DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Marie Kondo your technology

Written by: on March 23, 2019

I did not know what a good choice I was making when I announced to my church a few weeks ago that I would be practicing presence for Lent. After having a few conversations prior to Ash Wednesday and thinking about how I would approach the season leading to Easter, I thought about how distracted and anxious I have been feeling and decided to attempt to be present with one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking like mad all the time.

This is really hard for me. I have two little kids. I work in multiple environments with at least three screens and always have my phone on me. I keep several lists going and have at least four teams I am in communication with each week. Oh, did I mention this doctoral thing. Yeah, that too.

In lent, the season to remember that I am dust and to dust I shall return, while preparing for the death and resurrection of Christ, is a worthy time to slow down and be with one person, one group, one thought at a time. Being present is difficult and has already caused me to repent multiple times a day to the Lord. What is quite timely in this season is Cal Newport’s latest book, Digital Minimalism, which advocates for a method of reducing the screens and low-quality digital addiction consuming much of the world. Essentially Newport is offering strategies with ample data and stories to decrease digital content and increase the natural balance of being present with oneself and others.

Newport’s book is decently compelling in part one, where the reader learns that our minds are being coopted by the big four and other media sources through our constant connection via the internet and smartphones. But what is really motivating is the second half of the book, outlining themes of solitude, communion, leisure, and focused attention. In each of these sections Newport gives story after story of research and experiences of those who have transformed their technology to work for them and are utilizing the benefits of the themes to make their life more holistic. This is Newport’s hope for his reader. As he states in his conclusion, “My hope is that digital minimalism can help reverse this state of affairs by providing a constructive way to engage and leverage the latest innovations to your advantage, not that of faceless attention economy conglomerates.”[1]

One difficulty one might have with Newport’s treatise is its length and in-depth strategy to get to the minimalistic place with digital content. This may seem ironic, but the reality is it takes a lot of effort to go through an entire book to reduce one’s digital reach when already looped into the ways of consuming content passively. It takes motivation to thoroughly strategize beyond removing apps from a smart phone (which I did immediately after reading the first three chapters). Removing apps is not enough. As Newport explains, old habits have to be removed while new practices have to be implemented. There may be a temptation for readers who are used to consuming to simply attempt to add in the habits from the second section without doing the work of the first. While a good idea on the surface, and something I think many people probably try outside of Newport’s book, the problem is that there is just not enough bandwidth to constantly check email while spending quality time with your family (I know, I have tried).

To really Marie Kondo your technology is a discipline that requires going through each item, recognizing where our real values are, and making and following through with decisions to act on them. Discipline is a commitment to a practice or set of practices with specific parameters, often with negative aspects to reinforce behavior. In this light, disciplines do not seem fun or effective. Yet, when perceived with the long-term goal in mind, the momentary pain may be worth the future gain.

Perhaps a reframe of Newport’s book could be helpful. What if it were viewed as the spiritual discipline of digital minimalism? This could be a good companion to Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, as he does not attend to the digital world in any detail. In particular, Newport’s book might just be the root to helping people find more hope in the other spiritual disciplines and grow their life with God.

One aspect of Newport’s text I added to my life this week was that of high-quality leisure through attending a cultural event. On Tuesday night, a friend and I went to see Michelle Obama on her book tour of her memoir, Becoming. This was a good field study opportunity as well as a chance to hear from a woman who has embodied discipline and unwavering values in the way she has worked, raised children, and started initiatives to make a healthier America through the lives of youth. The focus of her book is to transparently share her story and help others find themselves in it, owning their own journey as valid and sharing it with others.[2]

 

In reading Digital Minimalism and listening to Michelle Obama and watching Marie Kondo, I recognize the continued discipline of presence needed by me for my own good and for the good of others. It requires physical and mental work. To remove apps, to set schedules, to place my phone or screen away from me, to look people in the eyes, and more deeply listen to what is being said without considering how I might answer. Presence with others is hard. Sadly, in this new era of digitalization, being human is hard.

[1] Newport, Cal. Digital Minimalism (p. 254). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[2] Obama, Michelle. Becoming Tour, Portland, OR, March 21, 2019.

About the Author

mm

Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

8 responses to “Marie Kondo your technology”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Trish!

    I had not heard of Marie Kondo before. Thanks for introducing me to her. Googling her as I speak (but violating digital minimalism by doing so, as well as supporting once again the Big Four–grin).

    What a great opportunity to visit Michelle Obama and her book tour! Well done.

    I wonder what the Sabbath looked like for Mom’s and Dad’s in Bible times? Were they able to get rest? Thanks for being a great mom and leader while balancing your soul…

  2. Hey Trisha, I’m glad you responded to my blog and drew my attention to yours, which was an excellent reflection of the reading. I loved the Kondo reference and applying her tidying techniques to our digital lives. I also admire your choosing to pursue the practice of presence for Lent, I can only imagine how much I would fail in this pursuit just because I feel like I am constantly distracted and always dealing with a severe case of FOMO wherever I go. I also think it is so cool that you got to go to Michelle Obama’s book thing, what an amazing woman she is. Blessings to you as you pursue presence.

  3. Being human is hard. Amen, sister.

    I love your discipline of presence. My call right now is to “steadfastness.” This requires a level of focus that is challenging to me (as a 7), and similar to the idea of “presence.”

    I, too, apprectiated the pont that Newport makes about replacing the tech time with quality activities. This is key, and something I often talk about when teaching on the idea of “Sabbath.” It sounds counter-intuitive, but we need to “plan” our sabbath, fill it with re-creating activities that are life-giving and soul-satisfying. I hadn’t made the connection to needing to do the same when reducing tech-reliance.

    While on vacation this week, I read for pleasure–a hobby that I’ve neglected since starting my Masters in 2014. I read a novel, and it definitely “sparked joy!” I’ve decided to trade in Netflix for reading this month.

    What are the leisure activities you’d like to explore?

  4. Greg says:

    I had to laugh at the Marie Kondo reference. My wife has been watching her these last few weeks. Way to pull in a great visual image of decluttering. I don’t always do well with that leisure activity time that you talked about.

  5. Shawn Hart says:

    Trisha, you have inspired me…I am going to ignore my digital alarm clock in the morning and not wake up at 6:20 like I normally do. HEHE

    I wonder how many of us are addicted to our technology versus how many actually use it to hide from society and communication with others? I am probably guilty of both. I admire your “present” challenge; I’d be happy to catch up with myself someday and see how I am doing.

  6. Chris Pritchett says:

    Kondo, Obama, and Foster – well done! I love the idea of digital minimalism as a spiritual discipline. It’s a great thought and highly contextual – an expression of the church always reforming, in a sense. It’s important that we lead the way in naming the destructive idols that we are able to identify around us, and I think you are doing that in a counter-cultural way this Lent. The other day I repented for trying to brush my teeth while putting a belt on at the same time. Had I succeeded at the task, I would not have felt stupid enough to repent. So I’m thankful that my Sonicare fell out of my mouth and onto the floor while vibrating toothpaste because it reminded me of how foolish it is to think that my time is so important that being human is somehow not good enough. It is these disciplines like you suggest that help us become aware of the silly things we are tempted to do.

  7. Trisha,

    I really like your idea to combine Newport with an approach to spiritual disciplines such as Foster. It extends discipline into the tech world.

    Another approach also makes me smile: Kondo-sizing your digital world and asking if each app “sparks joy”. Brilliant! 😉

  8. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Trisha,

    I too made a connection with Richard Foster’s now classic text. I definitely think there is something to the idea of seeing balance in technology use as a spiritual discipline of sorts.

    I also really appreciated your Lenten focus of presence. I think too often the idea is that something has to be sacrificed to count as a Lenten offering, but what you are doing is actually giving a gift to others and yourself by practicing the art of focus and attention. I am sure all those in your life will hope that Lent lasts all year long.

    Also, I am slightly jealous about you meeting Michele Obama.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *