Oh, it's an EASY trap to fall into, and a VERY difficult one to get out of when you do find yourself in its grasp. I see it all the time, in churches, at workplaces, in the markets where we shop, in the places we go to play and relax. In myself when I am at my worst. We get "up into our head" with what we are doing and start contrasting it with what others are doing, or not doing to support the work at hand. We also get into that same place and instead of orienting on what others are doing or not doing, we lapse into a self-critique of what we are doing or not doing in contrast to others' achievements. In the end, neither mindset is really helpful, and often they offer little to us in material support of the tasks demanding our attention...the ones we were engaged in when this little rumination took root.
We look at others and wonder why they don't see that we need help, that they should help and that they should understand our signals for assistance (whether they are invested in helping or not; and whether they are actually able to hear/see our cues/cries for help, or not). This "great work" we are caught up in SHOULD be worthy of other's attention, and they should be willing-as we have been-to put aside their other concerns and lend a hand. In the cool light of blog-land we can acknowledge that this isn't fruitful thinking; but reflect back on that the next time you are sweating it out on a task and someone walks by without offering to help. Granted, they have their own concerns and worries...and they just might be sweating their way through something as tough, if not tougher, than your task. Still, is it worth it? Jesus spends a lot of time in the Gospels (Matthew 7; Luke 6) reminding us to focus in on the work we are called to, into being the person God is calling us to become...and away from focusing on the other, their choices, actions and motivations.
We also get worried. We worry about the work at hand. We worry about the way ANY task seems to threaten at some point to overwhelm us. Worrying leads to another loss of perspective. It blows things up from being surmountable concerns into insurmountable redoubts of terrifying magnitude. That is the worry that causes sleep to flee from us in the evening, that wakes us up in the night watches and that pulls us out of slumber TOO early in the morning. It distracts us from being able to enjoy the moment in front of us...and too often it robs even the most noble of endeavors of satisfaction and savor. It bitters us. It even taints a positive outcome with a rank bile akin to a simmering pot of rotting goo. There is no success to be enjoyed, because bitter worry has turned the sweet savor into sour vinegar.
Finally, there is the last bit of getting up into our head in the wrong way that winds up destroying harmony in community: distraction for "good" reasons that really aren't justifiable in the cool light of the day (even though they make sense in our over-shadowed state). Something else demands our time. We got burned before and know we don't want to get burned again. We did our bit and don't desire another waltz on that particular dance floor. It is the assumption that when community calls, someone-not me should be the one to act, do, lead, labor. Why? See above. Or, over all the rest, right now, I have too many other irons in the fire.
There they are: self or other oriented resentments festering in the attic of our awareness, all up in our own heads: worry; "othering;" resentment for past wounds. All lend themselves to the distraction of getting our attention up into our own heads and away from connecting to each other in order to make good work happen. It's a common sin we all succumb to, all the time. We see it in our relationships. We note it at work. We see it ALL the time in places we volunteer...at church, in charity work, for clubs and societies. It is the thing that too often spoils our happiness at being blessed with the chance to work together toward a common goal.
Before it does that the next time, though...take a moment to pray and get down out of your head. Step away from critiquing yourself, your neighbor or your community. Step into being connected to the work at hand for what it is, the chance to bring something more of the Kingdom of God into the world. That might be in a school project brought to fruition. It might be in a work task that once completed might lead to problems solved for others. It might be a charity event that, because YOU were there, it becomes a brighter, lighter day for someone else. Being willing to get out of our head and into the work at hand is EXACTLY what Jesus was talking about when he reminded his disciples to leave worry off to the side (Matthew 6: 25-34), to not allow distraction to dominate and to let the moment be a consecrated offering to a loving God who continues to love us into community (and to the work of community) in the name of the loving Son in whom all wounds find healing. Be they in head or heart, that healing is just moments away. It simply awaits our assent, our willingness to step away from worry, resentment and distraction.