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Laziness


The Book of Proverbs contains many good quotations about laziness. It compares lazy people to slugs or sloths, presumably because these animals are both very slow in their movements.

It is rare to find anyone who owns up to being lazy, because lazy people have a talent for convincing themselves that they are not lazy. They are almost always full of excuses for their slow progress and lack of production.

"The sluggard is wiser in his own conceits than seven men that can render a reason." Proverbs 26:16

The first symptom of laziness is this inability to even consider the possibility that you may be lazy, and that you may need to change. Until you can consider that possibility, there is little hope of overcoming the problem.

"The slothful person hides his hand in his bosom." Proverbs 26:15

Another fairly measurable trait of laziness is the tendency to be the last one to pull your hands out of your pockets and volunteer assistance when there is a need (or to even see that there is a need for assistance).

Lazy people hide in the shadows on the assumption that, if they wait long enough, someone else will do it. Ask yourself how often you take the initiative in volunteering to help out, in organising a project (or suggesting a new one), in providing a visitor with a cup of coffee, in doing the washing up, in carrying out maintenance on a vehicle, in following up an interested potential, in studying maps for a better understanding of a new area that you are about to visit, in fixing something that needs fixing, in putting a quote on the whiteboard, in writing a general letter, in getting out a few extra tracts, etc.

Lazy people wait to be asked, and even then they have problems with carrying out the request. They "hide their hand in their bosom" rather than lifting their hand and volunteering.

"The slothful person says, 'There is a lion in the streets'." Proverbs 26:13

Even when pushed to act, a lazy person will find excuses for not acting. They see "lions" everywhere, and the lions become excuses for not getting started. "The weather is too hot/cold/wet, etc." "There isn't time to finish it now, so I decided not to start." "I thought someone else was going to do it." "I don't know how to do it." "I don't have enough money." "I've passed it (or some small part of it) over to someone else to deal with, and I'm just waiting on them."

Most of these excuses do not constitute an outright refusal to do the job, but they put off getting started instead. Procrastination, however, very often has the same result that an outright refusal would have, in that the job doesn't get done. It is part of the diabolical "wisdom" of the lazy that they can deny rebellion on the grounds that they had all good intentions of doing the job eventually. But, as the saying goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

"As smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him." Proverbs 10:26

Even when you or I succeed in getting a lazy person to start on a job, we can be pretty certain that the job will not be done properly. The least distraction will result in the job being dropped and forgotten. The lazy person will almost always leave loose ends for someone else to finish off, and the standard of work will be minimal.

Lazy people need to be constantly reminded to start (or finish) a job, because they rarely keep a job list. They subconsciously want to forget the job, because most of them think that forgetting is a reasonable excuse.

"As the door turns on its hinges, so does the slothful person turn on his bed." Proverbs 26:14

A lazy person is rarely the first one up in the morning. Usually just the opposite is true. The lazy person sleeps in as long as possible, and is slow to respond even when urged to wake up by others.

And when they do wake up, the sleepy spirit continues to plague lazy people throughout the day. All of the little moments between clearly assigned jobs are taken up with daydreaming rather than active preparation for the next job, or an early start on some other matter that has been included on his or her list of things that need attending to. This tendency to space out and trust others to warn you before any serious harm comes to you (physically or spiritually) is a sign of laziness and irresponsibility.

"The slothful person roasts not that which they took in hunting." Proverbs 12:27

Lazy people do not carry their own weight... much less carry anyone else's. They eat what others have paid for through hard work. In measurable activities (such as getting out tracts), they will compare themselves to the slowest, rather than comparing themselves to the fastest; and in more abstract duties they will often not compare themselves at all. They remain blissfully indifferent to all the jobs that are being attended to by others.

While others make all the plans, do all the business and paperwork, provide all the counsel, prepare all the studies, and cut through all of the red tape without any assistance from the lazy people, when these same people are asked to sweep the floor, they will think (if not actually say it), "Why do I have to sweep the floor? I don't see you sweeping the floor." They become blind to all that everyone else is doing, while resenting any duties that are thrust upon them.

We have found that when we are distributing tracts, lazy people are happy to get enough donations to cover the absolute minimum expenses (in particular, enough to feed themselves), while leaving others to work out how to pay for transport costs, printing costs, accommodation, charitable donations, and other hidden expenses. They don't mind benefiting from the efforts of everyone else, but they feel little or no need to take personal responsibility for all the costs involved.

"The slothful person covets greedily all day long; but the righteous gives and spares not." Proverbs 21:25-26

It is the nature of lazy people to be selfish. They ask what others can do for them rather than asking what they can do for others. We can see here the connection between laziness and greed... the root of all evil. Lazy people convince themselves that they are not greedy because they are not rich. But they are primarily not rich because they are lazy. One does not need to be rich to be "rich in spirit" (or greedy). One who is rich in spirit expects life to be handed to them on a silver platter. They think that the world owes them a living. Rich or poor, if a person is not generous (with their time and energy as well as with their money), that person is the opposite of generous; they are greedy. They are trapped in an autistic tunnel that needs to open up to the needs of others around them.

Well, that is the problem. Some of us are lazier than others, and some of us are lazy in some areas while not being lazy in others. Do not assume that just because you are not totally consumed with laziness that it is not a problem. Remember: Compare yourself with the best workers and not with the worst.

But if we have established that there is a problem, and that it is laziness, what are the answers?

Just confessing the problem will make some difference, in that we can work on changing habits that we justified in the past. However, there are a few other practical tips which may also help.

One tip is to take time to reflect on what it is that you are doing and why you are doing it. Reflect on life and the shortness of life in the light of eternity. This should have the effect of making you want to put your time to better use. (See also Redeem the Time.) After reflecting, you may find that you need to make fundamental changes in the sort of things that you do, so that you are doing those things that you are personally convinced are most important.

When you are sure about what it is that you want to do with your life, it may be easier to get enthused about such things as getting out of bed in the morning. You'll have something to live for, something to feel excited about. It is the aim of this study not to condemn people, but rather to get you inspired and enthused about what you could accomplish if you were not so lethargic. Being inspired can make all the difference in the world.

Another tip has to do with breaking big jobs down into smaller ones. This is especially important when people have huge cosmic goals like "saving the world". We're not going to see total success in our own lifetime, so we must keep ourselves inspired by celebrating little triumphs along the way. In a spiritual sense, we break the big job into a smaller one when we set daily goals for such things as how many tracts we want to get out. We just have to be careful that the smaller goal doesn't cause us to lose sight of the bigger one (which, hopefully, is to reach the world for God). Nevertheless, breaking jobs down into short-term goals can help us to move closer to the big goal if we can make a game out of each little piece of the job.

List the various components of bigger projects, so that you can record your progress as you complete one component and then move on to another one. Where possible, give yourself targets in terms of times and dates, and try to meet those targets. Sometimes it is worth a little celebration when you make certain important goals. The celebration will encourage you with your next goal.

They say that virtue is its own reward, and this is certainly true with most of our efforts to overcome laziness. As we find ourselves making progress, we will become more enthused, and as we become more enthused, we will find ourselves making even more progress. Nothing succeeds like success. But the biggest job is still getting ourselves motivated to make the first step. May God be with you as you get started!

(See also Empowerment Sessions, and Redeem the Time.)

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