Is it ever OK to do nothing?

This summer, I am travelling a lot and spending time in my hometown, away from the places in Atlanta I normally volunteer. So, I am spending the three summer months not really giving back to the community. It’s not like I couldn’t find a place here to volunteer. In fact, it would be easy. However, I have chosen not to, and I never really thought about why or if that was the right thing to do until now. I was thinking- I cannot be the only one that has periods of not doing anything regularly to impact their community. In fact, I know that I am decidedly one of very many people who are not presently volunteering on a regular basis. So, this post is a post less about how to do something to change the world, but more a dialogue about when, if ever, it is Ok to not do anything to change the world.

People get burned out, need breaks, and at times literally do not have the resources to go and volunteer. If you are in that place, let me be the first to tell you: that is Ok.

However, sometimes it goes beyond that. We can get in the habit of not doing anything- and then justifying it. That might be what I did this summer, but I really did need a break for at least a few weeks- I think I just stretched it out too long. So, there are a few things I’ve thought of that relate to this, and I thought I’d write a bit about them just to get the discussion going- when is it Ok to do nothing? When should we stop doing nothing and make ourselves do something?

  • Busy-ness

You probably know from a few previous post, that I do not normally think that being too busy is a good excuse to not give back. We prioritize what is important to us. So, if giving back is important, it will make its way into our schedule. That being said, people can put too much on their plate, and as someone at my church recently said- we shouldn’t carry what God has not asked us to carry. So, my view on being too busy to volunteer is that 97% of the time, we should make time for it.

  • Apathy

Apathy is dangerous territory. The best cure for it is to actually go out and learn to care. Most truly apathetic people that I have met have never really seen the need of people face to face. It’s easy not to care about someone when you don’t know them. So, I think the cure to apathy is to volunteer- even if it is really a pain to do it the first few times

  • Guilt

Guilt is something that I struggle with when I have periods of time like this one- where I am not actively volunteering. I think that this is wrong, because it is born of a self-centered mindset. Volunteering is not supposed to be about me, but when I let myself go on a guilt trip, that is what it becomes. So, if you are feeling guilty about not contributing, then decide where you should volunteer and do it- but don’t let yourself get caught beating yourself up over it- that doesn’t help anyone, least of all yourself.

  • Burn out

I learned about this a lot in my social work class last semester. It is very real and can happen to anyone that is working with a difficult situation. Burn out goes by many names, such as compassion fatigue. But at the end of the day, it really means that we need a break. And that is Ok. Every person is different, so if you need more time off than someone else, that is Ok too. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways you can continue to help other people.

So, what do you all think about this? When is it Ok to take a break, and when is it time to end one?


4 thoughts on “Is it ever OK to do nothing?

  1. Well thought out. And I think you’re right. For most of us inaction can become habitual and something to challenge. But I think you have to look at your lifestyle as a whole. And if your general rule is contribution, breaks are definitely a uselful tool in combatting fatigue and burnout.

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