Editorial: “I’m Busy”

Editorial: Im Busy

There’s a standard conversation that happens on the path, probably hundreds of times each day. It goes like this: “Hey, how are you?” “Good, how about you?” “Good.”

But there’s one that’s becoming more common, in my life at least, and it goes like this: “Hey, how are you?” “Busy, how about you?” “Busy.”

On a campus where it’s common to have students leading student organizations, playing in music ensembles and working a job — all while trying to take classes — it’s no surprise that the answer to “how are you?” is often “busy.”

An opinion piece we published earlier this year described it well:

“At Calvin, we are surrounded by an innumerable amount of events provided by academic departments and residence life. Our coursework is what most often takes a backseat as we scurry from a lecture series to dorm worship to midnight breakfast karaoke…My question to Calvin is simply: are we doing too much?”

Then maybe it’s not a surprise that the word busy actually has its roots in the Dutch language, coming from an Old English word meaning to occupy, employ, trouble or afflict.

But what messages get communicated to our friends and coworkers when we always tell them we’re busy?

I think it says that 1) we’re important and 2) we don’t have time for them.

First, saying “I’m busy” means that we matter. It boosts our self-worth and makes us seem important and needed and valuable. It means that there is some corner of this world to which we are essential, and if we aren’t there, that corner of the world might just stop spinning. It’s self-centered and self-aggrandizing.

Second, saying “I’m busy” means that we don’t have time for the conversation we’re having with the other person. It means that we have so much going on in our life and so many things to get to that we’re probably not going to stick around much longer — and more importantly, that we value our busy schedules more than we value the person in front of us.

And that’s really what being busy ultimately comes down to: values.

Many of us would love to have more than 168 hours in each week, but we don’t. We can stretch those hours and save ten minutes here and a half hour there, but how we ultimately spend those 168 hours is all about prioritizing values.

So for one week, try saying, “it’s not a priority” instead of “I’m too busy.”

Okay, maybe you don’t actually want to say this out loud to people in your life, but at least say it to yourself.

My biology test is a higher priority than grabbing coffee with my friend. Catching up on sleep is a higher priority than going to church. Working on my research paper is a higher priority for me than meeting my family for dinner.

That’s one reason why I’ve worked so hard to carve out each Sunday for sabbath-keeping: resting in God’s love and creating that weekly rhythm is a higher priority for me than my work at Chimes or my homework.

The list goes on, but this way of thinking should bring up interesting decisions that make us rethink where we spend our time.

So whether we are puffing up our own self-esteem or we’re failing to address what our priorities are — let’s stop hiding behind the mask of “I’m busy.”