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July 14, 2020

One of my favorite things about having this blog is hearing feedback from the people who read it.

I honestly enjoy receiving all kinds of input. It could be encouragement that what I have written has impacted you in a positive way. Or it could be a helpful criticism, letting me know that I’ve missed the mark about something that matters to you.

A couple months ago, I received one of the most thoughtful responses from a good friend, Marcia Shurley to the Words Matter blog post. The emphasis of the blog was to choose our words wisely. In her response, she narrowed in on one phrase she worked to eradicate from her home:

“I’m busy.”

And I believe the idea to be so powerful that it warrants its own post. Here’s what she had to say about it:

When the kids were all in middle school and high school, life amped up significantly for everyone. Academics increased, volunteer opportunities became more plentiful, social engagements skyrocketed, sports and recreation commitments were all over the map. Now, how does that relate to ‘words matter’?

Well, for me it was a simple, four letter word: BUSY. It became the most negative word in my day to day life with the kids, not my saying it, but their saying it: ‘I’m busy; I’ll call you back later,’ ‘I’m busy; can I do that chore later?’, ‘I’m busy; can we talk later?’, ‘I’m busy; I’ll eat later.’

Now, I fully understood the challenges I saw unfolding right before my very eyes. I knew the pressures were mounting in their lives, especially in this often unrealistic world of being, striving, feeling like everything has to be perfect, but the word ‘busy’ just hit me hard one day, so I had a conversation with each of my children individually and asked them to try to eradicate the word ‘busy’ from their conversations with, not only me, but others.”

If I were to search the word “busy” in my email inbox right now, hundreds—if not thousands—of messages would pop up. Not just from others, but from me. When people ask us how we’re doing, instead of the traditional “I’m good” or “I’m fine,” we’ve started to say “I’m busy.” 

Marcia’s exhortation to her family is one we all desperately need today. In our fast-paced culture, we like to wear busyness as a badge of honor. We feel overwhelmed, our schedules are slammed, and we feel like we need to tell everyone. Don’t believe the lie that a full plate equals a full life.

Being busy is not a badge of honor. So I am going to challenge you and me to take it out of our vocabulary.

Try to answer these questions for yourself and think about why you use this word in the first place:

  • Do you say you’re busy because you’re being lazy with your words? 
  • Do you say you’re busy to impress others or to avoid sharing details? 
  • Or are you truly overwhelmed, underwater, and stressed to the max, but you try to downplay it by simply saying you’re busy? 

If you responded yes to any of these questions, you know firsthand that busyness is not a positive part of your life. You may simply need to intentionally use different words and trust that the work you do is meaningful. But for some of you, the only way you’ll be able to remove the word busyness from your vocabulary is to actually work to be less busy. I know that’s not easy, but we need to frequently evaluate what’s on our plates and make some big changes.

Let’s stop pretending like busyness is a badge of honor and work to encourage one another in the things that matter.


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life, and leadership —
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