Our world has become a place of distraction. The internet has shortened our attention spans and trained us to distract and detach. All these ‘time saving’ inventions have left us feeling more busy and hurried than ever before. The problem is we are not meant to live a life of continual distraction. T.S. Eliot wrote about ‘this twittering world’ where people are “distracted from distraction by distraction.” It takes away our ability to root deeply and breathe deeply. Distraction doesn’t just harm our emotional and mental health — it impacts relationships, spirituality, physical health and meaningful living. John Ortberg once said, “we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it [life]. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.” John Mark Comer in his book “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” writes “hurry is a form of violence on the soul.” What a powerful line!
Our culture lauds busyness as a mark of success and productivity. We used to see luxury marked for those who were able to enjoy leisure. Now we see luxury as belonging to those who are so busy — without regard for the impact on our soul. Meyer Friedman, the cardiologist who initially connected the dots between ‘type A’ personalities being so chronically angry and incidence of heart attacks. He also coined the term “hurry sickness” after noticing how many of his at-risk patients were driven to do more and more in less and less time.
There are 10 symptoms of hurry sickness in a self-inventory by John Mark Comer. I will only break them down briefly to give you an idea of what plays into it. 1. Irritability — easily getting annoyed or frustrated. 2. Hypersensitivity — taking things personally and having bigger responses to small things. 3. Restlessness — you try to slow down and rest but actually find it very difficult. 4. Workaholism or Non-stop Activity — leading to chronic accumulation and accomplishment. 5. Emotional Numbness (or what I like to call flatlining and lack of empathy). 6. Out of Order Priorities — life becomes reactive not proactive. 7. Lack of Care for Your Body — not sleeping, eating or moving your body in healthy ways. 8. Escapist Behaviours — distraction leads to detachment through overeating, over-drinking, Netflix, substances, porn, etc. 9. Slippage of Spiritual Disciplines — how do you care for your soul? 10. Isolation — you feel disconnected from God, others and yourself. The bottom line is — we need to eliminate hurry from our lives.
The solution is not to get more time. It’s to re-order your life and slow things down. To simplify and reduce. Before Thomas Edison and the light bulb, we actually went to bed shortly after it got dark and woke up when it became light. The speed at which we now move is harming us. We don’t sleep as much, we distract and detach. We need to re-calibrate. Don’t skim your life, live it!