A few weeks ago I was at a Bible study. The subject of our discussion was a book titled “The Overload Syndrome: Learning to live within your limits“. It’s essentially a critique of the Christian assumption of the American cultural obsession with achievement.
One of the mindsets that is most difficult to avoid on the East Coast is the mentality that busyness is a virtue. It goes something like this: When I am working, I am doing good for the world and ultimately for myself, thus if I work more, I am doing more good. So, high productivity is equated with being good. You are a good and worthwhile person if you can maintain a consistent high output. So, if you are busy you are clearly making a difference thus your busyness is looked upon as a virtue.
So, in the culture, being productive is a virtue and the sacrifices one makes to maintain that lifestyle are seen as necessary and admirable: Living on four hours of sleep, jetting all over the country, taking business meetings over meals, all of these are seen as necessary losses for the greater cause of doing more.
This attitude is clearly seen in Christian ministers and church volunteers who shoulder massive burdens because it is a. expected of them and b. they desire to accomplish the task. They might feel guilty for being ‘lazy’ and leaving the tasks of Jesus unfinished.
As we discussed this American cultural phenomenon I became aware that, as a British person, I was not familiar with the exhausting pressure the people I was speaking to were experiencing.
That’s because this incessant need to achieve to have self-worth is not the besetting sin of my culture.
But what is?
Is it our Island-mentality pride and superiority? Is it the presumptuous sense of prestige? Is it our belief that the government is the powerhouse of our morality (whatever is legal is morally right)?
Maybe it is our assumptive Christianity: The assumption that one is a Christian because some priest splashed water on their forehead. Maybe it is our narrow minded complaining (Just ask a British person about the weather. Then ask about… I don’t know, the genocide in Sudan). Maybe it’s our reliance upon the State for our welfare?
I don’t have the cultural distance to know the answer to this question: I am merely posing the issue for discussion.
What do you think the besetting sin of English culture is?