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 | By Tim Ryan

Are You a Workaholic?

Separating Ourselves From the Workplace

Carol says: I like my job, I’ve been doing it for a long time and people respect my work. I’m productive and focused. My husband has been getting upset, though, because many nights I don’t get home until 8 p.m. or later. But we don’t have any children, so it’s not really a big deal, is it? I feel good at work and I’m in control. My boss likes my dedication; she says I’m her top performer. That makes me feel good, like I’m “somebody.”  However, I have been feeling a bit stressed lately. I find it difficult to leave anything unfinished at the end of the day and I feel better when everything is done.

The expert says: While there is nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job, it is possible to go overboard. We’ve heard the term “workaholic,” but what does that really mean? In their book, O Blessed Night, Francis Kelly Nemeck and Marie Theresa Coombs write, “The intent of the addict is to eliminate pain and to secure pleasure.” (p. 5) How would that apply to work? Maybe there are problems at home that we’re trying to avoid, and work helps us escape. Or it might simply be that rush we get when we check something off our to-do list. After a while, we get nervous about leaving anything hanging, we want to get more things done, and it’s hard to go home when we feel as if something isn’t complete. That’s when we stay late, pick up the cell phone or break out the notebook computer.  We’re not satisfied until we’ve gotten our fix.

Is this really a problem?  We tend to take it as a compliment when someone calls us a workaholic. What can be so bad about it? Nemeck and Coombs further describe an addiction as “the provider of ultimate meaning, but one which produces life-damaging effects.” (p. 5) When our work becomes our sole obsession – to the point that we sacrifice our health, our relationships, or our trust in God – we really need to re-assess.

Nemeck and Coombs write that recovery is dependent upon first hitting rock bottom and coming to our senses (as did the prodigal son in Luke 15:13-17).  They describe recovery as a process of dying, “Yet, in the dying process, a renewed self slowly emerges.” (p. 5)

Refer to John’s words:

“Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it bears fruit abundantly.” (Jn 12:24)