Human doing

We are human beings not human doings.

I remember Steve Chalke preaching that at Baptist Congress, 2005, although I’m not sure the original phrase is attributable to him. I’ve called it to mind,  this week, as our church meeting voted to proceed with processes to allow the registration of same-sex marriages in the Sanctuary. I remember, 12 years ago, reciting at Congress, the Baptist Creed that, at that time, denounced same-sex relationships. Recall how lonely and hopeless I felt, in spite of the crowds and enthusiasm surrounding me. In some parts of the church, being true to yourself is not allowed. Then, I was disallowed.


I have two months left in which I may describe myself as a researcher. Or university teacher. As someone who does things at a university. Many failed job applications later, it feels less and less likely that I will be able to find suitable employment in academia to cover my time in the therapeutic community. Without that part of my human doing-ness, I am lost. I am without worth and without utility.

I can’t simply be, because I am not allowed to be. I had to crowd my life with doing as a child, because my emotions weren’t allowed to be, so it wasn’t okay to give them space. Work ensured the space was filled. And the only thing about me that was approved of was my work. Not me. Being me was not ok.

Now, I don’t know how to be. Even though I can stop and breathe, and maybe even pray, I am nothing, I am empty, if I am not doing.


I don’t know who to be, if I cannot define myself by my occupation. I need to be doing.  I have no motivation to work, any longer. I can’t be bothered with work that has gotten me nowhere. Even when I write, my writing is rejected. And my being academic is seen as narcissistic in TC. I am seen as having narcissistic traits. Threatening. Arrogant. They have psychopathologised my research: working with children is what I like most, because it is where I feel most safe. I research friendships because I cannot understand them, other than intellectually. Hiding behind a mask of academia isn’t okay.

But I’m not hiding anything. Work is my be-all and end-all. Without work, I am broken. My mind tells me to die. Die rather than face a life without work. Die, die, die. The suicidal ideation is rampant and ramped up. I am nothing, if I am not a human doing.

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One Response to Human doing

  1. Perhaps an existential question? It’s the ‘Martha/Mary question. Certainly there seems to be no clear indication as to the quotes origins, although one article links it to the Dalai Lama. And, interestingly, points to ‘mindfulness’ as a way forward.

    But then, in your contemplative practice, you’re already doing that. And the simple practice of stopping, being still, and breathing deeply will have an effect on the level of angst.

    Although there seem to be some exceptions – notably Brother Lawrence in ‘Practicing the Presence of God’ – most of us need to stop doing in order to pursue our contemplative practice. Contemplative practice is the very act of ‘being’. It probably needs to be a very deliberate choice: Jesus *chose* to retreat to the wilderness to pray (for ‘pray read contemplate/meditate, because I’m quite sure that he did not spend the night haranguing God with words). When you are feeling at your most anxious about the prosect of an end to ‘doing’, take five minutes just to ‘be’. And do it regularly.

    Most of us, I think, have a habit of ‘doing’; we have to learn a practice of ‘being’. It’s what changes the agony of loneliness into the practice of solitude.

    Much love – and prayers!



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