aren’t very successful at corraling the ‘beast’. Most of us can rearrange how we are spending our time for a few weeks, but we find that, like a rubber band, we keep snapping back into old habits. We promised ourself that we wouldn’t get sucked into serving on that committee or watching that television program or being stuck with that annoying chore at work that is someone else’s responsibility but tragically becomes the monkey on your back. What is the reason that time management feels like a “Pushmi-pullyu”? (reference Dr. Doolittle if you’re confused).
As an homage to the first habit of Stephen Covey, we must assume it is our responsibility to make changes to our own lives. Therefore, if the fault is to lie anywhere in this failure to gain sanity in the daily schedule, it must start with what is happening inside of us. As anyone who has read this blog for awhile will testify, I see most of our psychological problems as a combination of lie-based thinking interacting with triggering situations accidentally prepared by unknowing people. Never has this been more evident than with time management techniques. All of them will fall short if we have not dealt with the four primary lies we face when we try to corral the wild stallion of our daily life. These four (in no particular order) are:
1. A Sense I will Never Fit In: This is a variation of the shame lie, a devious belief system that proposes to our inner man that there is something essentially wrong with who we are. As we marinate in that belief, our actions betray its presence in this way. We cannot stand the thought that we are this sack of damaged goods…or more to the point that others will discover it…so we do everything we can to present a picture of ourselves that others will find appealing. One way we often do this is to give them some of the keys to our time and priorities. We believe inside that by going along with their priorities for our life they will not get realistic and discover the shame we are trying to hide.
Let me give an example of what this could look like. At work, they are looking for someone to head up a committee that helps employees find places to do their continuing education. Rumor has it that this committee takes up many non-work hours and is completely voluntary. You have no desire to be on that committee because it requires skills you do not possess. But your boss comes along one day and tells you how much you would benefit that committee and how well it would operate with your presence. You would like to tell your boss that you do not possess the skill set to do that job, but you find you can’t. Something inside is nudging you to take the position so as to allay any belief the boss might have that you are less than a desirable employee.
As with everything in this process of bringing sanity to our daily schedule, Jesus, the man of Truth, is the best example to go by when it comes to dealing with lies. Jesus truly shows us how to navigate this shame lie. In John 7 Jesus’ brothers approach him with a proposition. Why doesn’t Jesus go up to Jerusalem at that particular feast and announce his Messiah status? Instead of succombing to this pressure from his brothers however, he simply let them know that his priorities will not allow Him to make a public spectacle for the sake of proving something to his brothers. He was impervious to shame and the demands that shame makes, because he lived in the Truth always.
2. I’m going to Miss Out On Something: This lie is really not a lie at all. In fact, all of us miss out on most of life – if what we mean is we cannot experience everything everyone else is experiencing all the time. That probably wasn’t a great dilemma a thousand years ago when the only thing you might miss out if you were having a molar removed is the latest taxing of the peasants by the local ruffians from the castle. However, this lie is a fear lie…it is a fear that by missing out on something, we may miss out on something critical. These days, we are aware of all the things people in this world are doing through television, gossip at work, text messages, blogs, podcasts, DVDs and more television. Other people have the latest video game, hobby, pasttime, sport, equipment, vehicle, concert, exhibition, club, church event, high tech gear, Fave Five, hot tickets, cool drinking place, job from Monster.com, contact list, etc., etc., etc. The idea that we will not be able to do what others are doing bothers many people so they seek to add as many things as can be crammed into a 24-hour day as possible. We even start our kids on it by driving them from one sport to another to another until by the age of twelve they are so burned out that sleeping in until 1 p.m. on a Saturday seems like Shangri-La.
Once again, in the life of Jesus, though he was one of the busiest men in the world, and though he accomplished more in three years than other people do in many lifetimes, we see someone who could sleep through a storm, find a quiet place to be alone, pick up kids while a meeting was going on and single out a blind guy for special attention in the middle of a crowd. He knew what he wanted to do and wasn’t influenced by what others were doing. There is nothing wrong with setting your sights on the most important things in your life and allowing others to have different priorities. That is actually how any of us can be individuals: by choosing our own path, even the one less travelled.
3. There is Nothing I can Do About it: This is the helpless lie. It is at the heart of many time schedules gone awry. At the heart of this lie is a belief that we can fight the desires of others all we want, but eventually we will lose. That lie takes all the fight out of us. But here is the kicker: If you tell people often enough that you’re not going along with their desire to control your time, eventually they give up. But usually we stop resisting long before they have time to give up. All of life is yelling at us “Resistance is futile”. Why would the enemy say that to us if it really was futile?
Because it isn’t. In spiritual warfare, the Bible clearly tells us “Resist the devil and he will flee from you”. It doesn’t say he will run away immediately. Jesus had to put up with several temptations in the wilderness, including a job (turn the stones into bread), a sport (bungie-jumping off the pinnacle of the temple with an angelic net), and a religious event (worship satan and receive the whole world as a prize). But it was someone else’s job, someone else’s favorite sport, and someone else’s idea of religion. Eventually, the enemy left him and he went on his way stronger and more resilient. If you throw off this lie, you will find that even in situations where you seemingly will never be able to overcome, amazing things can happen. I know a young mother of three small children who could never get alone to think, pray or even have a breather. She gave up even trying. But one day, an idea occured to her. She instructed the kids that when “mommy has a towel over her head, that is when everyone must be quiet”. She didn’t think it would work. And the first dozen times she tried it, it didn’t work. But then the kids began to catch on. They immediately quieted down and solved their own problems during those moments when the towel emerged. Eventually each of them would do the same thing when they wanted quiet. Eventually, the entire house practiced the towel/quieting technique. Only dad struggled with it during those months, and eventually he even caught on. It can be done, but only when the lie of helplessness is thrown off.
4. I Will Not Be Accepted: This is the classic variation of the lie “I will not be loved” which plagues the human race. We so desire to connect with others that we will give them the right to cross the proper boundary lines we place around our precious time and invade the values that direct the use of that time. It can be as simple as someone yelling from the other end of the house that we need to come and look at an ifilm clip right when we’re praying. It can be a friend at work who takes off an hour early to go to a spa leaving us with the client from hell that always comes at that time of day. We won’t say anything to them the next day because we want them to keep liking us.
Peter was Jesus’ dear friend. He also never lacked for opinions, even on how Jesus spent his life. In the months leading up to Jesus death on the cross, he had tried to give Peter advance warning on this life-changing event. Peter didn’t want to hear it. Peter even had the audacity one day to rebuke Jesus in public and tell him to put this nonsense out of his head. Jesus got angry with his friend because he had crossed the line. Friend or not, Jesus was not going to put up with someone telling him what the priorities of his life were. He was willing to damage the friendship at that point to keep the boundaries of his life secure.
On another occasion, a man approached him and told Jesus to order his brother to share the inheritance they had both received. Only the chief Rabbis had this kind of power. In one sense, Jesus should have been honored he was thought of so highly. But instead, he answered the man, “Who made me your accountant? Settle the issue yourself.”
Was this a harsh statement? Yes, it was, but sometimes that is the only way to get a person off your back. Only those who are secure in the love God has for them can do this. Others will get sucked under the current of wanting others to accept, admire and love us: Even if it means giving them the keys to our values and time.