I found this post helpful today: Separating the Urgent and the Important. I think of those two words as synonymous, but Trent does a great job of delineating the differences:
Someone calling you on the phone is urgent, but is it important?
Giving your mom a long phone call is important, but is it urgent?
Finding that “perfect” pair of pants in your closet is urgent, but is it important?
Spending quality time with your daughter is important, but is it urgent?
He’s right; it’s so easy to confuse urgency with importance. The things that get in our faces -he uses telemarketers as an example- are rarely things that are truly important. Unless we are firefighters or EMTs, matters that demand a reply right now, this moment, without delay, don’t generally deserve it.
Quakers, to my endless frustration, like to “season” a question if the meeting cannot find the leading of the Spirit. We describe a contentious issue as “something that needs to be seasoned,” by which we typically mean that we’ll put it off until next month, and expect everyone to spend the month prayerfully considering the matter. This seasoning process seems terribly inefficient to me, and so I find it wildly frustrating that it works; remove the urgency from the question, and the importance of the question pops into relief.
I want the matter to be urgent. The meeting, on the other hand, recognizes that it is important. What a liberating difference!