rebelling against low expectations

What’s the difference between working hard and being obsessed?


HANNAH WRITES: When it comes to school, sports, or really anything, I’ve always been told to do my best — to work hard. I’m not in any way saying that’s wrong. We should work hard!

But when does that thing that your working towards become an obsession? When do you cross the line from hard-working into idolatry? In school, especially I’m constantly working for better grades and doing better, but when does that pursuit become a bad thing?

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  • Well, I guess school, sports, etc… aren’t bad thing if you keep them under control. I know I used to spend to much time on web development, which is my passion, but from the moment you start putting aside things like reading the Bible, praying, helping others or the church, things Jesus ask us to do, it becomes dangerous.

    Israelian were idolatrous in the Old Testament, but we’re not better when we put God aside. It’s a different kind of idolatry. We may not bow to like money, or homeworks, computer, but putting them first before what would God like you to do or be, is the bad thing.

    Hard Working : seems meliorative
    Obsessed : seems kinda pejorative

    I realize I may have disgressed from the original subject, but this is just some thought I wanted to share as I just recently discovered the english version of rebelution.

    • I’m in the same boat as both of you!

      This is always an important reminder for all of us to keep our focus on Christ! and his sacrifice. Especially in the 21st century when there are so many distractions. They aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Even more so when we think about anything more than Christ. (EZ 14)

      Everyone has struggles, problems, and we all trip and fall (Romans 7:15), but the good news is that He never gives up on us, and he will keep growing us into His image (sanctification) and help us remove idols from our hearts.

    • Hey, welcome to the Rebelution!

      Just wanted to say that I struggle with the same problem of using my computer. I tend to push off time with God until the end of the day. Often he only ends up getting a couple of minutes or none at all. Even good things like homework sometimes get in the way of time with God. Yet I know for a fact that I have downtime in the middle of the day I could devote to God…

      I’m so thankful that God doesn’t make us fix ourselves first before saving us, but that he saves us first. Then we aren’t on our own for the changes that need to be made in our lives!

  • Here’s my opinion. I working hard is a good thing but some times we become too obsessed and extremely focus only because you want the reward. Working hard is a good thing but Obsessively working hard is another thing. Some parents tell their child “If you want something, you have to work hard to get it”. Honestly this is true. Yes you should work hard every day. Obsession can be mean anything like in sports you want to be better than every body so you yourself start really pushing yourself ( you want the glory) no one can stop you. God want us to glorify Him not ourselves. We idol a lot of things today. Consider this question when you do activities ” Do I want to be glorified?” Am I jealous? Is this affecting my relationship between my family and I?Am I hurting some body? etc..

  • I asked myself this very question over Christmas break. I am a full-time college student with a science major, two minors, and a part-time job. I’m an overachiever.

    I asked myself: “If everything fell away, if I lost everything, would I still have something?” If I lost my GPA, my job, my future career, would I still have something?
    Would I still have my character, my relationship with God and with my family and friends?

    This has helped me when I’m faced with the choice of where to invest my time. Because people are the only thing that will matter in the long-term, I’m choosing to invest in them in the short-term.

    I still study and work hard and all that jazz – I’ve just chosen to make that my number 3 priority (behind God and people). 🙂

      • Yes, it is a real thing. I have friends who stress over a grade of 95% in a class. Sometimes I’m included in that, haha.

        • I just meant what defines the point at which something is no longer the expected and acceptable level of achievement and then becomes ‘over’ achieving. How can you over achieve? It’s like saying you’ve achieved too much. Is that even possible??I mean, you can achieve more than you thought you would but can you ever achieve too much?
          I don’t think that over-achieving is real. If it is then I’m one too but I’m not trying to be. I think it’s a concept born out of low expectations. As long as it’s not an obsession, it’s not a problem. It seems that the idea of ‘over-achieving’ (which in my experience is generally negative) is a label given to people who go beyond what is expected which in turn makes those who are a little more complacent feel uncomfortable.

  • Micro-answer: You can work hard on your school/sports, as long as God is your primary focus. Don’t just try to fit God in to your life, build your life around God. 🙂

  • I can completely relate with this struggle in school (especially during finals). Normally, if I’m really stressed or worried about a certain test or project, it’s a good indicator that I’ve lost sight of why I’m really there – to learn, grow, and prepare for a God-pleasing future. It’s important to work hard so that our actions point to God, but when our intentions shift so we are pursuing our own perfection, we need to fix our eyes back on Jesus.

  • As with many things, I think it really comes down to your motive and your priorities. Why are you doing this? When you are obsessed with something, you make it the ultimate goal; doing it for the sake of doing it. Also, the definition of an obsession is constantly thinking or focusing on that one thing, i.e., your world revolves around it. But when you work hard at something, you use it to accomplish a bigger goal. Take homework as an example. At a healthy level of hard work, possible goals are to prepare yourself for the future, honor God, or to learn (cliche, but true). But when getting good grades is an obsession, your goal isn’t a long term goal, but only to get more and more of them, maybe even to feel good. At that point, you aren’t trying to honor God, but only to satisfy yourself.

  • Everything we do should be to bring God glory (1 Cor. 10:31). I think when working hard becomes a bad thing is when the only reason you are working that hard is purely for your own gain, instead of for the glory of God.

  • Apologies. My answer is short:
    That pursuit becomes a bad thing when you start doing it for yourself and not for God. Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”.

    • Hey @brooklynmorrison:disqus I have a question for you or anyone else who wants to answer…in context Colossians 3: 23 is referring to slaves obeying their masters: “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” Do you think that verse could be used to support everyone doing work as to the Lord or is it limited to just slaves? I’m not trying to attack your interpretation at all I’m just curious…one reason is I had a math teacher that put this verse on homework each week and my friend was like “I guess she thinks that we’re her math slaves.” 😛

      • I think that it was directed to slaves, but it can apply to all of us, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.”
        Why wouldn’t you want to? After all Christ went through for us, I think that we should try to give Him our best, and by doing that we will be a witness to unbelievers.

        Am I right? Correct me on this if I am wrong, please!!!

        She was probably just trying to remind her students to work hard 😉

      • 🙂 That’s really funny… I think it can apply to everyone doing work to glorify God, especially since Paul frequently mentions being a slave to Christ.

        1 Corinthians 7:22
        For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.

        Romans 6:18
        You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

        • Yes! I totally agree (you can probably tell by my bio 🙂 ). And we’re always a slave; if we’re not a slave to God we’re a slave to sin: “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” John 8:34

      • Whoa! Good question! There is a lot of stuff in the Bible that is meant for a certain audience. (Example: the books of Galatians and Corinthians. Those are examples that come to my mind.) We as Christians are called to read the Bible and apply it to our lives.
        So since I’m not really a slave, how am I to apply a verse like this? By filtering my work and motives through it.
        Does that make sense?

      • I think it’s important to know exactly what the original intent of the passage means and then you can derive multiple spiritual applications from it, but only if the ideas you’re taking from it are supported in other parts of the Bible. For example, in the old testament, there is a passage where God sats:

        “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to keep you and to prosper you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Plans to give you peace.” (Paraphrased from memory)

        If you read it in context, it is NOT addressed to us, but to the nation of Israel. However, with that being said, we are graphed into the family of God’s chosen people when we receive Christ into our lives. So, I don’t think it is wrong to use that passage for encouragement, as long as you remember the original intent and you don’t use the new spiritual application to build doctrine.

        Another example is Mark 16:15
        “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to all Creation.” (ESV)

        That was Jesus talking to the 12 disciples, not us. But that command is passed down to every believer because, in other parts of the Bible, it makes it clear:

        “God does not desire that any should parish, but that all would come to acceptance and repentance.” (Paraphrased from memory)

        But, there are times when people will take verses to support ideas NOT taught in the Bible. An example of this is the verse from Isaiah on the UN building, which refers to the peace after Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom. But they use it to signify man making world peace before then – something that is quite impossible.

        And then there are those who miss the original intent of verses, and thus make incorrect (and oftentimes dangerous) spiritual applications and doctrines from selected verses. We all (myself included) need to remember to take God’s word and shape our doctrine around that, instead of using God’s Word out of context to support our preconceived beliefs.

        I think that we should remember to pray before we read our Bible that God would teach us and help us to learn only truth and not lies. I feel we need to put aside all of our preconstructions before we read and learn from exactly what the Word says. This includes the doctrines we know to be true. Because, if it is true, then the Bible won’t contradict it. But if it’s not, but only something our denomination or parents taught us incorrectly, then the Bible will certainly not support it. In fact, many times, it will discredit it.

      • Thanks you, @disqus_rHUVb4P7uQ:disqus, @samwegner:disqus, @brooklynmorrison:disqus and @trent_blake:disqus for your answers!

      • I think that we can interpret “slaves” in that verse to mean, in our context, those under authority, and “masters” those who are in authority. I also agree that we are slaves of God, so that point is also valid.

      • Hmmm I just found this verse after I asked all y’all for your interpretations of Colossians 3: 23….

        But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. 2 Peter 1:20

        #oops 🙂

          • Hey, you won’t believe this! Do you want to guess what people say around here??? They say you’ns. Yep. You ones, contracted!!!
            I personally like all y’all!

          • You’ns? I know that word, and I know Y’all.
            The best regional dialect idiosyncrasy that I’ve heard is, and I quote, “That vacuum cleaner just got gone.”

          • Haha, I just asked you the same on another thread! Well… it’s still uncertain. The things that need to fall into place for my move to take place are moving sooo slowly, I just wish they would happen and I’d know what’s going on!

          • Ooh, I know the feeling. This probably doesn’t help, but keep in mind that it’ll all play out eventually. It can’t be uncertain for forever. And if it is, it’ll only be till you’re old enough to move out. 😉

          • Thank you 🙂 My dad says it’s 90% certain now… up from 80% three weeks ago. I’m hoping they decide if they need my dad to take this position, within the next 3-4 weeks.
            How’s it going for you?

          • I feel a lot better about it, actually. Being as this will separate me from my small group of friends (in person) and I will know nobody there, it will provide the perfect opportunity to grow closer to God and my family, where my relationships are weak. It’s finally breaking into my stubborn mind that my family truly will always be there and my friends will come and go. Thanks for asking! Still praying for you.

          • Yeah, that’s hard to remember… I also need to remember that. I’ve gotten really dependent on my group of friends and even (in a different way) on you folks here. Need to work on that one!
            And I have great progress to report! Today I thought that I heard that we’re not moving actually, and I felt disappointed! I would never have felt disappointed before, that’s how much my attitude toward moving has changed 🙂

          • Actually I am moving… somehow i misspoke there and said i wasn’t. I am moving, I just thought I wasn’t. But I’m actually excited to go!

          • Lol I like all y’all better too. you’ns is just….weird 😉 Don’t think I could get myself to say that one

          • I’ve never said y’all before. I live too far up north 😉 I’ve always thought it’d be fun to say, though.

    • Hey, anonymous,

      I just noticed your name and would like to say if you want to be even more anonymous, you can make your Disqus profile “Private” so no one else sees where you’ve been last. Either way, thanks for the input for many different topics here.

      God bless!
      – Trent

  • I guess @disqus_oyvaFwmD2o:disqus, @brooklynmorrison:disqus and @disqus_joshwhatshislastname:disqus summed up what I was going to say: it becomes obsession when it is taking away from your relationship with God, your relationships with others, and/or you are doing it for your glory, not Christ’s.

  • Hannah:
    This is something that I myself struggle with daily; I have found that the best way to prevent obsession of any kind is by evaluating your motives. Ask yourself (and seek the Lord!) if the thing you do is something that gets in the way of your walk with the God. Do you think about it more than usual? Are you doing it for the praise of men or personal gain? If you were to stop doing ______ would you feel a withdrawal? This can work for anything from games on your phone, to attitudes, to foods you eat.

    To be pertinent to your question, if your hard work is realized as an obsession you need to cut back. Take time with the Lord, your friends, and your family. As the book of Ecclesiastes says, there are times for reaping and sowing, working and resting (paraphrased from chapter 3). I hope that from the reading of this, and the numerous of other helpful comments on this site, you will be able to walk closer to God every day.


  • My Bible study group was just talking about this general topic recently. As pretty much everyone else said, question your motives. Often. I’ve had similar situations, and one day my motives are fine, and the next I’m idolizing whatever I’m working toward. I could elaborate further, but the others did just fine without me repeating 🙂
    Great question, thanks for bringing it up Hannah!

  • @BrettHarris:disqus I just saw in your description that your wife suffers from chronic Lyme disease… is this new? I’m praying!

  • I personally have had quite a bit of trouble finding balance between working hard, and working obsessively. Until recently, I was obsessed about doing chores (weird obsession I know :). I thought I was doing something good and wanted to help my family, so I tried to do as much as I possibly could. In the ended, because I obsessed about working hard, I ended up doing more harm than good.

  • There’s already some great comments on this subject, but here’s one more anywayz! Okay, everything the Bible shows us about God is that he did EVERYTHING 100%. That means, when he was in his wood shop carving,sawing etc, he put everything into it. …And whatsoever ye do, do ALL to the glory of God.(it’s in the Bible I promise!) 😉 But I also have reason to believe (and apologetics far wiser than me as well) that He counted all as secondary to his time with God in prayer. Nobody else can tell you what you have to do and not do in the “gray area” parts of life. God gave you a conscious, use it, or else you’ll kill it an it will become callous. -Me

    • I agree! You should always use your conscious. One of my Sunday School teachers would always say something like: If you know that what your doing is wrong, then don’t do it, that’s your conscious telling you that you shouldn’t do what your about to do.

  • I agree that working on something too much is possible. If it takes away from your time with God or from your ability to meet with your family wholeheartedly, it can’t be all that good to be working on that something all your waking hours.

  • When the “things” in our life dominate, or stress us out and Christ gets pushed to the side that’s our warning sign that we are obsessing. I am guilty of it often. I believe the answer to this problem is in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

    When we pursue Christ first, everything will fall into place. Life becomes easier…even the really difficult things. Our goal should be to do everything to display His glory.

     “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 ->>Corinthians 10:31

  • When GOD and the responsibilities HE has given you as a Christian are set on the backburner of your life…

    If I’m giving 100% to working, running errands, cooking dinner, and planning a fantastic weekend with my family BUT I don’t take the time to read GOD’s Word, Pray, and Witness to the lost world around me… It won’t matter whether I’m doing my best or not… 100% to GOD should be #1! 🙂

  • There maybe other ideas or ways on how to tell the difference between working hard and being obsessed. However, the way I look at it is: With working hard, yes one does want to improve and do better in an area than before, but when that subject or topic takes up all of your time and is the only thing you think about; that’s when I call it an obsession

  • Thanks for asking Hannah,
    First off, it is important that we take into account that we are called to do everything all for the glory of God. When we stray from this task, which, for everyone happens a lot, we start trying harder and harder to go above and beyond, fulfill self-designed criteria, impress our crush and hope they notice, satisfy our parents, satisfy our friends, satisfy ourselves (which will never happen), and satisfy God.(NOT GONNA HAPPEN) When we strive to succeed and work hard at something, it builds a self-reliance; a kind of prideful “look what I’ve done” attitude. This is when we begin to feel trapped. We begin to say…
    “Now that I’ve tried so hard, where is the reward? What is the purpose of me trying this hard to get nothing in return, I thought this would satisfy me, but it doesn’t. What now?”
    When we do things for ourselves, we try to over-ride Gods plan for us. We try to satisfy God (did I mention, never going to happen), and “show him who’s boss.” Now I know you don’t think as blatantly as that, however, that is what we are doing when we act selfishly.
    However, I agree with you that working hard is not bad. In fact, having an obsession isn’t bad either; as long as it is for the glory of God. The apostle Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mark, and the rest all had an obsession. Abraham, Moses, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Eric Liddell, Luis Zamporini, Martin Luther King Jr., Alex and Brett Harris, and all us rebelutionaries, we all have an obsession. But it is the right one.
    So to answer your question, there really is no difference. Needless to say, working hard or being obsessed can be very bad. But as long as it is all for the glory of God, your obsession is not in vein. I know it can feel strange making an obsession of something. Yes, being obsessed can lead to idolatry, yes, it can cause extreme self-reliance, but if it is for God… then it is okay. Suddenly, that idolatry turns into adoration, and that self-reliance strengthens your trust and reliance on Him. Keep God in your sights, and he will guide you along the path to Him.

  • I’ve got a related question. I spend a lot of time with band. I have to make a lot of sacrifices – time, energy, money, comfort, watching my siblings play soccer on weekends that I have competitions, and having less free time. On the positive side, being a part of the band has improved my character and created a lot of friendships. It could also save me a lot of money if I happen to get a scholarship. I REALLY love band, and it’s definitely something that I have a passion for. It’s never got in the way of any relationships or anything. Is enjoying an activity and devoting so much time to it wrong?

    • No, not at all. As long as you are devoting your time to your band for example, you are fine. If band is what God wants you to do, he will get the glory… Obviously if you are only doing it to gain popularity (or out of pride) then God doesn’t get the glory. In which case it does become a problem. Although, as it seems, if you enjoy it so much, it quite possibly is what God calls you to do. God is happy whenever he sees you doing what gives you joy, we are made in His image and He smiles when we use our talents for him.

    • I think that that’s okay… I do it too, but with my mime team/acting in general. I don’t have any other thoughts for you!

rebelling against low expectations

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