Heal Your Inner Martha Part 3 of 5: Defining Distraction
Over-Tasked and Under-Valued
If you’re familiar with the story of Mary and Martha, you know that Martha is distracted, busy, and resentful.
Martha is worried and upset about many things. (Aren’t we all?!)
The world has vilified Martha, especially in comparison to her more peaceful, attentive sister Mary.
Shouldn’t we just all be like Mary?
Would that it were that simple.
Martha has a backstory, I’m sure of it.
Maybe Martha has a low sense of self-worth that drives her to derive her sense of value from the tasks she accomplishes.
Maybe Martha has believed that being hard-working is more important than being fully present.
Maybe Martha knows that dinner isn’t going to cook itself, certainly not for all of these expletive men who just showed up with Jesus.
Martha is so task-overwhelmed that she’s lost sight of what’s truly important.
Martha is over-obligated and feels under-valued.
Pretty sure most of us can relate to that.
Martha doesn’t need judgment, she needs healing.
Girlfriend – so do we.
Defining Distraction - the Example of Mary and Martha
There’s a popular Bible story in which two sisters are contrasted.
One sister, Martha, needs a Health Detective. Martha’s patterns of behavior and expressed emotions indicate that she is on her way to burnout, if she isn’t there already.
This story shows us five elements with important lessons for beating burnout:
3 – Distraction
5 – Decision & permission
Let’s take a look at the story of Mary and Martha:
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:38-42
Beat Burnout and Heal Your Inner Martha Concept 3: Defining Distraction
OK hold up.
Thirteen men just showed up, and they needed to eat. Dinner isn’t going to cook itself. This isn’t a distraction. This is necessary. Sustenance is one of those things required for survival, which feels pretty important and not a mere distraction.
It’s at moments like this when I’m tempted to point out that the Bible was penned by men, who at that time had probably never lifted a finger to help prepare a meal and had no idea how much work goes into feeding a group of people.
“Distracted.” Hmpf. This preparation is not a distraction.
How can something so essential be considered a distraction?!
It’s all relative
I don’t believe that the writer of this story means to belittle the importance of the meal, or of Martha’s hard work preparing it.
Nor should we belittle the importance of the tasks that we accomplish.
The term “distracted” doesn’t refer to the importance of the task. Certainly, dinner needs to be made.
It’s not like they could’ve called out for pizza.
The term “distracted” here refers to the task’s importance relative to the context.
Whether or not you believe that Jesus is the son of God, many acknowledge that Jesus was and is a high-visibility figure.
Even if you don’t believe the Biblical definition of who Jesus is, perhaps you can still see that there was a pretty famous person dropping wisdom in Martha’s living room – and she was missing it.
She was distracted and not being fully present to receive the gift of that person’s words.
If Oprah or Mel Robbins was in my living room, I’d probably be listening, not cooking. I am a Christian, so if Jesus was in my living room, I’d like to think that holy flying sheep dogs I’d have forgotten the kitchen even existed.
The point here is that Martha is missing the point.
Relative to the importance of the fact that JESUS IS IN HER LIVING ROOM, Martha’s to-do list is a distraction.
(Curious WHY Martha is missing the point? Check out the first article in this series, “Don’t You Care?”. Martha is driven by her subconscious programming. She’s distracted by preparations because she unknowingly believes that she should be.)
The Battle for Your Attention
Here’s the kicker: Martha does believe that Jesus is the Messiah. She watched him bring her brother back from the dead. She knows that he is a pretty remarkable guy.
And she is STILL consumed by her to-do list instead of consumed by his presence.
Once again, Martha is so very relatable.
She’s missing something that is important to her, because she’s giving her attention to something else.
How many things in your life are super important to you, yet you’re so busy you don’t give them your attention?
How often does your to-do list get more of your attention than the people around you?
How many times have you missed an opportunity to have a conversation or some quality time with your spouse because you’re consumed with a task?
How often do you say, “Mommy’s busy” when your child wants your attention?
How many times have you had to miss events with friends because you couldn’t fit it into your schedule?
Now certainly, there are important things that need to be done.
Just like Martha actually does need to prepare a meal for her guests, we do have important responsibilities that can’t be ignored or shirked.
On top of which, the pandemic has hit families in tremendously stressful ways.
Especially for working Moms, the pressure to do your job like you’re not a Mom and be a Mom like you don’t have a job is unprecedented. It’s incredibly stressful, and it is burning out working Moms.
Let’s not heap another serving of guilt onto the already overburdened shoulders of high-performing women.
Instead, let’s take a personal inventory of how we prioritize, so that we can give our attention to the most important things on our list, relative to each other.
Let’s examine how we define what is important, and what is a distraction.
Let’s learn how to determine, in the moment, what is most deserving of our attention.
Healing My Inner Martha: “When will we stop just getting through?”
“Mom, you’ve been saying that for years. ‘We just need to get through this.’ I accept your apology, but…when are we going to stop just getting through?”
My then-14-year-old son said that to me when I apologized to him for having to give my attention to a crisis at work during a time that we had planned to spend together.
This conversation was one of the many blinding epiphany moments that made me realize that I was surviving my life, not really living it.
I was distracted by important things – they just weren’t the MOST important things.
At that time, I was working for a large physical security firm in the Silicon Valley. I had a large and successful book of business. The company I had worked for had been purchased by a larger firm, and the merger had been….in a word, challenging. The business model and the culture of the organization had changed, and it was no longer a role with which my values aligned.
On that day, my Mom was visiting and my children were on the last few days of their winter break. We were looking forward to an afternoon together, with activities, games, and the deep conversations that we have when we’re relaxed and simply enjoying each other’s company.
…then there was an issue with one of the clients that I had inherited during the merger. It required my immediate attention. Instead of spending quality time with my family, I spent the afternoon on the phone with an angry client, with the home office, with my boss, and with my Operations Manager who directly oversaw that client’s site.
It was stressful and exhausting. And more than that, it put my work life and my family life in direct conflict with each other. As the primary source of income for my family, I couldn’t not do what my job required. As a Mom, I was heartbroken.
My son was right, though.
When my son was a baby, we had to “get through” my last semester of college. Then we had to “get through” this deployment, and then the next one. Then after my daughter was born, we had to “get through” flight school, and “get through” multiple relocations, including an international relocation to South Korea. We had to “get through” my being in the field, and we had to “get through” company command. …and on and on. This time, we just needed to “get through” the merger.
That is not to say that we didn’t have some really awesome, fun, connected times. We definitely did and do.
But we did as much “getting through” as we did enjoying our lives.
I spent a lot of time giving my attention to things that were distractions when compared to what was truly important.
I see you, Martha. I know how it feels to be “distracted.”
I know how it feels to realize that you’re missing the point – that you’re missing your life.
I know how it feels to be so tired all the time, to wonder why, to know that something is wrong but to not be able to identify it.
I know how it feels to look at the hard truth about yourself and realize that you’re living by rules that aren’t true.
I know how it feels to shift into a new way of thinking, to move into alignment, to learn how to be present, and to feel the peace that comes from awareness and healing.
I know how it feels to transform exhaustion into energy by embracing awareness and making real changes in my life – changes that made it possible for me to discern what is a distraction and what deserves my attention.
Heal Your Inner Martha
I want you to have the energy you need to be fully present and live with purpose.
Beating burnout and restoring your energy will require your willingness to discern and prioritize what is truly important.
It will require investigation of the beliefs and mental models that are causing you to choose your to-do list over what is actually more important to you.
It will require a willingness to learn the skill of prioritizing important things relative to each other.
And it will require a willingness to understand what is causing you to miss the point – and to miss your life.
Questions for reflection, beating burnout, and healing your inner Martha:
It’s not uncommon to look at Martha’s distraction in this story and think less of her.
When compared to her calm, attentive sister Mary, Martha has been criticized for being distracted and missing the point.
Martha doesn’t need to be judged for not realizing what should get her attention.
Most of us are like this!
What Martha needs is healing – most of us need healing too.
What comes to mind when dinner preparations are described as a distraction? How does that make you feel?
What comes up for you when you consider that something can be important without being the MOST important thing in that moment?
When in your life do you find yourself giving your attention to that which doesn’t deserve it the most? What causes you to give your attention to that which is actually less important?
Use the acronym WIN to check in with yourself during the day: What’s Important Now. As you consider what is the most important thing during these different check-ins, what are you learning about yourself and how you prioritize?
What are some other ways in which you can give your attention to what is most important?
Can you relate? Join us for a group program!
Join me for a group program that will help you heal your inner busy over-obligator so that you can be fully present for what is truly important.
Register today for this group program and heal your inner Martha!
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