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Why Are People Lazy?

Tessa Schlesinger developed an interest in human behaviour and ethics while studying anthropology at the University of South Africa in 1975.

Why are some people so lazy?

If you’ve ever asked anyone to define laziness, they will tell you it’s someone who doesn’t want to work when they are perfectly capable of working. Because I’ve been called lazy by family and by Conservatives (who assume that because one doesn’t have money, one obviously isn’t working), I want to take issue with this word and its history. The big question is how can anyone else determine whether someone else is capable of doing something. Somebody looking in from the outside seldom has sufficient information about the person they are assuming to be lazy.

What defines being lazy?

In my personal experience, the kind of people who think of others as lazy have generally grown up in homes where parents describes others as lazy They also tend to be part of a culture where not 'working' is seen as lazy (unless the people not working are very rich). A boss, for instance, might want someone to do more than an employee is paid for. If the employee doesn’t want to do extra work, then the employee is lazy. There are other examples as well.

'Lazy' people are more creative...

Lots of rest is essential if one is to think creatively. Doing nothing is good for the human soul...

Lots of rest is essential if one is to think creatively. Doing nothing is good for the human soul...

Examples of being lazy

Someone who has a house that isn’t spotless/clean, might be described as lazy as in, “They’re too lazy to clean their house.” In reality, there might be numerous reasons a person doesn’t clean their house.

  1. The person is working full time and looking after children. They might be committed to greater issues, etc. There is only so much time in a day and there simply isn’t time to do everything. So it’s a matter of priorities. People make choices as to what is more important to them.
  2. The person might simply not have enough stamina to do something. They might be be suffering from an illness that affects capacity to do work. Human beings, after all, evolved only to work a 20 hour week which is why so many of them are suffering from stress, depression, illness, etc in countries with extreme ‘work ethics.’
  3. The person might see no reason to do something. For instance, if they are paid a minimum wage to serve food to clients, why should they clean up the kitchen? After all, they’re going to need whatever reserve energy they have to cook and clean when they get home.

Poor people are not lazy...

Calling people lazy because they aren't doing what you think they should be doing is often unkind, cruel, and mostly just plain wrong!

Calling people lazy because they aren't doing what you think they should be doing is often unkind, cruel, and mostly just plain wrong!

Religion, hard work, and being lazy

There is also a religious reason that has assumed that anyone not doing something must be lazy. This has to do with the Calvinist doctrine of ‘hard work.’ It stems from the New Testament (2 Thessalonians 3:11)“If a man will not work, he shall not eat." We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.”

I can’t even begin to comment on that as I’m an atheist and, quite apart from the fact that the sentence (written by Paul, I think), contradicts everything that Christ taught, I think anybody who governs their life by religious beliefs hasn’t done much thinking. I’m going to say again, that animals (and we are animals) throughout the animal kingdom only spend about 20 hours per week doing work, i.e. hunting food and finding shelter. The rest of the time they sleep and play.

What scientists say about laziness. It's genetic!

Reasons some people call others lazy

It has been my observation that people who call others lazy are frustrated and angry by this ‘laziness.’ Personally, I don't care if someone prioritizes relaxation before work. It's their life. We only live once. Of course, if someone wants to sit at the beach all day and reads a book, then asks me for money, I might be inclined to ask why. I perfectly understand, though, that they did 25 hours work that week, earned a minimum wage, and they had a need for rest and recreation. I do not buy into the 'work until you drop' belief system. What's the point of working 40 hours per week and then having to spend half one's salary on tranquillizers and medication for ulcers?

Here are some reasons that people determine others are lazy...

  1. They believe they will pay fewer taxes if others aren’t ‘lazy’ and find a job. This has been shown repeatedly to be untrue. The tax is so minimal (a few pennies out of the tax percentage) that it's not worth mentioning. A particular party ideology just needs a scapegoat in order to steer query away where tax money is really going (into subsidies for the rich).
  2. They will make more profit if others aren’t ‘lazy’ and do work they aren’t paid for. What this means is that bosses want workers to work without pay, i.e. slavery. Our forefathers spent decades fighting to get away from wage slavery. Now the propaganda and indoctrination machine has brainwashed people to believe that there is something morally wrong with one if one isn't prepared to work without adequate pay. There isn't. There is something morally wrong with people who demand one works until one drops for minimal pay.
  3. They don’t like walking into a house that’s untidy and/or dirty so they want the other person to clean it. Whether one likes or doesn't like the choices that people have made is irrelevant. Some interesting research shows that Conservatives tend to have cleaner homes because their choices are guided by the amygdala in the brain (the fear an danger part) while liberals are guided by the grey matter part (the thinking part). In other words, conservatives might want a clean house because they fear germs, what the neighbours will say, and/or they fear the condemnation of the community if they don't clean the house. Liberals tend to enjoy thinking so they will be reading books rather than cleaning the house.
  4. They have been indoctrinated to believe that there is something horrifically wrong (and evil) with not ‘working’ 24/7. This is where the 'work ethic' from Calvinism comes in. In reality, it was probably just another way for the Church/King to get work done without pay. There really is a verse to justify anything in the bible (or any religious book).
  5. They feel compelled to work 24/7 themselves as a result of indoctrination and feel a deep resentment towards others who don’t. At the core of this, they don’t want to work 24/7 themselves and they resent the fact that others don’t. Going against one’s own programming is extremely difficult so they resent others for not working extra long hours instead. People who feel compelled to work all day as a result of early patterning resent those who 'sit around all day doing nothing.' Mostly one isn't sitting around all day doing nothing; it's just that one is comfortable with the concept of rest.
  6. They dislike the person and as being called lazy is an insult, they find a way of insulting the person. Quite frequently, people don't really know why they dislike someone, or often the dislike is based in resentment or jealousy. So in order to justify their own fears or jealousy, etc. they blame the other person and call them lazy...

Seeing someone as 'lazy' depends on perspective...

Rethink calling others lazy

The reality is that lazy is a non-word. If someone doesn’t want to do something, that’s their prerogative. Sure they might live in a mess but that’s not because they are ‘lazy.’ That’s because they either don’t have the stamina or they prefer to do something else. People don’t spend all day in bed because they are ‘lazy.’ They spend all day in bed because they don’t have the energy to get out of it.

One last observation. Occasionally I hear it being said that people are too lazy to think. To my mind that is complete rubbish. One either has the biological capacity to think or one doesn’t. Recent research has noted that Conservatives have enlarged amygdalas (the section of the brain that functions on fear) while Liberals have enlarged sections of Grey Matter (i.e. the thinking part). The bottom line is that we have too little information as to what enables some people to think and others not to be able to. Sometimes people just don't have a choice as to what they are capable of and what they are not capable of. I don’t believe for one moment that because people don't think that they are 'lazy. I believe that people who tend not to think do not have the capacity to think.

Calling other people lazy is an elitist presumption. It is lacking in compassion, knowledge, and comes with some arrogance attached.

© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger


Gordon Wright on September 29, 2015:

I've known things far more dangerous than lions. I've known two or three murderers. A kid I knew growing up got his skull bashed in. The same guy almost got me too.

I'd say I know more about real challenges than the averaqe person. I tell my life story and sheltered people freak out. I've survived things most people have never faced.

I've also watched people self destruct. Substance abusers. Had them in my family. Had them as parents. There was a time when I bailed them out of financial difficulties - after escaping poverty myself - but I wised up.

Anyway, that's what I know about life. But do tell me about real challenges.

Tessa Schlesinger (author) on September 28, 2015:

Gordon, my what a clever boy you are. I hope you never find yourself in the middle of Africa been hunted by lions or something. My point is that it's easy to say that you achieved something when you do not know what is going on elsewhere. You don't understand the real challenges and that's why you believe what you do.

Gordon Wright on September 28, 2015:

I'm not denying that there are disabled people. But not everybody is disabled. There are people who expect others to take care of them their entire lives.

Gordon Wright on September 28, 2015:

Actually, I've invented a few things myself. Wrote my own software, redesigned my own plumbing. Those who produce, I respect.

I've had people in my life who felt no inclination to look out for themselves or for others. They expect me to take care of them. Ain't gonna happen. Anyone who wants my charity has to follow my rules. Rule number one: don't take advantage of me.

There are people who are efficient and don't have to work hard to produce. And there are other people who are just lazy. To meet with my approval, work exactly as hard as you need to in order not to be a burden on others. No more, no less. You don't have to knock yourself out for me. Knock yourself out for you, and leave me out of it.

Not everybody is creative. Not everybody is efficient. There is such a thing as lazy. But there's a cure for it: Let `em starve a while, and they'll wise up.

I learned this the hard way.

Tessa Schlesinger (author) on September 28, 2015:

peachpurple. I grew up with servants. I went to a private school. I never learnt to make a bed or cook or do housework. I'm still bad at it. I'm not lazy because I don't want to do it. I just hate doing it. Of course, nobody likes living in a mess, and so if one can't afford someone else to do it, one has to find other ways. I have. I simply don't own much apart from a laptop, a change of clothing, a phone, and some small sentimental things. So, I don't have to clean up much... Am I lazy? No, I just dislike getting my hands dirty.

Generally when people don't do things it's because they don't want to, they don't like it, or they're too tired.

Being called lazy is what the people who disapprove do. There is no such thing.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 28, 2015:

it really depends on the situation, laziness can be a bad habit caused by spoiling the brat

McKenna Meyers on September 27, 2015:

Thanks for the unique perspective. As I get older, I guess some people may see me as lazy. But, the fact is, I don't have the strength and vitality I once had. As the saying goes: "I must work smarter, not harder." Some people may also see me as lazy because I'm not motivated to work in order to accumulate wealth and possessions. I need to have meaningful work or it just doesn't make sense to me. Thought-provoking hub!

Tessa Schlesinger (author) on September 27, 2015:

Oh, Gordon, you owe humanity everything! There isn't a thing in your world that you have that wasn't given to your freely by the human beings that preceded you and the human beings around you. Every thing that you use was invented by someone else, and everything that you know was discovered by someone else.

I'm curious as to what part of this article you find erroneous Did you actually read it? If so where is it wrong?

Gordon Wright on September 27, 2015:

I have no problem with people goofing off on their own time and their own dime. If they expect me to support them, then I reserve the right to be lazy about supporting them.

They don't owe me anything, and I don't owe them anything.

Tessa Schlesinger (author) on September 27, 2015:

Yup. Tends to be the people who live easy lives that don't really understand how ability and capacity are related to action.

Brenda Reeves from SACRAMENTO on September 27, 2015:

Tessa, I love your articles. I've been told I'm lazy, and my daughter says I think too much. I do live in my head and I like it there so I'm not moving. My brother says I'm destitute, yet I draw two retirement pensions that pay for the basics of life. I prefer to live my life pursing art, caring for animals and meeting friends for coffee or lunch. I taught learning disabled students, and I can tell you that many people look perfectly capable of holding down a job, but they can't. They try but get fired over and over due to their disability.

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