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Why your boss owes you a vacation, according to science and the Catholic Church

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We need leisure to maintain health and grow spiritually.

We all know that one guy who is a workaholic. They show up to work every day, whether tired or sick, they're there. They skip family and social events, they pride themselves on the vacations they don't take. Not only is such an approach to work foolish, it's a bad idea according to science. And according to the Church, you shouldn't be that guy. 


By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
Catholic Online (
5/31/2018 (6 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: vacation, leisure, Catholic, science, rest

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - We all know people who work tirelessly, who show up sick, who never take vacations, and who are so dedicated, they work right through their lunch. And we know those people who are so busy, they are shuttling kids from place to place, have an endless list of errands or chores to do. They never have time to enjoy themselves or to cultivate friendships. 

Everybody knows at least one person like this. It's worse when that person is your boss or spouse. Filling your life with busyness isn't a virtue, and it doesn't make a person a martyr. In fact, such behavior could be a violation of the First and Third Commandments!

The science is clear. People need leisure time in order to rest. Data repeatedly shows that workers who get vacations are more productive than those who do not take them. Managers and leaders need breaks too. Vacations are tied to creativity. Only when the mind has a break can it work on problems that require creative solutions. This is known as the Eureka phenomenon, and it has been known since ancient times

Our modern culture makes things worse. Research has shown that unplugging from Facebook for just a week can increase life satisfaction and positive emotions. 

From a theological perspective, tireless devotion to hard work and busyness is a heresy. The obsession with work has always existed in some form, but it found a home in Calvinism and the Protestant Reformation. In some Protestant thought, work was a virtue and a sign that a person was saved. Prosperity was a blessing from God that revealed a person enjoyed God's favor. 

Idleness and laziness were to be shunned, and people who did not work were condemned to go without. "Idle hands are the devil's workshop," goes the Biblical proverb (Prov. 16:27), along with "The one who is unwilling to work, shall not eat" (II Thess. 3:10).

Today, these verses are used to justify a perverse disenfranchisement of those deemed lazy by society, no matter how much they produce. The poor, who often work, sometimes more hours than their wealthier counterparts, are denied public assistance, even though their problem is low wages, not low productivity. 

The Church requires that workers be given leisure and rest from work. 

On the Seventh Day, God rested. This serves as an example that even the greatest laborer of all considers rest holy. God created us with a need for sleep, rest and leisure. Those natural needs should not be ignored. 

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine Catholic Church requires that Catholics structure their lives so as to "enjoy sufficient rest and free time that will allow them to tend to their family, cultural, social and religious life." The society also has an obligation to facilitate this. That means bosses owe workers days off and even vacations. 

The United States is notorious for its treatment of workers. While workers are nearly twice as productive as they were five decades ago, the purchasing power of their wages has declined. Workers now work more hours, between 44-50 hours per week according to various studies and polls. Yet, Americans get much less vacation. Sick leave isn't always available, and the United States does not have maternity leave for mothers. A mother can have a baby, and be punished financially by her employer for missing work. 

And then we wonder why so many Americans choose contraceptives and abortion? 

People need leisure time to bond with their families, to practice their faith, and to grow closer to God. Employers have a moral obligation to facilitate this. Workers have an obligation to demand this and to structure their lives accordingly. 

A failure to take adequate leisure is also a violation of the First and Third Commandments. If one puts work, or chores, or shuttling kids around before attending Mass and following God, then that person has possibly committed idolatry. Want to know what your idol is? Look at where you spend more time than is reasonable. 

The Third Commandment requires keeping the Sabbath Holy. People who fill their Sundays with busyness or work so they cannot attend Mass are in danger of breaking this Commandment. 

It is not a virtue to be a workaholic -- it is sorry and sad. Hard work is laudable, but constant hard work at the expense of a balanced and healthy life is pathetic. It reveals a lack of judgment. Pride in such a life is also sinful because the individual may be putting themselves and their "constant sacrifice" ahead of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who is the true constant sacrifice. 

When a person is at work, integrity requires that we put our phones away, and we focus on the job at hand. We should give our full care and attention to our assignments. We should complete our tasks and be proud of our productivity. But work should be only one part of our lives. When we are away from work, the work should be put away and out of mind. We should focus on family, friends, and God. Yes, there are errands and chores. Yes, children need to be taken to practices. But we must also ensure we have time for God. We may not skip Mass. 

And we need time for ourselves. Whether it's watching a game on TV, or soaking in the tub with a good book and a glass of wine, we need that too. We need time to lay in bed and stare at the ceiling fan and enjoy the comfort of a soft pillow. 

All things in moderation, nothing in excess. 

Work hard, but take a break and enjoy your vacation too. And don't forget God and family. 

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