Apples, oranges, and categories of time: how to value one action over another
We all have a limited amount of time each day. We spend a certain percentage sleeping, a certain percentage in health maintenance (eating, etc), and a certain percentage on daily activities.
How we decide what we are going to do next – what we are going to spend the next 10 minutes on, or hour on, say – is important. But one of the challenges is: in valuing one thing over another, we can end up with short-term gains at the expense of long-term losses. Workaholics can put so much emphasis into their work that they lose their families, for example.
Part of the problem some face is the mistake of comparing one action to another without regard to the categories of actions. In this sense, we can get caught up in comparing “apples to oranges.”
In our lives, we have certain categories of actions that are equally important. Sleeping is required. Health maintenance is necessary. Rest and recreation is essential to long-term endurance. Lifelong learning is critical to upgrading skills. The daily work that “earns our bread” (and the bread of our families, in many cases) is necessary to long-term sustainability of other categories. But we also need a category for family health–time together, time to build each other up, time to teach our children “the way they should go.” And, there’s also the category for ekklesia–the body of Christ together.
If we prioritize or focus on one category at the expense of every other category, we are dooming ourselves in the long run. The real trick is to balance all the categories together, and then evaluate actions in each category against other actions in that category. That we will spend time together as a family, or as a church, should be a given–the question then becomes, how do we spend time together.
Any structure–be it laziness, work, church, whatever–that demands more of the pie than is appropriate–that saps from the other slices of the pie–should be evaluated as potentially unhealthy. (Of course, I know there are times in life when certain categories do get extraordinary attention: in times of sickness, in times of work change, in times of significant turmoil in the church, and so on. But these should be the exception, not the rule.)