Being busy versus looking busy

Faith & Inspiration

In my new job at the luncheonette I find I have a choice between being busy and looking busy. Most of the day this is not an issue, as urgency leaves no room for fakery. These are actually the times I prefer, when the triage of “do the next thing” calls for rapid-fire decisions of which brushfire to stamp out first.

But then comes the 1:15 lull. There are still the odd phone calls for delivery and pick-up, and the occasional walk-in, but there are also the dead spots when one must be more thoughtful. Should I see if there are dishes to put away? Should I start on the inventory list? Should I tally up Jason’s delivery sheet? Should I take a bucket and sponge to areas that haven’t seen clean since forever? Should I stand at the wall and try to memorize the price list?

This last option is dodgy, and here is why: Standing at the wall and memorizing the menu and prices is actually the way I believe I can best serve my employer in the long run. I could be much faster on the phone orders if I knew the significant digits relating to cheese steak hoagies, egg muffins, and their various optional toppings and permutations. But it doesn’t look good. It looks like I’m just … standing there. It looks like I am idle.

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I have noticed that the endeavors of “being busy” and “looking busy” call on regions of the brain that are light years apart. For the sake of simplicity, let me say that the former involves love and the latter involves man-pleasing. As motives in their purely distilled forms, nothing can be more opposite. One is entirely other-directed, while the other is self-directed. One seeks the good of one’s neighbor at the expense of oneself, while the other seeks to protect the self at the expense of one’s neighbor.

From the outside, both motives may indistinguishable—for a while. But I believe that in the long run John Lennon was right, that “one thing you can’t hide is when you’re crippled inside,” and man-pleasing is a kind of soul disease. Here is what the Bible says, and this will be my aim:

“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord … (Ephesians 6:5-8).

Determination to be busy serving rather than to look busy serving simplifies life and ensures a reward from the Lord, come what may.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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