*Here’s the link for those interested! The hosts discuss my ideas afterwards and for some reason bring up China, universal rights, and “things will just get done” wishful thinking from the anti-work movement but the other two co-hosts pushed back against that, thankfully.
Thanks again to Ryan Wrecker of KMOX for reaching out!
Note from Doreen: My good friend Luke has kindly offered to post their thoughts on theology and the anti-work philosophy I’ve been writing about for years now. I’m happy to post their well-crafted ideas here, but this should not be taken as a full endorsement of their beliefs. For example, I am not a Lutheran, much less a theist. Yet, this site has had a big gap in its comments on the ties between theology and anti-work philosophy except to criticize the Puritan Work Ethic. My hope is that this great essay by Luke will help fill in that gap, if only just a little. Thanks for reading!
Because of COVID-19, we have seen that workplaces are finally offering better wages and benefits to their employers so as to help open them back up as the Feds, States, localities, and businesses move forward. One benefit that hasn’t been considered is an anti-work job environment. To discuss the arguments for, and the benefits of, an anti-work outlook from a Leftist Lutheran perspective, we shall see what has hitherto been the case for the Protestant Work Ethic. Then, we shall then see Leftist Lutheran arguments in favor of the Leisure and Work Ethics and why this fits with the communal economics implicitly prescribed, and explicitly described, of the Christian Church in Scripture. Lastly, we shall see how exercising the Leisure and Work Ethics in the current climate will affect the climate moving forward.
First, let us first address the commonly called the Protestant Work Ethic, also popularly known as the Puritan Ethic. I would more appropriately name this the Calvinist Work Ethic, for it is popular among the various Christian Reformed (Calvinist) Churches. The basic idea proposed by Calvin is this: We are all predestined in this life and in the afterlife to be certain places and to do certain things. Since this is the case, we really have no control over the scheme of things, including whether or not we happen to be saved – the Lord has determined from the beginning of time who specifically wind up in either Heaven or Hell in the afterlife. Therefore, no faith is truly our own, but rather a symbol from the Lord himself that we are saved. If a person loses their faith, their faith was never true from the beginning; this means they were determined from the beginning to go to Hell.[i]
Within the span of a few generations, many – not all, but many – Calvinist theologians proposed that faith + earthly blessings = heavenly blessings. This was never proposed by Calvin himself; even still, it was proposed by a large swath of Calvinist theologians and remains a part of many Calvinist churches to this day. This proposal caused Calvinist lay folks to work hard, because that seemed the only “earthly” conclusion to gain earthly blessings. Out of this we get the sayings “A penny saved is a penny earned” and “Idle hands are the Devil’s Playground.” To a Calvinist, if the Lord ordained me with faith, He also ordained me with a hard work ethic to gain earthly blessings to show the world through my hard work ethic and through my earthly blessings that I am saved. He also blessed me with a generous heart to share with others my blessings while still retaining my blessed status.[ii] This work ethic is harmful in the long run for one’s physical, mental, and spiritual health.[iii] This particular strain of Calvinist theology is the source of viewing the poor as inferior, and implicitly bound for Hell. We see this theology as the root of the Prosperity Gospel theology, which drives mainline evangelicals now, which is the most common type of American out there.
In comes Lutheranism, at the same time as Calvin, saying that salvation comes from faith alone, regardless of one’s earthly blessings or good works. Humans can passively accept faith from the Holy Spirit (G-d the Mother), or actively reject it. This determines our salvation. While good works are not necessary for salvation, if we have a true faith, then good works will blossom. We’ll still sin at times, just as a good tree may produce bad fruit at times; however, just as we determine a tree to be good because the majority of its fruit is good, we determine Christians to be Christians with true faith because the majority of their acts towards their neighbor is good. Martin Luther (1483-1547) is quoted to have said, G-d doesn’t need your good works, but you neighbor does.[iv]
An example of such a good work is an employer providing mercy to their workers through leisure. In the words of Luther, who wrote to Phillip Melancthon in order that the former would advise latter against too much work: G-d is also served through leisure and through nothing more than leisure. For this reason, it is His will that the Sabbath is kept above other days. Do not forget that! It is the Word of God that I am writing you.[v]While Luther specifically mentioned the Sabbath, he was by no means otherwise advocating for continuous hard work from dawn until dusk every day until the Sabbath. He saw a need for leisure every day, not just the Sabbath.
Thus, we see the difference between Calvinism and Lutheranism immediately: Lutheranism leaves more time for leisure than Calvinism. In Calvinism, we see that constant work produces more earthly blessings in the form of wealth, which is symbolic of more heavenly blessings. In Lutheranism, we see that work balanced out with leisure is best for one’s spiritual, physical, and mental health – even when one’s work, as was the case with Melancthon, is for the Lord! Since work measured out by appropriate leisure is supported by Best Practice science[vi], Luther gets it right and Calvinist theologians get it wrong.
Let us not forget to provide meaningful labor. To quote Luther, The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of G-d just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but [rather] because G-d loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because G-d is interested in good craftsmanship.[vii] In short, to quote Hugh Whelchel in How Then Should We Work:According to Luther, We respond to the call to love our neighbor by fulfilling the duties associated with our everyday work.[viii]
With that said, to define productive work strictly is impossible. Productive work looks different in each line of work. Productive work at the vehicular assembly plant looks different from productive work at a health insurance company, which looks different from productive work at a coffee shop. For what can be properly said of work, productive work can be best defined as labor to provide a quality product or service within reasonable time constraints for that specific individual and staff and with time allotted for appropriate, quality, and timely leisure for maximized production. For each circumstance, this looks different, but the basics are all the same. So, if leisure or work is maximized to such an extent that production is minimized, then the employees can find a balance that allows for all that. It must also be considered that Christ told his disciples: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful[ix]. Since appropriate leisure is necessary at work to optimize functionality[x], and since overwork is unmerciful, the merciful act of scientific Best Practice in this case would be to provide appropriate leisure, which well then serve to optimize performance.
This Leisure and Work Ethics argued by Leftist Lutheranism is summarily consisted in the preceding two paragraphs, and can have this motto: Quality Work for the Love of Others, Quality Leisure for the Love of Self. Thus, all leisure and no willingness for production is immoral; as well, all work and no leisure is immoral. An allegorical example of this is the Creation Story.[xi] In this story, the Lord rests on the seventh day and thus establishes the Sabbath, a day dedicated to rest and holiness; as well, He also takes rests during each day of creation. We are not given the specifics of how He rests versus producing Creation, so there’s no set schedule for leisure and work; this lack of specifics accepts that the application of the Leisure and Work Ethics is different for each individual and in each setting, but is still a necessary ethic to have. In short, if the Lord regularly rested during Creation in said story, then that indicates we need rest, too, for similar reasoning is used in establishing the Sabbath[xii]. Thus, included in good works is allowing your employee to have proper leisure during a shift. The fact that this is also backed by Best Practice science[xiii] indicates that the Lord intended us to rest.
Because of how the Leisure and Work Ethics operates, while suited for secular societies[xiv], it is also well suited for Christian libertarian left societies. Acts 2:42-47[xv], paraphrased, reads that the Early Church was formed as a communal society, where their slogan could be from each individual according to their ability, capability, and capacity, and to each individual according to their needs for holistic well-being of the gestalt of said individual. With this slogan, we can see that while the Early Christians held true, generally, that those who are unwilling to work don’t eat[xvi], it also held true that working at ability, capability, and capacity recognizes that each individual is different when it comes to productive work. Also, because these verses base the standard on willingness, this addresses those who, out of any control over their own, cannot produce as much as they want – or none at all, though they want to do so. It does so by implying that lack of opportunity despite willingness is not immoral. It does so by also implying that productivity of one over the other makes one superior not. This implication is because no verse says “he who doesn’t work” or “he who doesn’t work enough,” but instead simply says “he who is unwilling to work”.
In other words, Scripture protects those who have no opportunity for work, but are willing to work, by having their needs met from the community. As well, productive work is different for each individual, but at no point does Scripture say to deny anyone their needs, but rather protects them. Production is not the standard in Scripture, but willingness. This is why Christ implores us to be loving and merciful[xvii], especially more so to orphans, widows, and the poor, who are willing but inopportune, reiterating what’s been found in the Old Testament, even to the destruction of Sodom.[xviii] This solves the free-rider problem while maintaining that an insufficient number of jobs in a specific community doesn’t mean the unemployed yet willing are unduly hurt.
The notion that left libertarianism is the best system here is reinforced by the verses presented from Acts, which let us know implicitly that the Early Christian communities were not only communal but also confederal. While there was no strong central authority, there was general agreement at the time on what constituted canon and what constituted proper theology. As early as the first century, we find evidence in Acts and elsewhere that these communities were, for the most part, coming to the same conclusions on what constituted heresy and who were ex-communicated. Even Peter, and Apostle and a disciple of Christ, was called out for his heresy, and he repented[xix]. To bring back Acts 2, we see how everything was held in common. It wasn’t until the centralization a couple centuries later when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire that problems started to arise and communal economics went to the wayside.[xx] Had Christianity stayed the track of grassroots conversion that they had before that, we would’ve seen many communities operating with communal economics, not individual economics, and we’d be significantly closer to libertarian left politics than we are now.
Since we can’t have a libertarian left economy now, we shall discuss whether the implementation of the Leisure and Work Ethics in the current economic framework would work. While this may initially strain relations between employees and employers, it may be that once employers see the maximized efficiency that will inevitably happen, the strain may be loosened, and may make our capitalist economy somewhat better as a whole. This is especially true in a pandemic environment, when maximum efficiency is more of a necessity with a lighter labor load. At certain work places in the current environment, tensions may increase and stay at a certain level permanently, or increase even more beyond that. In these cases, if the Leisure and Work Ethics are widespread enough, employees will leave for better work environments or create co-ops where they can. This will either cause the employer to better their work conditions, or cease to exist for lack of employees. While we should fight for a Leisure and Work Ethics in the current environment, it should also be promoted as part of a local, provincial, national, and international libertarian left economic structure (and this would include specifically a Lutheran libertarian left economic structure in one or more specific municipalities for those municipalities wishing to have one).
[i] Weber, Max (2003) [First published 1905]. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Parsons, Talcott. New York: Dover. ISBN 9780486122373.
The Lord is known for spreading parables and allegories throughout the Bible – known since the Church Fathers – but sometimes, the question exists whether something in Scripture constitutes empirical fact vs. parable or allegory. To answer that question in a basic way that really doesn’t allow for nuance or exceptions (which there are of both), if there’s a large gathering of scientific evidence rendering such fact impossible, then we can assume it’s an allegory. In such things where there’s little to no scientific evidence on the matter, we can assume it’s either an allegory or parable only, or both an allegory or parable and empirical fact.
[xii] God blessed the seventh day and set it apart as holy, because on it he rested from all his work of creation that he had done. – Genesis 2:3, EHV
Remember the Sabbath day by setting it apart as holy. Six days you are to serve and do all your regular work, but the seventh day shall be a sabbath rest to the Lord your God. Do not do any regular work, neither you, nor your sons or daughters, nor your male or female servants, nor your cattle, nor the alien who is residing inside your gates, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. In this way the Lord blessed the seventh day and made it holy. – Exodus 20:8-11, EHV
[xv] They continued to hold firmly to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers. Awe came over every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They were selling their possessions and property and were distributing the proceeds according to what anyone needed. Day after day, with one mind, they were devoted to meeting in the temple area, as they continued to break bread in their homes. They shared their food with glad and sincere hearts, as they continued praising God and being viewed favorably by all the people. Day after day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47, EHV
[xvi] We instruct you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to avoid every brother who is walking idly and not in accordance with the teaching that you received from us. In fact, you yourselves know how necessary it is for you to imitate us, because we were not idle among you. We never ate anyone’s bread without paying for it. Instead, with labor and hardship we worked night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. This was not because we lacked authority, but to provide an example for you to imitate. In fact, when we were with you, this was our command to you: If anyone does not want to work, he should not eat. Indeed, we hear that some among you are idle, not busy working, but being busybodies. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we command and urge these people to work quietly and eat their own bread. – 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12, EHV
[xvii] The Gospel of Luke is a perfect example of this, which is why it’s known as “the Gospel of Charity”.
[xviii] As I live, says the Lord God, your sister Sodom along with her daughters has not done what you have done along with your daughters. Look, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: Pride, overindulgence in food, and complacent ease were the way for her and her daughters, and she failed to strengthen the hands of the poor and needy. They were haughty, and they committed abominations in my presence, and so I removed them when I saw it. – Ezekial 16:48-50, EHV
I was provided this copy in advance by Dr. Price themself and as such my page citations may differ from your own. As well, any errors in quotes or differences from your copy of the book should be seen as my own error or due to my different version and not the fault of Dr. Price, thanks!
In preparing for this book review I dedicated myself to reading for an hour while also taking notes. There were multiple sessions of reading where I either went over this hour, shamed myself for not pushing myself harder when I didn’t do that, or otherwise thought I wasn’t doing enough.
Originally, this book review was supposed to debut in early January, but due to my constant daily schedule of meditating, exercise and preparing for the two D&D sessions that I dungeon master every week, I often made underwhelming weekly progress towards this review.
It was frustrating and I felt like I was letting Dr. Price down for not having the review out sooner and my audience who I hadn’t written anything for in a long time, not to mention my few loyal patrons who are still donating money to me on a monthly basis.
If it’s not clear already: I am not immune from The Laziness Lie, as Dr. Price calls it:
Deep down I’m lazy and worthless.
I must work incredibly hard, all the time, to overcome my inner laziness.
My worth is earned through my productivity.
Work is the center of life.
Anyone who isn’t accomplished and driven is immoral.
These are the myths The Laziness Lie tells us and they’re ones I’ve absorbed over the course of my life just like everyone else. Some of these I am better at rejecting consciously while still reinforcing unconsciously and others I’ve shrugged off, as Dr. Price suggests in their book to do.
For instance, I do have self-esteem issues and some of that comes from my lack of interest in working. But most of it comes from my past relationships and the mistakes I made in them. On the other hand I don’t think I have an “inner laziness”, I have an outer laziness that I’m, at times, proud of and, other times, frustrates me. There are days where I want to exercise because I think I weigh too much (230 pounds at 5’10) but I just don’t have the energy and feel bad.
Let’s look at these others myths then, one at a time.
Recently, I did a speedrun of Kingdom Hearts 2, one of my favorite video games of all time. It took me approximately 5 1/2 hours to beat on Beginner (the easiest mode) in game time. I felt a swell of pride in this accomplishment as I hadn’t run the game in a long time and felt good about that time. It also felt odd to have serious pride about something I’ve done as it’s not a sensation I feel a lot. I do feel good about the sessions I dungeon master, but I can’t ever say it rises to full-on pride.
The third part of The Laziness Lie is perhaps one of the most damaging, dangerous and hard to ignore. I try to tell myself that I’ve largely shrugged off the idea that my worth is tied up in how productive I am in a day. But if that’s the case why do I make a schedule for myself every day? And why does it always revolve around getting meditating, writing and exercise done before video games, TV and other “lazy” activities where I’m not actively producing anything?
That said, I can feel confident about the last two myths. I do not think work is the center of my life, the center of my life is those around me who love me and support me. It is my friends, my loved ones, my hobbies, my interests and those who are kind enough to stick with me, despite my flaws and problems. The center of my life hasn’t been work in a long time, if it ever was.
There’s a problem with this argument however: I certainly view schoolwork as a major part of my life and I remember pushing myself so hard last semester with my senior thesis. To the point that I hit burnout and then kept going because I knew it needed to be done. I often try to segment my work (as Dr. Price suggests) but in some cases it seemed impossible, especially as the semester came to an end. This isn’t counting all of the other papers I had to work on either.
In this context, I do see schoolwork as closer to the center of my life, but usually I don’t push myself to the extent I did with my senior thesis last semester. Even when I lost my job back in September of 2020 (a story for another time), I cried not because I thought I was worthless but because I knew I would miss the dogs I worked with. I was scared of financial insecurity and the future suddenly seemed even more uncertain than it already did thanks to the pandemic.
And that brings us to the last lie that our culture tells us. That we should judge addicts, homeless people, or the unemployed more harshly than those who have part-time and especially full-time jobs. I can safely say I’ve rejected this myth but at the same time my comfort levels around the homeless are not what they would be for someone who was dressed in a suit and tie.
All of this is to say what I said at the beginning: I’m not immune to The Laziness Lie and furthermore, neither is anyone reading this. We are all flawed, imperfect beings to varying extents and we all would like to think we have (consciously and subconsciously) rejected the harmful ideas this society has tried to instill in us about work. But Dr. Price’s book proves to us that this isn’t as easy as we wish it was, it’s never going to be that easy, unfortunately.
But there are ways to make it better! There are ways to resist The Laziness Lie at every turn of your life whether that is relationships, school, work, or just about anything else. That doesn’t mean everything is going to be perfect once you start resisting it. Learning is a long road formed often from the mistakes you’ve made along the way, that’s something I’ve had to accept as I get older.
This doesn’t mean we can’t get better though and accept ourselves more and more, practicing self-compassion along the way as Dr. Price advocates.
At this point it’s worth explicitly stating that I recommend this book to any anti-work advocate who wants to take better care of themselves in this messed up capitalist society we are forced to live under. I will warn my readers it is largely a self-help book and Dr. Price is themself a psychologist who uses accessible but scientific language and citations to get their point across.
Personally, I appreciated and enjoyed those aspects of Laziness Does Not Exist, but some may be expecting a political manifesto and wind up disappointed. I will admit that my “major” criticism is that the book moves so tangentially from what I’d consider The Laziness Lie majorly affecting that I started to long for the conclusion, which thankfully soon came.
Not because this book is poorly written (far from it!) but because at that point in the book (nearly 150 pages in) I had said to myself, “OK, I understand your thesis and I think you’ve argued it well, I don’t think these last couple of chapters are strictly speaking necessary.” That doesn’t mean they aren’t good or that I didn’t appreciate them! But I could definitely see some trimming in this book to knock it down closer to the 150 page mark instead of the 180ish mark it reaches.
Again, this is a weak criticism on my part. Even the sections where I squinted and wasn’t sure how directly related it was to The Laziness Lie were well-written, helpful and agreeable. Dr. Price has written a masterful book on a subject that all anti-work advocates should bring their attention to.
I just hope Dr. Price took some time for themselves while writing it.
Oh hey, it’s been a while!
Feel free to check out my older posts and keep in mind this book review is a one-off before I head back for my final semester at (online) school, so I won’t be writing again till May, if not later. As you may be able to tell a lot has happened in my life since my last post but thanks to the (paltry and sporadic) stimulus checks and upcoming tax return I’m hanging in there.
First things first, Dolly Parton is awesome. Jolene is an absolute banger and the titular song 9 to 5 is great as well. Adding to that, Parton has been, as far as I’m aware, a tireless advocate for marginalized folks despite her privileged and wealthy status and just a rad person.
So watching this film was a bit of a disappointment, sadly.
The film consists of three women: Jane Fonda as Judy Bernly, Lily Tomlin as Violet Newstead, and Dolly Parton as Doralee Rhodes. The standout for this film is Dolly Parton who surprisingly makes her film debut here but her experience singing and performing shines brightly. Parton’s character comes off as immediately likable, trustworthy but still sassy and intelligent. Almost no other character seems to get the amount of attention she does, even Jane Fonda.
Given this film was a “star vehicle” for Parton, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
The story is simple…at first. The biggest problem with the movie is that it drops its grounded narrative over what makes work so awful for women during this time period (1980s) but immediately disposes of it as soon as it can. It eventually becomes a completely fantastical romp in revenge, blackmail, kidnapping and much more.
Now, it is a comedy film and I figured it was something like that going in. Obviously I’m fine with comedy movies being ridiculous but only up to a point. Eventually you either get back on track with the theme or message you’re trying to import to the audience or you risk losing both elements of what you’re trying to make. Sadly, such is the case with Nine to Five, which boasts a promising first half only to completely flub most things in the second.
The plot concerns three women trying to get revenge on their boss for being a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” which is an admirable cause. My dislike of this movie isn’t fueled by the main plot’s hook which I think is great and sorely needed within films. But more so how its executed with “series of misunderstandings” trope that could have easily been resolved if any of the characters had bothered to stop and think for a second and double check their work.
The good news is that when the movie does seriously tackle issues such as sexual harassment, sexism and even sexual assault it does so with care and finesse. But these things are just to set the foundation for an all-too predictable plot that I saw coming a mile away. The movie eventually loses its charm and its work-critical zeal becomes ludicrous and laughable.
Again, I have no issue with comedies of all genres using ridiculous tropes. I could forgive the “series of misunderstandings” comedy trope if it actually led to something interesting but sadly it doesn’t. And the plot continues to get more ridiculous based on a mistake I don’t find believable.
All of that being said the film is wildly progressive for an 80s film. It shows women feeling empowered, has discussions of BDSM (however slight and silly), praises marijuana, and at least passively includes a few black actors and a Hispanic actor into the script who are treated as real people and not stereotypes that could’ve easily gotten play in the 80s.
There’s things to like about this film; the dialogue is often sharp and witty, making me chuckle or even full-on laugh at times. In the early-goings I had a loose attachment to all three of the main characters and their dreams of revenge on their boss. But pointless plots that even the main characters agree are “useless” bog down what would otherwise be an enjoyable movie.
Another problem with the movie is that, by the end of the film, you realize that much of the “reforms” that Judy, Lily and Violet are able to help enact are while revolutionary for their time, these days are passe’. Arguably, that’s a good thing! But it also makes the film lose a lot of its zeal for me when it ends with notions such as “work share”, “childcare” “flexible hours”, “part-time work options” “alcoholics program”and doesn’t do anything structural or systematic. Especially when one of the women complains that “it’s the same all over”. On the other hand, by the end of the film they say they’re “just getting started” so perhaps there’s some hope yet.
To be clear, I’m not saying those changes aren’t good or don’t matter! The kind of place that Consolidated turns into by the end of the film is a inarguably a better place, but it’s also a place led (somehow) by Girl Power and this is implied to fix the issues of the workplace. As many of us know, the issues of work can’t be solved by putting women in power, the power is the problem.
Then again, it isn’t like I expected Comrade Dolly to abolish the workplace (what would that do anyways?) or seize the means of production for the workers collectively instead of for herself and her friends. Ultimately, this movie, like many other movies, uses our distrust and dislike of bosses that many of us share to propel a ridiculous strategy for slightly better conditions. And by the way, the strategy only works because it increases productivity and the chairman (a man) approves.
I’m curious what kind of message the cast and crew think they’re sending here. You can only improve your workplace if you live by the rules of others? Progress can only happen if the chairman is happy? I know the move is to partially explain how these changes take place (except for equal pay, that’s said to be a no-no from the chairman) but it sends a bad message.
None of this is mentioning the breakneck speed at which the film gets rid of plausible obstacles to the women’s schemes and especially during its epilogue. There’s some slightly offensive stuff I found in here but this film likely ages better than 90% of 80s films. There’s a joke sequence about the “boss getting a taste of his own medicine” with regards to sexual harassment and assault that I didn’t appreciate but other than that a few tropes or words, it wasn’t as bad as you’d think.
Overall, I just recommend you listen to the song. It’s better, has a more radical message and makes me wonder if the film dilutes Dolly’s beliefs, as it certainly seems to.
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I could have written this post yesterday. Instead, after reading an excellent article by Devon Price about how Laziness Does Not Exist, I chose not to. Instead, I decided to go play video games for nearly 3 hours, then have dinner, play video games with friends (Fall Guys) and then play more video games from 11 PM to nearly 3 AM (It’s Ghost of Tsushima , if you’re curious).
Am I lazy? Why didn’t I just write this article instead of slacking off? What does it say about my character that even though I had hours of opportunities to write this I didn’t?
According to Price? Nothing.
…[W\hen I see a student failing to complete assignments, missing deadlines, or not delivering results in other aspects of their life, I’m moved to ask: what are the situational factors holding this student back? What needs are currently not being met? And, when it comes to behavioral “laziness,” I’m especially moved to ask: what are the barriers to action that I can’t see?
Taking Price’s line of reasoning here what were my barriers to action that others may not see?
Well, I’d already done some organizing for a D&D session during my birthday in a couple of weeks. I read some other articles before that and generally didn’t feel like overwhelming myself. I felt a strong urge to do something to just relax and get lost in and I felt video games fit that need of mine better than writing did. I was also aware that this site is completely run by me (even if it’s just an unconscious recognition at this point) and that I make my own deadlines.
But do all these barriers say something about my character? Nope. They’re just circumstances I find myself in and I react however I feel best able to in the moment. My ability to “recognize those barriers—and viewing them as legitimate” is key in me still finding enjoyment in writing.
Consider an alternative scenario: I shame myself heavily for not writing. I tell myself I’m a failure and that this just further proves I can’t commit to anything without messing it up. What would that do for me? According to Price it would do the opposite of helping:
It has nothing to do with desire, motivation, or moral upstandingness. Procastinators can will themselves to work for hours; they can sit in front of a blank word document, doing nothing else, and torture themselves; they can pile on the guilt again and again — none of it makes initiating the task any easier. In fact, their desire to get the damn thing done may worsen their stress and make starting the task harder.
The solution, instead, is to look for what is holding the procrastinator back. If anxiety is the major barrier, the procrastinator actually needs to walk away from the computer/book/word document and engage in a relaxing activity. Being branded “lazy” by other people is likely to lead to the exact opposite behavior.
I can shout, hurl insults, negative self-talk and curse myself out for existing all I want but what good will it do me? And even if it got me to write the damn thing, what would it accomplish? I’d likely still see myself as a failure or that the article suffered because I guilt myself so feverishly. This would only keep the cycle of self-hatred going and affect my writing even more!
No, there’s no point in self-shaming yourself over what you can’t find in yourself to accomplish. Ask yourself this question: Even if shaming got you to where you needed to be: Would it be worth it? Would it be worth constantly denigrating, belittling and emotionally harming yourself just to check something off on a checklist for the day? How much is the assignment you’re berating yourself really worth? Is it worth your self-esteem or your sense of well-being? I doubt it.
Shame is a powerful social tool but it’s often too strong for what we think is necessary. Guilt isn’t necessarily a bad thing to feel. Feeling remorse for past wrongs isn’t a fault and telling yourself you should have and need to do better isn’t either! But shame doesn’t work like that, as we’ve been talking about in the last couple of articles. Shame builds secrecy, it makes people take out their anger on themselves instead of focusing that energy on progress for themselves.
So OK, you get it, self-shaming doesn’t work.
Well, Price thinks their so smart so what is the solution then?
The class & I talked about the unfair judgments people levy against those with mental illness; how depression is interpreted as laziness, how mood swings are framed as manipulative, how people with “severe” mental illnesses are assumed incompetent or dangerous.
The quiet, occasionally-class-skipping student watched this discussion with keen interest. After class, as people filtered out of the room, she hung back and asked to talk to me. And then she disclosed that she had a mental illness and was actively working to treat it. She was busy with therapy and switching medications, and all the side effects that entails. Sometimes, she was not able to leave the house or sit still in a classroom for hours. She didn’t dare tell her other professors that this was why she was missing classes and late, sometimes, on assignments; they’d think she was using her illness as an excuse. But she trusted me to understand.
Support! As I talked about in the previous article with regards to addiction (and of course mental health issues and addiction often go hand and hand), support from your peers is one of the most important things people can have. If I didn’t have my loving and supportive partner, my close friends or my online communities, I’m not sure what I’d be doing right now. I’d still probably be just as preoccupied with hating myself and wishing I could’ve done X or Y over again.
But just like with “laziness” these things don’t help me. They make me feel worse while helping no one around me. It makes me spiral into the pits of despair and self-hatred and eventually those emotions need to be let out somehow and often they’ll be on people I love and care about. I don’t want to be that person anymore and so I have to strive to do better, not wallow in self-pity.
And what happens when this kind of support is given?
These students all came to me willingly, and shared what was bothering them. Because I discussed mental illness, trauma, and stigma in my class, they knew I would be understanding. And with some accommodations, they blossomed academically. They gained confidence, made attempts at assignments that intimidated them, raised their grades, started considering graduate school and internships.
As Price says, y’all aren’t lazy. And even if you were, it’s OK to be lazy and take care of yourself when you need to do so. There’s a need that you feel isn’t being met at that time and that’s valid and so important to listen to. It should be better respective and legitimized in today’s society. But sadly, we live under a capitalist regime so that kind of legitimacy won’t be afforded anytime soon.
If I had one quibble with Price’s (excellent) piece, it’s that while laziness as a moral status doesn’t exist, I think it’s very much the case that laziness as a neutral status does. Yeah, maybe I was being lazy yesterday when I didn’t want to write immediately after reading an article that mentions mental health, sexual assault, and trauma, but you know what?
That’s OK, because I’m here now and I wrote it, didn’t I?
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