Living slowly is beautiful

Living slowly in America is difficult. As a culture, we have embraced a lifestyle of rushing from one thing to another. Productivity is our god.

We feel guilty when we have an afternoon free, and there is an internal battle over what we should do to fill it. No doubt, there is something on our to-do list to accomplish or an errand to run. Something.

We tend to look at subcultures here in the United States as lazy. You know the ones. Those cultures that will sit out on their front porch visiting for hours. Gasp, do they ever work?  In most cultures, relationships are far more important than events. We would do well to learn from them.

As a child growing up in France, one thing I knew was that if we were having dinner in a French home, you could expect to be sitting there for hours. I remember well sitting outside in someone’s yard on a summer evening. Dinner is never rushed. Why would it be? We are here to visit. While I have become accustomed to life here in the U.S. and unfortunately have fallen into the trap of busyness myself, I still find myself somewhat surprised at the speed with which people eat. Dinner with friends is usually eat and go. Lingering for hours at the dinner table is just not something we do.

I have read quite a few productivity and time management books, and the striking thing about all of them is that they emphasize the necessity of taking breaks. We must slow down. Our lives cannot be consumed with work and busyness. In fact, there is remarkable evidence that the most productive people in business are also the ones that take significant time off of work. Seventy hour work weeks? Most highly productive people are not even coming close to that.

In the home, this surprisingly does not look very different. Sure, our job description changes, but ultimately it is all the same. We are tied to our to-do lists, and we are guilt-ridden about what we can “show” for our day. We chauffeur our children from one event to another in an effort to give them enriching activities. We need a smartphone just to keep up with the family’s regularly scheduled events. “Can you come for coffee?” “Well, let me see if I can fit it in.”

None of these activities are bad in and of themselves. It is in filling our lives up to the point of exhaustion that we soon realize we are missing out on life. We are so busy doing, that we have missed out on living.

Laziness is not good, to be sure. But spending your life checking things off a to-do list is not good either. It is a sad culture we live in when neighbors don’t even know each other by name, because they are hardly home long enough to wave a hello, let alone chat in the yard.

There is beauty that is missed when we spend more time running to and fro than we do having an impromptu coffee and play date with another mom, watching the kids skip on rocks at the creek, or visiting with friends.

Enjoy your weekend, friends. Axe a few things off the list. Go on a leisure walk with no agenda. Have an impromptu coffee date with a friend. Linger over dinner.

Productivity is good. People are more important.

What are you doing this weekend to slow down and live?

Comments

  1. Thanks, Johanna! What a good reminder. Sometimes it’s so easy to pressure and guilt ourselves into a faster pace of life when we judge ourselves (and others) by what others are accomplishing around us, rather than looking at what we know God has for us right now. (This is a struggle for me–especially when I feel (or even just imagine) pressure from others to be doing more, and especially when I feel there is a spiritual pressure along with it.)

    I’m reading a book called “Quiet” right now (on introverts), and it talks about some of the some of the ways our culture has come to value personality over character, and I think there are similar connections in how we’ve come to value (and even elevate) busyness and a frenetic pace over a well-paced and deeper, but slower life.

    Overall, slowing down has helped us be able to value people and friendships more, get to know neighbors, get to know our own family, sit down for meals, and realize that life is not to be lived at emergency-room pace. (But I still have a LONG way to go in really understanding and applying this.) As you know, life with small children is quite busy. And yet, it can be quite slow at the same time. Having children who are at an age where they are seeing and hearing so much of the world around them has made me realize how much we miss by just trying to rush to the next thing.

    We’ve had a busier season of life for the past few weeks, but I am thankful that it is only a brief season. And since I might be giving birth this weekend, life is definitely purposefully slowing down for me/our family! (Oops! Didn’t mean to make this so long. Once again, you have me thinking! :))

    • Johanna says:

      Slowing down for a baby is the best thing in the world. :)

      I would love for your to expand on the idea of spiritual pressure. Are you referring to the idea that some people put extra pressure on you to do/not do certain things because that is more spiritual? I’d love to hear more thoughts. And I have definitely felt that before!

      • I’ve had this in my inbox to respond to. Whoops–just now getting to it. :)

        “Are you referring to the idea that some people put extra pressure on you to do/not do certain things because that is more spiritual?”

        Yes, though mostly I think many in our culture equate a certain level of busyness with being spiritual–the more programs you get involved in, the better Christian you, etc…

        The “what can we show for our day” carries even more weight when attached to a spiritual burden to do so.

      • Hey there,My daughter,Katie Savannah, aedtnted NC Governor’s School last summer and had a ball every minute of it . Being in a think tank with others who were so invested in learning from really great faculty made for time well spent . She actually met her beau there and they are still dating long distance.She now feels totally confident about starting college this fall after her practice college . It was also great practice for my heart .Enjoy your three week visit !Victoria Amos

  2. No worries, I’ll be glad to help. Are you on a mac or pc? Basically you just want to open up the photo in what ever app you view your poohts in. Then you want to look for the option to resize the image (usually under the option to edit.) You’ll want to make the width something like 580 and leave the height blank. If you see a quality slider / option move it down to about 80%. Than click export, or save as, and save as a new image. (Make sure you don’t save over the original photo.) Then you should be able to upload no problem. These are sort of the basics of how to resize a photo, but if you can’t figure it out, let me know what type of computer / image program you are using I’ll try to help you figure it out. (And if anyone else wants to chime in and help, they are welcome to.) Looking forward to seeing your picture.

  3. It’s posts like this that make surfing so much pleasure

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  1. […] 20. Be productive. But don’t forget the people in your life. […]

  2. […] a good adventure. There were so many things about it that embodied some of our core family goals of living slowly and giving our children a slow childhood. And it would be physically healthy for us. In many ways I […]

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