Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Confessions of a Recovering Workaholic

Hello, my name is Terry and I'm a workaholic. I am celebrating five years of balanced living, but every day is still a struggle.

Anyone who has been to a recovery group of any kind probably recognizes that opening sentence and some form of the second sentence as well. For me, those are not just words, but a living testimony. I admit it. I love to work. Part of it is that I love what I do. It is not just a job, it is a calling from God to build His Kingdom. But honestly, it is more than that. For me, work is almost a compulsion.

Though some people may work a lot because they want the money, in my line of work (which happens to be vocational ministry) I make the same amount of money no matter how hard I work. Since ministry outside the Bible belt is a notoriously underpaid profession, in my case, it is clearly not about the money.

Though it took me a long time to admit it, part of the reason I work so much is because it makes me feel good about myself. I work hard and I am good at what I do. Therefore, I get a lot of praise from others for my efforts. I can see how my work makes a difference in the lives of others, which also makes me feel good. Both what I observe about the result of my work, and what others tell me about what they observe about my work, combine together to build up my self esteem. Therefore, the more I work, the better I feel about myself.

Though feeling good about one's job is not necessarily bad, it can become bad when it becomes a person's primary motivation for working. Our primary motivation for working should be to bring honor to God, not just to feel good about ourselves. If feeling good is our primary motivation, what will we do when our work no longer makes us feel good? After all, we all have bad days. No one's job is "fun" all the time. And even if we did find a job that was fun every day, if the job becomes our entire life, instead of just being a part of it, we will quickly find ourselves out of balance. We will focus on our jobs while neglecting our families, our friends, perhaps even our own health. And when that happens, families fall apart, health issues arise, friendships end. No job is worth that!

I came to this realization five years ago under the strong tutelage of Dr. Jim Wideman, the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of New England. Dr. Wideman was also my field supervisor for my doctoral studies. After observing my behavior for a period of time, he refused to pass me along in the next phase of my studies unless I learned to take a day off. Learning to take a day off was by far one of the hardest lessons I learned in the process of getting my doctorate. But without question, it was also one of most important and life changing lessons I learned. I am grateful to Dr. Wideman for holding the line so tight on the need for a regular sabbath.

My resolve was severely tested this past Saturday because the ministry organization I lead was holding their annual meeting on the same day as the "Senior Day" for my son's football team. My son is one of the captains of the team and a senior in high school. He, along with all the other seniors, was to be recognized at the start of the game. Our organization had invited a "big wig" from the home office to come speak at our annual meeting. The old "workaholic" urge quickly rose up in my spirit and I was so tempted to skip the game and stay for the entire meeting. It was easy to justify in my mind. It seemed "reasonable." Surely my son would understand. But after considering what would bring glory to God, I am happy to say that I resisted the urge and left the meeting at noon. I made it to the game twenty minutes before it started and was there to stand on the field with my son when he was recognized. I was further rewarded during the game when my son made an amazing 74 yard touchdown during the third quarter. Those kinds of touchdowns are once in a career kind of moments and I am so thankful that I was there to witness it.

Yet, I must admit that I wondered what some of my peers thought of me for skipping the second half of an important meeting with an important person from the home office. Would they understand how important it was to support my son? I found out the next day. I received two different emails from two different leaders in our organization, both commending me for making the "right" choice. They both mentioned how it honored God for me to be a good father and thanked me for setting the right example. I was touched.

My encouragement to my fellow workaholics is to take a day off. Spend some time with your family. That project will be there tomorrow, but your son only makes a 74 yard touch down once in his life!

23 comments:

  1. Chip Colee, FBC, Montgomery, ALOctober 25, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    Wise words.

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  2. Randall Runions, Prison ChaplainOctober 25, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    This is a good article.

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  3. Chip Colee, FBC, Montgomery, ALOctober 25, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    Life in balance is the key, isn’t it? Seems as if in ministry we see extremes. Either someone has zero work ethic, or they are tempted to find their self-worth and fulfillment in hard work. John 15:5 and staying connected to the Vine is the ticket!! Keep up the excellent work, Terry.

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  4. South Carolina PastorOctober 25, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Proud of you Terry, you made the right choice. I remember struggling with that when I was in younger. I am so thankful when I look back that I was there for my boys' games. I still struggle with the work concept but often Janet just looks at me and says it is time for a break. thank-you for all you do Terry.

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  5. John and Anne Scoggins, NHOctober 25, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    We are so thankful for you – not only as the leader of GMBA but also as a Father. We also are thankful for your faithful wife, Kay. Be assured we will continue to pray for you, Kay and your family. The Dorsett Family blesses our lives.

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  6. Randall and Chip, John and Anne,
    Thanks for your kind words. Pray for us. It is a hard balance to find and maintain.

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  7. I just did the same thing. I was all the way over in New Hampshire busily doing what I love for the new NeBC library, and my wife summoned me home to see my son’s senior-special soccer game. I drove home.

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  8. I loved it, and glad you made the right decision. I am sure there have been times when I did not.

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  9. Jan,
    We've all had times when we didn't do it right. The key is learning from our mistakes and getting it right before it is too late.

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  10. Great article!

    I'm just starting out in this thing called fatherhood, and these are great lessons for me to learn early.

    Manifest Blog

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  11. Stephen,

    Learning these lessons sooner, rather than later, is much easier and will save you from much heartache.

    Terry

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  12. Yes Dad, I think you made the right decision too....Those opportunities don't repeat themselves and as the kids grow up they come even less.
    Mary Ann

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  13. Have you been talking to my wife?

    Thanks for the encouragement, brother.

    Paul

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  14. Paul,
    Haha, nope, I haven't been talking to your wife. But I'm pretty sure work-aholism is a widespread problem. Now, go take your wife to dinner.

    Terry

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  15. Terry Dorsett echoes a sentiment I shared recently during a message (http://www.cvccc.org/sermons/?sermon_id=160), and that is, "Though feeling good about one's job is not necessarily bad, it can become bad when it becomes a person's primary motivation for working." Amen. God help us to seek to honor Christ in all we do.

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  16. Thanks for posting this Terry...Its a timely lesson right now.

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  17. Allen and Bill,
    Thanks for your encouragment. Allen, I'll have to listen to the sermon.

    Terry

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  18. Great article! This is a struggle for most people in ministry, and it is encouraging to see someone who is striving to keep their priorities straight!

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  19. Hi Terry

    I liked your essay on workaholism. I can relate many days. I will not praise you for this though because then you will feel good about yourself, and we don’t want too much of that!

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  20. Joyce Dorsett, proud grandmotherNovember 1, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    I am proud of my grandson for making a touchdown and glad his dad got to watch it.

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  21. This post was re-published by Baptist Press earlier today. You can read it here:
    http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=36462

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  22. This post was re-published by Crosswalk.com today. You can read it here:
    http://www.crosswalk.com/family/career/confessions-of-a-recovering-workaholic.html

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