40 Best Quotes From “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer

So he calls up Willard and asks, “What do I need to do to become the me I want to be?” His answer: Ruthlessly eliminate hurry

This week, I read “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World” by John Mark Comer, on the recommendation of a friend. The message is about slowing down and simplifying our lives — in the interest of mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health — in an increasingly complex and fast-paced world. John Mark Comer is a Christian pastor, and there is a deep spiritual application here, based on the life and teachings of Jesus. However, the message is universal in 2022 and draws from both secular and spiritual sources.

Comer says that he reads around ~100 books a year and it shows. The book is well-researched and includes a large volume of relevant quotes from myriad thinkers. A number of the quotes below are not from Comer himself but from people he cites.

You can find the book on Amazon but here is a robust sampling of my personal favorites to whet your appetite.

40 Best Quotes from “The Ruthless  Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World” by John Mark Comer 

The Korean-born German philosopher Byung-Chul Han ends his book The Burnout Society with a haunting observation of most people in the Western world: “They are too alive to die, and too dead to live.”


What if the secret to a happy life—and it is a secret, an open one but a secret nonetheless; how else do so few people know it?—what if the secret isn’t “out there” but much closer to home? What if all you had to do was slow down long enough for the merry-go-round blur of life to come into focus?


Corrie ten Boom once said that if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy. There’s truth in that. Both sin and busyness have the exact same effect—they cut off your connection to God, to other people, and even to your own soul.


The famous psychologist Carl Jung had this little saying: Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.


The problem isn’t when you have a lot to do; it’s when you have too much to do and the only way to keep the quota up is to hurry.


Hurry and love are incompatible. All my worst moments as a father, a husband, and a pastor, even as a human being, are when I’m in a hurry—late for an appointment, behind on my unrealistic to-do list, trying to cram too much into my day. I ooze anger, tension, a critical nagging—the antitheses of love.


God walks “slowly” because he is love. If he is not love he would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is “slow” yet it is lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love.


Last night I picked up the Christian savant and literary master T. S. Eliot. A little of it I even understood, like his line about “this twittering world” where people are “distracted from distraction by distraction.” Meaning, a world with just enough distraction to avoid the wound that could lead us to healing and life.


But the clock changed all that: it created artificial time—the slog of the nine-to-five all year long. We stopped listening to our bodies and started rising when our alarms droned their oppressive siren—not when our bodies were done resting. We became more efficient, yes, but also more machine, less human being.


Citing Daniel Boorstin: “Here was man’s declaration of independence from the sun, new proof of his mastery over himself and his surroundings. Only later would it be revealed that he had accomplished this mastery by putting himself under the dominion of a machine with imperious demands all its own.”

#10 Daniel Boorstin

Harvard Business Review recently conducted a study on the change in social status in America. It used to be that leisure was a sign of wealth. People with more money spent their time playing tennis or sailing in the bay or sipping white wine during lunch at the golf club. But that’s changed. Now busyness is a sign of wealth. You see this cultural shift in advertising. Commercials and magazine ads for luxury items like a Maserati or a Rolex used to show the rich sitting by a pool in the south of France. Now they are more likely to show the wealthy in New York or downtown LA leading a meeting from a high-rise office, going out for late-night drinks at a trendy club, or traveling the world.


Before any of this started, way back in 1936, another literary prophet, Aldous Huxley, wrote of “man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”


Thomas Merton once called “the rush and pressure of modern life” a “pervasive form of contemporary violence.” Violence is the perfect word.


The poet Mary Oliver, not a Christian but a lifelong spiritual seeker, wrote something similar: “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”


Because what you give your attention to is the person you become… In the end, your life is no more than the sum of what you gave your attention to.


I love how John Ortberg framed it: “Hurry is not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.”


All too often our hurry is a sign of something else. Something deeper. Usually that we’re running away from something—father wounds, childhood trauma, last names, deep insecurity or deficits of self-worth, fear of failure, pathological inability to accept the limitations of our humanity, or simply boredom with the mundanity of middle life.


Here’s my point: the solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.


When you’re reading the New Testament and you read that somebody was “healed” by Jesus and then you read somebody else was “saved” by Jesus, you’re reading the same Greek word. Salvation is healing.


If you want to experience the life of Jesus, you have to adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.


The church tradition I grew up in made much of theology and ethics; but little to nothing was said about lifestyle. But lifestyle is where the money is. As long as we’re riffing on Eugene Peterson, he once wrote this about Jesus’ metaphor of the way: “The Jesus way wedded to the Jesus truth brings about the Jesus life…. But Jesus as the truth gets far more attention than Jesus as the way. Jesus as the way is the most frequently evaded metaphor among the Christians with whom I have worked for fifty years as a North American pastor.”


Realism sees that life is a succession of burdens; we cannot get away from them; thus instead of offering escape, Jesus offers equipment. Jesus means that obedience to his Sermon on the Mount [his yoke] will develop in us a balance and a “way” of carrying life that will give more rest than the way we have been living.


This rootedness in the moment and connectedness to God, other people, and himself weren’t the by-products of a laid-back personality or pre–Wi-Fi world; they were the outgrowths of a way of life. A whole new way to be human that Jesus put on display in story after story.


Stephen Covey said that we achieve inner peace when our schedule is aligned with our values.


The wilderness isn’t the place of weakness; it’s the place of strength. “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” because it was there, and only there, that Jesus was at the height of his spiritual powers. It was only after a month and a half of prayer and fasting in the quiet place that he had the capacity to take on the devil himself and walk away unscathed.


Quiet is a kind of balm for emotional healing. Nobody ever said the same about noise. In fact, C. S. Lewis, in his masterwork of satire, The Screwtape Letters, has the demons railing against silence as a danger to their cause (the ruin of a Christian’s soul). Senior demon Screwtape calls the devil’s realm a “Kingdom of Noise” and claims, “We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.”


In his masterpiece Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster wrote, “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.”


There’s a saying in parenting literature: “To a child, love is spelled T-I-M-E.”


Citing Andrew Sullivan: “If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation.”

#29 (Andrew Sullivan)

Karl Rahner, who was one of the most important Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, had this haunting line: In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we learn that ultimately in this world there is no finished symphony.


One Wall Street banker said this: “We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture…. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”


And we’ve all heard how our apartments and homes are twice the size they were in the ’50s, while our families are half the size.


Joshua Becker, a follower of Jesus and former pastor who now writes about minimalism full time, defined it these ways: The intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from them.


Thoreau joyfully said after going off into the woods for a multiyear experiment in simple living: Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand…. Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?


As my favorite Quaker so provocatively said, “Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.”


It was said of Saint Francis and his band of followers that they “led a cheerful, happy revolt against the spirit of materialism.”


But here’s the deeper motivation: it’s wise to regularly deny ourselves from getting what we want, whether through a practice as intense as fasting or as minor as picking the longest checkout line. That way when somebody else denies us from getting what we want, we don’t respond with anger. We’re already acclimated. We don’t have to get our way to be happy.


Multitasking is the drive to be more than we are, to control more than we do, to extend our power and our effectiveness. Such practice yields a divided self, with full attention given to nothing.


These four practices—silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and slowing—have helped me tremendously to move toward abiding as my baseline. But to say it yet again, all four of them are a means to an end.


I think of AA’s wonderful line: “Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace; taking, as [Jesus] did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.”


Even now there are moments when I see that future me in the present, where I embody what Edward Friedman called “a non-anxious presence.”


Paul’s line reminds me of the long-standing advice of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit order): Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet.


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