The introduction of email was meant to be a time saver. Instead of writing a letter, dropping it off at the post office, and awaiting a response, personal communication now operates at seemingly light speed.
Yet, email also provided unintended consequences. The relative ease of use of this technology has generated a higher quantity of messages. Where co-workers used to walk to an office of a colleague to ask a question, they now send an email. And our electronic communication must be calculated because the text does not convey the emotions and mannerisms included in the meaning of speech. In other words, there is no sarcasm font.
All things considered, email has become a source of stress as it eats up time and emotional energy that was once directed elsewhere.
Continued access to work means that managers and employees never find the ability to rest. The unintended consequences of technology influence family life as well. A recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Your Blackberry or Your Wife,” documents a growing trend: the bifurcation of family time and the need to take a technological Sabbath.
Susan Maushart, a columnist for The Australian, recently wrote The Winter of Our Disconnect, which highlights the results of a six-month ban on electronics. Although such a thought supplies ample amounts of horror to most people, Maushart concludes that her family rediscovered the small things in life: they spent more time together, read more books, and learned new hobbies.
Both pieces draw from this specific trend: As each family member dedicates time to his or her laptop, smartphone, video game console, or television, relationships among family members deteriorate. With lives spent increasingly hunched over a technological device, perhaps it is time to unplug and remember what it means to rest.
Current thoughts on Sabbath keeping range from an antiquated tradition to a legalistic rulebook for how to spend a Sunday. Protestants on the whole have often mistakenly assumed that Jesus’ blatant disregard for Pharisaical Sabbath laws confirms that a day of rest no longer applies to the Christian life. This notion, however, is misguided and personally dangerous.
On this topic, theologian Marva Dawn writes in Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, “All the great motifs of our Christian faith are underscored in our Sabbath keeping. Its Ceasing deepens our repentance for the many ways that we fail to trust God and try to create our own future. Its Resting strengthens our faith in the totality of his grace. Its Embracing invites us to take the truths of our faith and apply them practically in our values and lifestyles. Its Feasting heightens our sense of eschatological hope — the Joy of our present experience of God’s love and its foretaste of the Joy to come.”
With technology seizing our attention, what would it look like to unplug? During the Creation narrative, God set a precedent of rest. Evidence suggests that technology increases our stress. Having been made in the image of God, humanity needs a Sabbath day. Just as a date night provides spouses with the opportunity to connect without the pressure of parenting, perhaps unplugging technology is a crucial component in creating a restful family atmosphere during the Sabbath.
While email promotes the idea of faster, easier, and more efficient methods of communication, perhaps a Sabbath supplies the possibility of acting in slower, less efficient, but liberating ways.
Donovan Richards is the graduate assistant to the Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University.
To encourage the philanthropic spirit so readily experienced this time of year, Kelly Greene recently penned an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “How to Change the World … Whatever the Size of Your Wallet.” In this piece, she outlines a variety of programs to which one could volunteer time or donate money.
From committing to service programs to becoming a lender through Kiva to starting a nonprofit or endowing a scholarship, the article recommends a full spectrum of charitable investment options with corresponding prices. While these options serve to better the lives of others, Ms. Greene’s article neglects one of the most important philanthropic ideas: the moment-by-moment opportunities business people have to change the world by investing deeply in workplace relationships.
Positive change happens at both the personal and systemic level. As leaders we should not only work to build departments and businesses that serve well and contribute to human flourishing, but also to invest personally in the lives of the people in which we interface every day. We must choose to subscribe to daily, real-time moments to encourage, empower, and open up possibilities for others.
More than the message of Advent — a time of waiting and preparation for Christmas – the incarnational ministry of Jesus Christ who heals and restores is the ultimate example of this kind of selfless service.
Many years later in remembrance of Christ, the Apostle Paul encouraged the community of faith in Philippi to consider their calling in a similar manner:
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:3-5 ESV).
What would it mean to live an others-focused life characterized by the incarnational God? Although the philanthropic suggestions in Greene’s article detail ways in which individuals can accomplish servitude, attitudinal intentionality expressed by Paul in Philippians demands more — namely serving others in humility.
The demands of this kind of intentionality recently confronted one of this blog post’s authors while he was vacationing in Florida with family members. A notice in the local newspaper for an auction of Bernie Madoff’s personal affects for the benefit of defrauded investors prompted the question: How would I respond if Bernie walked into the room this very moment?
Would I treat Madoff with decency, even though his Ponzi scheme robbed thousands of investors of billions of dollars? If given the opportunity, would I have treated his family members with respect, including Mark, his son, who recently hanged himself on the two-year anniversary of his father’s arrest?
This might seem like an extreme example, but the humble, selfless service to which Paul speaks invites this kind of commitment in the everyday moments of our working life.
Advent is about crossing barriers and caring for others, even those who are difficult to love. Serving colleagues and neighbors with this kind of spirit connects us to the deeper meaning of Advent. It also helps us recognize and confess our own shortcomings and the ways in which we fail others.
At a broader, institutional level, Ms. Greene’s article focuses exclusively on nonprofits as the avenue for service and assistance in the world. Nonprofits are crucial, for sure, but so are vibrant, life-giving, for-profit enterprises. Business, when committed to the service of others, is not tangential to world change, but rather, at the center of opening up possibilities for people to grow and flourish.
As the Advent season closes with the commemoration of Christmas, may our imaginations and celebrations focus not only on God incarnate, born in a lowly stable in Bethlehem, but also on the serving, healing, restoring Jesus who crossed barriers in humility for the benefit of all humanity, and inviting us to do the same.
Donovan Richards is a graduate assistant in the Center for Integrity in Business.
John Terrill is the director of the Center for Integrity in Business.