Four Fears of the Workaholic

A few weeks ago Trish and I were getting ready to go to bed and the tension in our room was thick. There had been no argument. There was no disagreement. But there was distance. Something was wrong. You could feel it.

As we were laying there, I finally just said it, “What is the deal? What is wrong?”

Silence.

“Trish, please tell me.”

“Okay. You are a workaholic. You don’t know how to turn it off and not only can I not go at that speed, I’m worried about you.”

Her words weren’t an accusation, they were more like a diagnosis.

I had nothing to feel defensive about because every word she said was true. I could feel God affirming her words as they moved from my head to my heart.

I was confused and frustrated. I thought I had conquered workaholism. After our marriage imploded…after we separated, I was different. We were different. I knew my priorities. I had boundaries and I didn’t find my identity in my job or title any more. How did I get back to this place?

The next week, we left for vacation. Our travel schedule had been hectic. Our kids schedule had been full. This would be a week of us together, in one place, relaxing.

Monday morning, I got up before everyone and Trisha’s words still played in my head. Tears streamed down my face and I repeated those words out loud as a confession to God. “I’m a workaholic, God. I don’t want to be. I am asking for your forgiveness and I want to figure it out. I need you to help me figure it out.”

I sensed God asking me a question. “What are you afraid of? This is about your heart not your schedule. Fear is driving you. What are you afraid of?”

Over the next few days, I discovered four fears that I had allowed to go undetected in my heart. I don’t have them conquered, but I do have them identified. Here are what I believe to be four fears of a workaholic. At least they are four fears of this workaholic.

1. Fear of failing.

After failing my wife and kids in the worst possible way, I didn’t want to fail them again. What if going part time at Cross Point and full time with RefineUs was the wrong decision? What if it doesn’t work? What if I fail? When fear of failure drives us, we begin to think we’re in control. Workaholics always believe they can control everything. When we believe we control everything fear of failure dominates us.

2. Fear of letting others down. 

When the book came out in January, I began to realize all of the people that had helped us get to this point. Our friends, our family, our agent and our publishing team all had a significant role in our book being published. I didn’t want to let any of them down and that fear crept into my heart. When you fear letting others down you say, “Yes” to things you should say, “No” to and in the process let workaholism rule more of your heart.

3. Fear of not being needed.

All of us want to feel important. We want to feel valued. There is nothing wrong with that. But when that feeling becomes a fear we start using our work to give us security that only God can provide. Our job or our ministry actually becomes our god.

4. Fear of not being enough. 

This is a fear I have struggled with since 8th grade. I think most of us struggle with this fear. When this fear is left undetected or unconfessed our job or ministry become the best way to prove we are enough. Living to prove yourself to someone will make you an approval addict to everyone. We are enough because we have a God that knows us intimately and loves us fully. This fear is defeated as we live not through our performance but out of an overflow of that love.

We never arrive. We are always in process. God longs to continually refine us. These fears are defeated as we identify and confess them.

Changing your schedule is good, allowing God to change your heart is the only way to overcome the fears of the workaholic.

Do you struggle at any level with these fears? We could have a support group in the comments today!

19 Responses to Four Fears of the Workaholic

  1. Great article – prompted some questions over breakfast between me and my workaholic husband. We’ve been stuck in “Ground Hog’s Day” syndrome. I’m hoping our talk and our bussines/vacation trip will give us a chance to take a different view.

  2. Thanks so much for this. We have been programmed to see anything but too busy as lazy, and we need to reject that and find God’s truth.

  3. Runnergirl

    Those 4 fears sum up my life….. they haunt me from a past of never being good enough for friends in jr high, which carried on to sr. high and as becoming a wife and mother. When my husband had an affair it just pushed me over the edge….. of almost no return. Thanks be to God and the wonderful people he put in my life to remind me that I am wonderfully made in God’s image. These fears continue to be a daily struggle as I heal from the hurt of the affair but it is a burden that is lifted with God’s help.

  4. KristinHillTaylor

    Oh I know these fears. I thought I left them when I quit my job to stay home with my daughter. Now a mom of two, these fears still raise their nasty heads in my life. I shouldn’t be surprised because motherhood is the hardest yet most rewarding “job” I’ve ever done. Fear wants to distract us from making a difference and influencing people.

    Thanks for this post and the reminder to chill out and not old onto the workaholic tendencies.

  5. Cyn Rogalski

    Interesting how these same fears can keep one from moving forward also. At different times, each of these symptoms have kept me from doing (what was so obvious to my friends) what God had planned. Still working on it, praise His Name!

  6. This is not just fears of someone who works outside the home. This can apply to busy (overly busy) stay at home parents as well. Great read!

  7. Darrin

    WOW, this hit me right in the face, I am currently struggling with this, not work per say, but over serving others and not myself or my family. The fear of not being enough or not being needed is what is pushing me to the limits right now.

  8. Ugg. I didn’t recognize the diagnosis, but I’m well saturated in the symptoms. Some of us Mom’s might recognize “Do-Fix-aholic” because we are so often labeled as “non-working”. Guilty as charged.

  9. Squally

    My dad is an extreme workaholic – if he’s not working at work, he’s working at home (he has an endless list of “projects”) I think partially it’s his way of expressing his love – a version of “gift giving”. I wish I’d read this post when I was a teenager, struggling with what I viewed as an absentee dad. Thanks so much for this.

    • My Dad too. He wears his workaholism like a badge of honor. He considers it noble.

    • I think a lot of our dads grew up believing “providing” for their family was the same as “leading” their family. They had great intentions, but it left us wanting more. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Noel Ranario

    Great post! I think I have suffered from most of these. The fear of failure causes me to not want to take risks and to stay somewhere safe. All that safety was ripped out from under me when I lost control of everything. Lost my job, lost our home, didn’t have control over having a daughter with special needs and a husband who spent every penny we made and then some, almost lost our marriage but I have learned to turn control over to God and have him lead me to a better place and I have learned that I can really only control myself through God’s help. I decided to start working on myself and I believe I am on the road to recovery from being a people pleaser, a co-dependent and who knows what else I will discover along the way. I have read so many books but I can’t wait to read your story because I love humble, transparent and brutally honest people who want to have God use them to help others. Blessings to you and your ministry.

    • Thank you for sharing so honestly Noel. Praying for you as you step out in faith and trust God to control things. Thanks for reading our book. Praying it blesses you!