Overcommitment Is not a Virtue
“You will never have more time in your life than you do right now.”
I often heard this line when I was in college. “Are you kidding me?” I would think to myself. “I am trying to do well in a major I don’t love. I am enrolled in an intensive program on top of my major, with tests given at random. I have group projects and responsibilities in two clubs. I am the philanthropy chair for my sorority. Finally, let’s not forget my flourishing social life. Please, show me all this time of which you speak!”
Isn’t this the life for many of us in college, particularly in Greek life?
Looking back, I now see that, while my time in college was meant to help shape me into a well-adjusted adult, it often conditioned me to find my worth in busyness. The more I did, the better I was. I was over-committed, lonely and anxious.
While I was a missionary on campus, I met many members of fraternities and sororities — and I quickly saw that I was not the only one with the struggle to over-commit. Many of the women I met dealt with the pressure of all of their commitments by giving into anxiety, and several of the men dealt with it by irresponsible partying.
Friend, if you are in the midst of this lifestyle of over-commitment right now, I’m here to tell you that there is a better way. The Lord created you for freedom — and although our obligations are real, they are meant to help make us better, not to crush us. Life is about more than what we can accomplish. Our dignity comes from belonging to God, not from becoming a human machine.
Here are some ideas that will lead you to peace. They are simple, though perhaps not easy.
- Choose the essentials. What priorities are absolute when it comes to performing well in college? I can help you with one: your classes. You are there to learn; do that well. Okay, what’s next? Are you committed to more than two major leadership roles outside of your classes? If you are, what two are the most important? Choose to be committed to an organization that will build you as a person and help you serve others.
- Ditch the rest. I often challenged women to quit things all the time. They rarely did. I know this is hard, but you must remember: YOUR WORTH IS NOT IN WHAT YOU DO. Realistically, you may not have the bandwidth to hold a position in your chapter. Maybe that third club that sounds so great will just lead you to becoming frazzled. Be honest with yourself, and be courageous. If you skip those roles, maybe you will be able to care for your chapter brothers or sisters better, and maybe you will really shine in the things you are doing.
- Do not let your social life leave you exhausted. If your social choices are depleting, immoral or illegal, you should stop doing them. Monotonous entertainment-seeking — such as Netflix binging, video games, etc. — is not rejuvenating. It’s escapism. Sin makes you boring. My life was so predictable when I was in college because it involved doing the same immoral things over and over. Pleasure-seeking leads us to seek the exact same pleasure to a larger degree. If you are being controlled by your passions and appetites, now is the time to deal with it. Confess it, find accountability and remove yourself from situations of temptation. You won’t regret it.
- Get creative with good clean fun. When I was a senior, my best friend and I took an afternoon to tour plantations. It was the most restful fun I remember having that year. After that break, I returned to my studies with fresh motivation. The moral life, with its infinite options of unique activity, is rejuvenating. It makes us creative. It fosters our intelligence and it fills our spirits. When you are deciding what to do socially, ask yourself if the activity at hand will help build your character or fill your spirit. If the answer is yes, go crazy. If the answer is no, know that it will lead you into exhaustion.
In the end, there is no other cure to over-commitment than less commitment and more intentional leisure. As college students, you are the builders of culture, and your habits will follow you long after these few years. Take the time now to get it right, and it will serve you well for a lifetime.