There are hundreds of laziness tests on the internet that will tell you how lazy you are, that is if you’re not too lazy to take the tests. A Facebook friend recently took one such test and posted it on his profile. He commented, “Some of the choices are disgusting!” And he is right. Some of the choices are disgusting — it’s amazing to me that anyone thought of putting them on a list, let alone considered doing such things. The test seemed more an indication of how much of a slob you are than how slothful you are.
But . . . (you knew there would be a “but”, didn’t you?)
The test made me think about what laziness really means. According to my dictionary, “lazy” means “disliking activity or exertion; not energetic or vigorous.” It comes from the Middle Low German word lasich meaning “feeble.”
To us, laziness has negative connotations. When we say someone is lazy, we are generally referring to an able-bodied person who has the ability do a task but doesn’t. The word itself, however, has no such pejorative meaning. Just because people dislike exerting themselves, it doesn’t mean that they won’t. And just because people like to be involved in activities, it doesn’t mean that they will. And anyway, who is to say that disliking exertion is wrong? You don’t always have a choice in what you like or dislike. Besides, the whole thrust of human invention has always been about making things easier for us rather than harder.
If you are in a communal situation, such as a marriage, a family, a job, it is necessary to keep up your end of the work, but failure to do so isn’t necessarily because of laziness — it could be a sense of entitlement, insensitivity, or thoughtlessness. But if no one is depending on you, who is to say what is laziness? If you’re not engaged in any activity, but don’t need to be, what is wrong with lolling around doing nothing? Who says we have to fill our days with activity? I consider myself lazy because I am not currently working on a novel, but why should I write? Just because I can? At the moment, writing won’t improve my life, won’t gain me recognition or riches. It will simply use up time, and for now, I am using my time for more physical pursuits. (Oddly, the idea of my laziness — my lack of energy — is so ingrained, I don’t consider myself unlazy while doing these various physical activities.)
Not everyone has the same level of energy. Some of us are “not energetic or vigorous” by nature. We have to push ourselves through life, one trudge at a time. Others shoot through life like rockets, spewing excess energy to the winds. If the low-energy person is resting from his/her exertions while the high-energy person is still zooming around getting things done, why is the first person considered lazy? Both are doing what their natures dictate.
It seems to me that there isn’t really such a thing as laziness. For example, people who scam the welfare system in the USA are often considered as being too lazy to work, but the system is so laborious that many people who are eligible do not have the energy to deal with the bureaucracy. Those who do know how to work the system in nefarious ways are not lazy — they are awash in a sense of entitlement that borders on fraud.
If we can do something but don’t, if we choose to stay in bed instead, it could be that we aren’t lazy so much as that we need the rest. Despite all the machines that have been invented to make our lives easier, our lives are stressful. If someone repeatedly hits the snooze button in the morning, it might not be a sign of laziness but of exhaustion.
More than that, what we call laziness seems to be lack of motivation rather than a true disinclination to work. We almost always find the time/energy to do the things we love if the rest of life doesn’t get in our way. (To most of us, work is what we don’t want to do. The lucky ones are those who get paid for doing what they want to do. Tests have shown that if people are allowed to work on whatever project they wish when they are at their jobs, they are happier, more productive, and work longer hours. If they have to work on a project that is assigned, that they have no affinity for, then their job suffers.)
We get out of bed on Saturday if the sun is shining and we are going for a run/walk/hike/picnic — anything that’s fun. If only bad weather and detestable chores await us, we have no motivation for getting out of bed, so we stay there. And what is wrong with that? Again, I am not talking about a communal living situation such as a family. In that case, it’s only fair to do your share of the chores. But if no one is depending on you, it makes no difference if you wait a few more days to clean the house or do laundry.
Perhaps I’m wrong in my assessment about laziness, but I’ve decided to strike the word from my vocabulary anyway. No more laziness. If I have no inclination to do a chore, then I’m gathering my strength. If I have no desire to write, then I’m letting my ideas steep. If I have no will to exercise, then I’m giving my muscles a rest.
Works for me.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.