Giving Away Time

“Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind. No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives — worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”


If you were to ask someone how their day is, they would probably answer with some form of “I’m keeping busy.” Being busy has become a badge of honor. A full calendar is associated with a fulfilling life; with only so much time given to us in this life, we feel that it should be maximized with as many activities as we can fit in. Kids learn this at an early age when they juggle school, homework, sports, clubs, and friends.

We carry these lessons into adulthood where they are given full reign over our lives. Work that may take two hour to complete is ballooned into an eight hour shift because to only work two hours would seem lazy. We give permission to countless people and organizations to interrupt our days with calls, texts, emails, visitors, and unanticipated events. When we have free time — truly free time away from work and other obligations — we give our attention to distractions such as our TVs and phones.

Seneca points out how we’re extremely protective of other commodities like wealth and property, and yet give our time away freely. This is completely backwards since money can be acquired after we lose it, but time cannot. Just as with money, it’s okay to spend time on something worth its value, but wasting it is a cardinal sin.

Take a look at how you spend your time. How much time do you spend productively and how much is actually being wasted? Simply being mindful of the difference between time well spent and wasted time will allow you to notice the difference between the two in your life. You’ll begin to see where the weeds are sowed among the grain.

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