When we lose focus…REALLY???

when its something else

by Kenneth Justice

~Yesterday at the café a young man sat down at my table who I hadn’t seen in years, “Where have you been?” I asked

Ruining my life” he said

The last time I had seen him, he had fallen in love with a girl he met at college and the two of them were in the midst of ‘young love’ and were pretty much inseparable….but that was four years ago.

Two months ago my girlfriend dumped me and my life has been such a mess” he said.

It turns out that after he started dating the girlfriend he not only quit hanging out at the café….he also quit hanging out with all of his friends; the girlfriend became his entire life. Every moment that they weren’t working were spent together; morning, noon, and night their entire lives were so intertwined that they made no room to have any kind of life outside of their relationship.

So I called a bunch of my friends after we broke up and none of them even answered the phone…..its like they don’t give a s**t about me….but I can’t blame them; I totally blew them off when I started dating her” he said

Sadly, this young man is not some kind of anomaly but rather I see this kind of thing all the time; people who find some person or thing that they really like and end up pursuing it with all their passion that they ignore their friends and family.

—) For some people it is religion; they find a new church that they fall head-over-heels for and they spend all their time going to meetings and services and don’t have any time for their friends and family

—) For some people it is a new job that becomes such a major focus of their lives that they slowly exchange the time they used to spend hanging out with their loved ones for time spent with their co-workers or going out with clients

—) For some people it is a new spouse or boyfriend that becomes such a focus of their lives that they push away the people who truly care for them

When I was younger a really good friend of mine started attending a new church and ‘suddenly’ he no longer was interested in hanging out with our group of friends. He blew us off for people at his church that he’d only known for a couple months……it often made me wonder how ‘healthy’ the church was if it resulted in someone ignoring their friends?

Shouldn’t church and religion be a positive force in our lives? Shouldn’t going to church encourage us to better love our relatives and friends….and not to ditch them for people we hardly know and endless meetings?

It’s easy to lose focus regarding the things that matter most. We’re weeks away from Christmas day and one can’t go to the mall and help but wonder how many of us lose focus behind the real meanings of holidays like Christmas. Yesterday the news ran a story of a man in China who threw himself to his death off an upper floor at the mall because his girlfriend wanted to keep shopping……talk about losing focus!

Whether we are a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever……it seems to me that holidays are about regaining focus; they are an opportunity for us to take a break from the hustle and bustle of our daily toil and reevaluate what the hell we are doing with our lives. They are an opportunity for us to hang out with relatives and friends we haven’t seen in a while and to reconnect with those people who truly love us……

Work is not everything. I don’t care if you are the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of Canada….at the end of the day you are a person; you are a human that is hardwired with the need for community and connection…..as the song says, “no man is an island“.

Ministry is not everything. Too many men and women I know who are preachers believe that the most important thing in their life is preaching sermons and homilies…..but its not. At the end of the day they are people too….and they need to be connected to friends and loved ones….they need to be connected to the realities of life.

Teaching isn’t everything. I have a lot of friends who are teachers and professors….many of them have become burned out because they didn’t spend enough time staying connected to people outside of their schools and universities. Teaching can burn you out if its 100% of how you spend your time….you need time with people who love you…people who challenge you….people who you can have fun with.

So what are you going to do now?” I asked the young man sitting with me.

I don’t know man, I feel like all my friends are gone…and even my parents are annoyed with me for being non-existent the last couple years. I spent every holiday at the girlfriend’s parents house…..I feel like my life is a mess” he said.

So the young man said he was going to drive back home to New York and spend the Christmas holiday with his parents…..”it’s a start” I told him. Sometimes we simply have to take that little baby step forward toward regaining our focus on life…..

For now I simply need to refill my coffee cup,


Categories: relationships

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

58 replies

  1. The word “moderation,” comes to mind. But new passion can blind a person and when you are in its clutches…you can’t see anything else.

  2. God-given gift. Don’t knock it. It’s where babies come from. And divorce. And mid-life crises. And greatness. And love. And loneliness. Like every gift we get – we do what we do. And then we get hindsight. So we do it all over again. Except this time we call it having the gift of hindsight. Again.

  3. Work is not everything. Ministry is not everything. Teaching isn’t everything.

    You have written about my life in those three sentences. I was in my late forties before I figured that out and took my first steps back into normalcy. My personal experience is that all that hustle and bustle to get somewhere has a price…I missed out on some things that I didn’t realize would become important at a future time. Not any more, since I took that first step into my new future and I am having a blast!

    You are on a roll…another excellent post.

    • Mrs. P…..what annoys me from time to time is that so many of us are dead set on focusing on those things…its not that work and ministry and teaching are bad…but they simply can’t be our ENTIRE life…..we’ve got to realize that life has to involve something more or else we will wake up one day retired from work with no job, or retired from teaching with no students to teach, or fill-in-the-blank…..

    • Exactly…Balance in all areas of life is preferable. Sadly, family and friends are often the first to get neglected.

  4. Because I have moved through life like a monkey with his tail on fire, I did that a bunch of times.

    Now that I am old I often sit and think about my first group of friends and wonder, as I sit here all alone, what it would be like to have a couple of them around today.

    ahhh I don’t know, it’s all a trade off I guess.

    • “Now that I am old I often sit and think about my first group of friends and wonder, as I sit here all alone, what it would be like to have a couple of them around today. ”

      that is actually a really deep thought dude…I bet MILLIONS of people have wondered the same thing…..

  5. This is so very true, many times boyfriends or girlfriends, seem to think that they are and should be the only center of attention. That they are the ones that fulfill our needs. But diversity is important, variety and exchange of ideas is important. We are social animals, we need to socialize with others in order to stay sane.

    • “We are social animals, we need to socialize with others in order to stay sane.”

      exactly…anytime someone tries to get all their social needs from only one person there is the propensity for the relationship to end up burning out…..

  6. Yeah, it’s good to keep an opened door for the stormy days. That doesn’t mean we have to hang out a lot, it’s enough to keep in touch with others… ..by mail, by calling.

  7. I like how you Write … Superb

  8. I invented a tool I use in Journaling. I draw a picture of my life. These are the categories: work, romance,family,friends,spirituality,education and creative activities. I make the area of my greatest focus the largest. If I am lacking in any attention in one area it is minuscule. I draw my life about every 6 months. It gives me the initiative to look into the areas I have begun to ignore. I am very focused now on my own homeschooled education. This year I may take a class to get involved with discussions with other students.
    I have felt I have not made enough new friends outside my group.

  9. Thank you for making the time to reflect … To share the bits of wisdom you are so blessed with !

  10. Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused in a world so full of distractions. I agree with you that holidays are about “regaining focus” reunion of the loved ones. Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important and you will capture it perfectly 😀 hope that guy moves on and learns that pain is part of the love.

  11. friends are more difficult in a way to maintain over the long haul than marriages for some – married couples often start to loosen and even cut ties with their single friends in time. I have several close friends now – but it took doing some serious thinking and action. As you indicate in a comment – “people in our culture can often be ‘stand-offish’ and it can take awhile to make new friends”
    Peace Ken.
    ~ Eric

  12. Great words. Our sinful minds tends to lose focus often. For that reason, I need to stay grounded in the promises of God. Enjoy your blog!

  13. I see this all the time too. Your right on once again Kenneth. Hey, don’t drink to much coffee!

  14. Very eloquently written and very true. A lot of people loose site of life which is to live it fully with every aspect not just one.

  15. I’ve met people like that, close friends that are just out of your life the minute they are hooked up and expect you to fall right in line when they are down, at that point in time, I much preferred to be in my own company as opposed to being their counsellor…it was tedious and I felt totally it was selfish of them.

  16. Balance… moderation; it’s the key to a happy life. I find this in everything that I do. If I sit and drink coffee all day, my stomach will let me know, “Hey, pinhead, knock it off”.

    Friends outside of church, contact with old friends, etc. These things give us that “spice” of life.

    • “If I sit and drink coffee all day, my stomach will let me know, “Hey, pinhead, knock it off”

      Hmmm….sitting around drinking coffee…all day….sounds like my kind of afternoon 😉

  17. Actually, couples should work and live together, but not living in each other (or instead of each other). Symbiosis might not mean love, respect and care towards each other, more of usage in several, mostly unrecognized levels…
    However, I need to admit, when we do feel affection, we often tend to “escape into it”.
    On the other hand, people, couples having fun without the other one, well, not the healthiest way, and can lead for division, separation, cheating, outcast, and so on…
    Maybe the Unity is the solution, with a heart-centered Balance, and with nothing to hold back in front of each other. In this, man and woman both must be able to guide and support each other.
    And, just and idea, activities what help others, serve others are a good way for up-charging and being together, having experiences and meeting new and new people…

  18. I was just telling another blogger who I really enjoy – people need to share each others lives, not become them. There’s a difference. Moderation, balance or some other word definitely needs to be applied. I suppose that’s easier for me to say because I’m so used to being independent and on my own that the idea of giving up my space is hard to fathom. I’m all for sharing but to essentially become co-dependent… no thank you. It is important for people to have their space away from work, each other, etc. That’s part of why I’ve been in such a rut – I felt I was living to work not working to live. I’m slowly getting it reversed and that’s why I feel better about things in general. It’s like the balanced meal bit – some veggies, some meat (or other protein), grains, etc. You have choices in what types of those things you intake but you need them all to be a healthy person – same goes for the soul. The exact things you feed your soul can vary but it does need an array of things to make it work well.

    • “That’s part of why I’ve been in such a rut – I felt I was living to work not working to live”

      dude its a tough rut to get out of because so much of our lives demand us to WORK, work, work to pay the bills and ‘get ahead’…..I feel like too much of my life is about living to work as well…..:(

    • It’s not fun and it is a very hard rut to get out of but it’s possible. It’s just about putting the work away when you have to and making sure you get time that’s NOT work related to yourself. It’s hard but possible 🙂

  19. Not that this would matter due to the way love can often ‘blind’ people to red flags, but I feel like the fact he never even spent holidays with his family is a bad sign. If she was honestly interested in being a part of his life and family, she should have wanted to spend some holidays with his family.

    You last few comments make me think of something surprising my father once said (surprising because you have read enough of my comments to know I have traditional/conservative/religious parents). He said he thought Catholic priest should be able to marry. Why should they have to go home to an empty house. Moreover, how can they really provide sound marriage advice with no experience in marriage?

    I would add to that and say, why do many religions require their ministers to obsess over the details of dogma? In some ways, I feel like that contributes to ‘religious burnout.’ In many religions, I feel like you can’t even become a minister without having an unhealthy obsession with religion (said in this way because – in my opinion – obsessing over religion or dogma is different from obsessing over Divinity)

    • TK, I’m totally with you on this.

      “why do many religions require their ministers to obsess over the details of dogma? In some ways, I feel like that contributes to ‘religious burnout.’ In many religions, I feel like you can’t even become a minister without having an unhealthy obsession with religion ”

      its like they become obsessed with the ‘details of dogma’ and entirely miss the heart of the religion….like the saying ‘the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law’…

      too often the dogma or doctrines are used to define a rigid lifestyle that paints people into corners….and too often those doctrines were written hundreds and hundreds of years ago and are simply too disconnected from the 21st century that we live in….

      Take for instance the views of many religions regarding women; many of those views and doctrines were written thousands of years ago when women were treated like second-class citizens; so isn’t it time we reevaluate some of these things in our religion?

    • I like the idea of an ever changing spirituality. In my opinion, asking hard questions can only lead to a deeper spiritual relationship with God. I don’t think every person will or should find the same answers either. We are made different for a reason.

      That’s my biggest pet peeve when it comes to most organized religions. The very act of asking questions can be seen as blasphemous. And God forbid they come to a different answer than the answer supported by their church.

  20. I have a lot of friends who are teachers and professors….many of them have become burned out because they didn’t spend enough time staying connected to people outside of their schools and universities.

    I can still remember a grad student giving a small presentation to some students in the music department in the university I finished undergrad at, 13 years ago. He said something that went like this:
    “Take up a hobby. Any hobby. Make sure it’s a hobby not related to music. You’ve got to have something you do that is not music, because if you don’t, you WILL burn out.”
    Kenneth, I started my music studies in the year… let’s see… 1982, or 1983, I forget which. Thank God it wasn’t all continuous, or I might have lost my mind! And Zane is 100% right. I learned to play about a dozen instruments or so, quite a few at uni. I have been accompanying on the piano for church since I was 12. I was in church choirs for almost as long. I could only manage about a half to a full hour of practice most weekdays compared to some I knew, who did like 5, 6, 10 (that’s what it takes to be a professional– working or classical– I’m serious!). But if I had, oh dear, I think I would have burned out harder than I sometimes did, and I probably would have burned out permanently.

  21. awesome post – and whew, the cost of burnout is devastating. Oh, and a GREAT book that may help some folks balance those life areas is Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend (http://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-When-Take-Control-Your/dp/0310247454)

  22. What we always seem to be constantly seeking but is so incredibly difficult to achieve is that ever elusive balance. But really attaining it is nigh on impossible, especially with the deluge of information coming in from a million different sources (phones, televisions, laptops, tablets, iPads, billboards, etc.) every day. In a sense it’s like a defense mechanism, this committing all of your attention to one area and ignoring others, so that you don’t have to sweat it out when you’re trying to juggle all of your relationships, plus your job, plus your other daily responsibilities. The question is, how DO we learn how to juggle all of that? And with the way our senses are overloaded every day, CAN we learn how to juggle all of it?

  23. I really enjoyed reading this. You hit the nail on the head with what so many in our culture, and cultures around the world deal with. I will admit, even I have been guilty of doing just that (allowing something or someone to steal all my time away and forsake others). Sadly, it’s such an easy thing to fall into if one’s not mindful and keeps things in check.

  24. GREAT post, & in reference to the picture, I must add that Macbeth is quite possibly my favorite Shakespeare play!

  25. Kenneth, hi. Good post, again. When I first converted to Christianity at age 23 I abandoned all my former friends, much like what you described. Looking back. I realize that such a thing was inevitable…the change in me was so radical, so life-changing, I was literally a new person and the old ways, the old friends, the old hang-outs etc literally became irrelavent to my new life. I regret none of the changes, in fact, today, 40 odd years on, would have done only one thing different. The manner in which I abruptly dropped them. Could have been more tactful, loving, and thoughtful. That I regret.


  1. When we lose focus…REALLY??? | 2l2phant
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  3. Converting religions without losing everyone you know and everything you own | How Italians Became Pentecostal

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