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The Difference Between Lazy and Priorities

April 9, 2010

For a while, my husband and I lived with our parents (his parents, my parents-in-law). This is becoming so common with the downturn of the economy that it has lost some of it’s taboo. They helped us out in a time when we need it, and in turn we helped them as they needed it. It’s what you do for family, as my mother-in-law would say.

My father-in-law is a very tidy man. He likes everything just so, and if it isn’t just so, then he fixes it to make it so. My husband seems almost slovenly by comparison. He’s not slovenly, by any means, but as compared to my (overly-) fastidious father-in-law, he seems that way.

This drives my father-in-law crazy. He doesn’t say it often, but it’s clear that he thinks my husband is lazy. But it’s not true. I’ve seen how hard my husband works at his job, and how painstakingly careful he is in the games that he plays, or how thoroughly he scours the reference materials when he has an itch to learn something new. It’s just that a little bit of mess, a little bit of “healthy chaos” as he describes it, isn’t a bad thing as far as he’s concerned. The world is not going to come to an end if the papers on his desk are in a dis-array, for example. (I happen to agree, and so I suspect it’s a good thing that I am married to my husband.)

And so, instead of my husband being lazy or my father-in-law being overly-fastidious, I would say that they simply have different priorities. Their values are different, but they are both of them hard-working, caring men.

What I would define as laziness is being aware that something needs to be done, and then actively choosing not to do it. If you don’t do it because it never occurs to you that it should be done, that’s not lazy.

New priorities can be taught (or learned), of course. But much like changing habits, this takes time. And in the mean time, if someone does something (or not) that is out of line with your priorities, they’re not wrong, or bad, or lazy. They’re just different, and I think that’s important to remember.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 9, 2010 12:00 pm

    I would suggest a slightly different distinction. Having different priorities means you know/feel that multiple things need to be done and you consciously select to do one over the other. If someone does not think anything needs to be done and sit around in filth all day with no job and no attempts made to help anyone else, they are still lazy. Thus, lazy is always relative to someone else’s viewpoint and what they believe are things that need to be done. This should still not detract from your, IMO correct, statement that this still boils down to little more than people being different.

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