Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts on Time, Part I

I have often heard people talk about quality time vs. quantity time. The idea is that there is not enough time to balance everything- work, church, family, home, leisure, hobbies- so something has to suffer. From these constant constraints and demands on time we get all sorts of conflicts. Everyone, it seems, feels guilty because of their lack of time.

There are scores of programs, plans and ideas to help people manage their time. Schedulers and planners are a huge industry in the USA. It seems that there is always a best-selling book or two devoted to time management. People want to speed-read, eat fast food and use the express lane at the supermarket. Hurry, is the mantra of the 21st century. (By the way, have you noticed how slowly microwave ovens cook these days?)

As a result, we have too often bought into the idea of quality time with people since we believe we cannot invest quantity time. Our children will be fine, we think, if we focus on them intensely for the limited time we have to give them. The main problem with this is that it serves mostly to salve the conscience of the one who is limiting his/her time. I feel better about my lack of time and attention if I convince myself that the time I am giving is of exceptional quality.

What a crock!

Look at this issue from the perspective of the one who is on the receiving end of the time. No matter how focused and intent someone is, if they are limited in their time for us, that is what we know and notice. No child has ever thought, "That 30 minutes with dad was the best part of my week." They are more likely to enjoy the 30 minutes, but long for more time.

And that is the whole point. To the receiver love is always equal to time. I know how much I am loved by how much time and energy and person gives to me. When I am dismissed as an after thought, I know that I am relatively unimportant. When a person invests hours with me, cultivating a relationship, I understand that I am loved.

What does this all mean? Do not get caught up in the lie that there is an acceptable substitute for time. There is not. Prioritize your life so that you give your time to the people and places that you love. The people around you believe that you love them in proportion to the time you spend on them. So have a conversation. Go to a show. Play a game. Spend some time with someone you love.

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