Since the overnight sensation of the spoken word short, ’Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,’ Jefferson Bethke has become a New York Times Bestselling author (Jesus> Religion) and a powerful voice for his generation. In his latest book, To Hell with the Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World, (due October 15th), Jeff explains how the hustle is killing us and zapping us of meaning, purpose and emotional and spiritual health. Here, in a recent interview, Bethke shares action steps for shifting your focus from chaos to a life of true fulfillment.
Could you tell us about the inspiration for the book?
The inspiration behind the book was certainly just out of my own life—my experiences as a millennial, a young married professional with little kids and some of the common pressures I was experiencing. [Overtime], I realized that the American dream or the kind of steps all of us are told to take in life, tend to go straight out to burnout, exhaustion, being over-connected, overworked and overspent, which is why we needed some time to explore that. The book is really an expansion of getting to the bottom of the diagnosis: Just why are so many of us wired, fried and burnt out? And then, offering the solution of getting back to really understanding that things like silence, obscurity, and the sabbath… these things that we believe are curses or are unhelpful are actually blessings. That’s what really inspired me to write the book.
What do you feel moved us away from those things, to begin with?
In the book, I talk about the smartphone [obviously a huge kind of easy victim] but I think it’s one that is certainly true. I also talk about the access to information, and how now within 48 hours, we have this ability to create more information than someone in medieval times would’ve had the ability to absorb in their lifetime. I think information being exponentially created and absorbed kind of overwhelms us. Another thing I delved into, is this longer play of the last couple hundred years [post-enlightenment], where the individual is the most important thing [and while it started well], it’s now turned into, anything that limits the individual is necessarily evil or wrong. So then, we bucked off everything from church, to community, to work, to neighborhood because these things would limit the individual—when in reality, a lot of those [so-called] limiting things create the blessing. If you put all those things together that’s certainly how we got here.
How can we reclaim our center?
Each chapter of the book is a juxtaposition playing with what I call blessings and curses. So for example, there is the work/Sabbath chapter, there’s a chapter on fame and obscurity, there’s a chapter on noise and silence—all of these playing against each other. I feel that to get back to our center we need to exchange our value system in regard to what those are because for example, we [now] believe that silence is terrifying and detrimental and we’re scared of it—so we are listening to music all the time and thinking that having all the stimulation is good for us, when in reality it’s the opposite. Noise is the curse, and silence is the blessing and so writing some of these things off can hurt us—but getting back to them can help us.
Could you share with us 3 action steps for regaining our balance?
One would be to live in the truth of a true Sabbath, and when I say Sabbath I don’t mean a day to veg out or do all your errands. A true Sabbath is a day once a week where you cease, rest, celebrate and delight in God, in people, in relationships, in food and blessing. Every single Friday night our family throws kind of like a mini Christmas. In the same way that you get out the nice linen, make the nice ham, celebrate and play games. Every Friday we really honor a true sabbath and its like a party, not a religious solemn silent thing but it’s basically just throwing a holiday, which is where the word ‘holi-day’ comes from anyway.
Another way is to create boundaries and rules for your phone. Our family has a tech manifesto. We just write down habits that will point us in the right direction, which I talk about in the book. For example, set boundaries like turning [the phone] off once a week, don’t let it come into the bedroom, and if you’re going to a party leave it in the car. Lastly, I would say embrace silence and have moments of silence throughout your day. Actually, make points of your day where you won’t have any noise invade your space and you’re not just turning the radio on every time you’re in your car, or checking your phone first thing in the morning but kind of embracing silence in a more rhythmic way. -JCM