Misplaced Responsibility

shutterstock_670207864How many times have you found yourself overwhelmed and burned out?  If you are like me, it’s probably been more than once!  I say all the time that we get thrown into so many circumstances in life and even if there are a lot of good things (by our definition), the amount of activity just seems to keep increasing, and it totally wears us out.   That’s where I find myself now, and I’m sure many of you can relate.

So how do you know when the candle you’ve been burning at both ends is about to disappear?  Well, first there are the obvious clinical signs like:

  • Exhaustion – physical and/or emotional
  • Physical health issues – headaches, dizziness, chest pains, illness, etc.
  • Mental health issues – anxiety, depression, anger or hopelessness
  • Forgetfulness or having trouble concentrating
  • Apathy
  • Increased irritability
  • Lack of productivity, poor performance or feeling like you never accomplish anything
  • Pessimism or cynicism
  • Isolation

Although I have been here before, this time around has brought some enlightening revelations that I just had to share.

I will not go into all the many things that are wearing me out these days, but suffice it to say I am being hit from all sides in all kinds of different ways.  I have found myself in my car, heading to someplace I have responsibilities (work, church or home), sobbing and telling God, “I can’t do this anymore!”  It is simply overwhelming.  No one wants to live with a constant barrage of difficult circumstances, and yet when I look around me, it seems like so many of us are in that place most of the time.  So I started wondering what I am taking on that is not my responsibility, and this is where my thoughts had to unravel a little so that they could come back together more appropriately.

shutterstock_143745571I was raised with a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.  I have always tried to be the best at what I do, but more importantly I have tried to love and serve God and others in every way possible.  I’ve been active in church all my life, worked successfully at my job, and had all kinds of other interests and activities.  My point is that I am not one to sit on the sidelines, and it is important for me to feel like what I am doing makes a difference for others.  That all sounds great, until I began to realize my positive drive becomes warped when my sense of responsibility gets skewed.

Many of us take on far more responsibility than necessary for certain things in life.  I realize there are also a lot of people who take NO responsibility for anything which makes the rest of us feel as though it is our job to pick up the slack.  After all, if we don’t do it, who will?  There is some truth in that question, but we need to be careful that we aren’t falling in love with being the “doer” or getting our fulfillment from being superhuman (or thinking we are).  I admit fully I have been in that exact cycle at times in my own life.  It feels good to get all kinds of stuff done!  It feels good to help everyone.  It feels good to plan and execute events, etc., but lately there have been a few situations that have brought to my attention the fact I have started mistaking my desire for my responsibility.   That, my friends, is a dangerous mindset, because it means burnout is already upon us or barreling toward us at a high rate of speed!  I mentioned that I have been wondering what I’ve taken on that is not my responsibility.  What am I doing to myself that is adding to my own burnout these days?  The answer is that I have been taking on misplaced responsibilities.

We all have areas where we have to rely on a leader of some kind.   (I use the term “leader” loosely, as many so-called leaders do not actually lead.)  In our jobs, we have Supervisors/Owners.  In our churches we have Pastors.  In volunteer work we have Executive Directors.  You get where I’m going with this.  The problem is when leaders don’t actually LEAD, everything starts falling apart.  Even Proverbs 29:18 warns us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”   There are countless examples of organizations, churches or companies that have died off because of a lack of leadership.  When that happens, people try to find all kinds of reasons for the failure of a company, church or even a family, when the truth is there was no leadership!  shutterstock_383113444When leaders become so engrossed in themselves, or so detached from the people they are supposedly serving, there is chaos.  That chaos may not always manifest in external ways, but internally it leaves people feeling alone and without support or direction.  That’s when you see informal leaders appear, and often those people are not always operating with the best intentions; sometimes they are seeking control.  I will add though, sometimes there are also very good people who are simply trying to step up and keep things going in the absence of appropriately placed leadership.  When leaders don’t lead, it begins a vicious cycle that only stops when the he or she takes a hard look in the mirror and changes, or you get a new leader.  Aside from one of those two things, “the people perish.”  Do you know whose responsibility it is to lead?  THE LEADER’S!

So back to the revelation about responsibility and burnout that struck me so hard it changed my thinking.  I realized that although the good I have been trying to do in certain areas of life has been sincere and from a heart of love, there was/is an extra element of compensating for what I perceive to be a lack of leadership.  I’ve been here before, but this time it was like God opened up the sky and shined a huge light right down on this perception.  You see, there are some areas in life where you can only do so much.  We should always do what God calls us to do and let Him handle the results, but when there is no life or passion in those around you, people are perishing.  There is no amount of effort you or I can put into an organization of any kind that will effectively substitute for a lack of leadership from the person who holds the official position of leader, regardless of the title by which it is called.  And if it IS possible for us to keep holding things together when a leader won’t lead, then we have much bigger problems than lifelessness or a lack of passion.

It is a hard thing to realize, no matter how much we love or care about our jobs, churches, volunteer work, etc., there is no amount of effort we can put in that will substitute for leadership.  I’m not saying we can’t step up and be leaders in some of these areas, but when THE leader won’t (or can’t) step up and fulfill their responsibilities, our efforts will so often result in a burnout that scorches us at the very core.  It not only burns us out, it changes what was intended for good into something that is unhealthy for us.  We can only keep pressing on when we realize that some things are not our responsibility.

For a person of faith, God is my ultimate leader and guide.  It is my responsibility to follow where He leads and do what He calls me to do.  The rest is up to Him.  What we do in life is important; there’s no question about that, but how we do it is even more important.  When I start feeling like everything rests on my shoulders, I have misplaced my focus and energy.  And when that happens, the fire within starts to suffocate and burnout is inevitable.  I have had the opportunity to lead others in many different endeavors and situations, and it is a responsibility I take very seriously.  I know what it is like to wither under a lack of leadership, and I know that God can do amazing things when we simply submit to Him and let Him do the heavy lifting.

So today I am struggling with the fact that I can’t fix some things that are broken.  I’m struggling with the possibility of what God might be doing or how/where He is moving because it is unknown to me, even though He sees what I cannot.  I am exhausted and discouraged by the path I have been walking and the lack of passion I see in others that I cannot ignite.   It is my responsibility and my honor to pray for the people in leadership that affect me.  It is my responsibility to love others and to forgive without judgment or condemnation.  It is my responsibility to follow, unashamedly, wherever God leads.  It is my responsibility to be and act as I am called to be and act.  I will continue to ignite passion wherever God calls me to be a light, but it is time to let go of the responsibilities that He has placed on someone else.shutterstock_82458775

It is my prayer that we will all take a deep breath and remember not everything is our responsibility.  It’s time to stop trying to make up for what is lacking in others and step back to refocus.  Without vision, the people perish.  A lack of leadership can be scary, discouraging, frustrating and depressing, but thank God He has promised to lead and guide us no matter our circumstances.   He is a God of passion not apathy, so if you are a leader, then lead!  And if your leaders are not leading, then seek God’s direction on the path ahead.  If we are seeking Him, He will make it clear.

Blessings!

Time For A “Face” Lift

shutterstock_351834119Our society places a lot of value on beauty and outward appearance.  We think nothing of having work done (or of others having work done) to try and circumvent the effects of aging, and yet we are paying less and less attention to how we look on the inside.   We are losing our ability to be civil and courteous, and nowhere is this truth more apparent than on Facebook and other social media sites.  Over the past 6 months or so, I have been spending less time on Facebook and much of the time I’ve spent was, or is, hiding posts from people on ALL sides of varying issues (political or other).  My tolerance for the intolerance shown by so many people on so many subjects has really worn thin.  Before I go any further, let me just say that if you think I’m one of those people who just wants to stick their heads in the sand and not care, or are not willing to be engaged in thoughtful or even passionate discussion, I can assure you nothing is further from the truth.  I choose to be very engaged, just not online.

These days, there is turmoil all around us.  For one thing, the recent election cycle in our country has really taken a toll on most people and some people are very concerned – some for the same reasons and some for very different ones.  Then we look around us at other divides caused by different belief systems (whether religious or not), and it seems we are in a constant state of disruption and disagreement.  I have news for you: It has always been this way!   We think our debates are deeper or more enlightened.  We think the consequences are greater.  Guess what?  Every generation from the beginning of time has thought the same things.  And yes, people have always fought (and disagreed) passionately over what they believed.  From the beginning of time, there have always been people who were nasty and mean when trying to prove a point or argue a position, but it was different.  They didn’t have access to instant communication with the entire world!  We are bombarded with opinions and even mean-spirited lies about different positions or events.  We have instant information when something happens, and sometimes that information is not always accurate.  shutterstock_516722350That’s part of what is wrong with instant news.  Stories used to have time to develop before everyone heard something and reacted.  We’ve seen many stories that turned out not to be as they were originally portrayed, but it was too late to stop the reactions or public opinion – even when the facts finally come out.  On top of that, there is so much “fake” news that now exists for the sole purpose of stirring people up, or even worse, slandering or attacking them.

We live in a world where we can fire off our opinions immediately online, almost with impunity.  We no longer have to resort to picking up the phone and calling someone to discuss something.  We don’t have to wait until we are “around the water cooler” or face to face with someone before we throw out what we think.  There is something very valuable about waiting before we speak or give an opinion.  It gives us time to rethink HOW we want to give that opinion or state that comment.  We have lost our civility, and it has only escalated the meanness and fueled the fires of anger and hate.  Then we start choosing sides and refuse to listen to anyone who disagrees.  It’s true in our government as well as our own lives.  It needs to stop, but there are days when I fear we are too far gone.

Online we lose so much of what makes us human.  We lose tone, facial expression and body language. We lose accountability, and most of all we lose the trait of being courteous.  It’s easy to be rude when you don’t have to look people in the eye.  It’s easy to tear people down (including those we claim to love and care about) from behind a computer or phone screen.  There are no bounds to what people say or how far they will go to destroy someone who thinks, believes or lives differently.  As I mentioned earlier, even if we do not actively engage in the arguing, it is affecting us.  Even though we think we are ignoring it, we still feel its effects.  Think of it this way:  If you were in a room of people where the noise level and arguing (or fighting) was that loud, you would most likely leave even if you had an opinion that you wouldn’t mind discussing civilly.  Most of us would condemn the behavior we were witnessing and refuse to be part of it, but social media is different.  We’ve turned differing opinions into blood-sport.  We don’t care if a news story is real or fake; we use it as a weapon to go after people who disagree with us.  We’ve become more rude and intolerant as we hide behind our devices.  And that goes for ALL people of ALL beliefs and opinions.  shutterstock_74446510We don’t walk away from people who are rude or aggressive anymore, instead we devolve into them ourselves.  We forget that we are talking to human beings, and instead treat each other like animals.  We are bullies.  We are arrogant and insensitive asses.  We devolve into everything we say we aren’t or that we preach against.  We watch our friends tear each other down and just sit there.  We think, because we don’t read or react to the garbage that rolls through our feeds, that it isn’t affecting us.  But it is.  It wears on us until we finally crack.  I’ve fallen victim to it on several occasions myself.  “It” being that almost uncontrollable urge to fight back or snipe back at someone who is being unreasonable or, God forbid, wrong!  I’ve given into it on occasion, but it has almost always come with regret at some point.

The truth is, Facebook has become Face-less book.  We see photos but not each other.  We’ve become social voyeurs.  Voyeurs see others as objects and have no problem victimizing them as a result.  We, ourselves, have become less human and yet feel more entitled at the same time.  Everyone screams about intolerance, yet everyone IS intolerant.  Why?  Because it’s easy. Because even though we might love the people in our feeds, we feel faceless to them too.  The old saying that “character is what you do when no one is looking” is very true.  People sometimes ask, “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t get caught?”  The answers are always interesting, but we are actually living in an age where we have created places where we think we can act like Neanderthals because we can’t be touched.  And then we wonder why our relationships (personally or professionally) are suffering.  We are so used to letting words fly out of our mouths without thought for others that we’ve started doing it in our real lives.  It was bound to happen, and yet we never saw it coming.  I see people who should be leaders acting like children, or even worse, teenagers whose only concern is being part of in the “in” club.  I see people snickering in corners about fellow workers, family members, church members or friends because their minds are being trained to think it’s normal to behave that way.  Just like we do on social media, we are watching it even if we aren’t actively participating.   And just like on Facebook, it is affecting us whether we want to admit it or not.

shutterstock_57395806So why does it matter? It matters because we are conditioning ourselves in ways that are harming us as individuals and as a society.  Our “real” lives are in turmoil.  We hear of tragedies almost daily where someone has attacked or even killed others.  We hear of relationships of all kinds falling apart and everyone is more concerned with blaming each other and making sure they are the one who  comes out “looking good.”  We watch kids bully and be mean to each other but then whine and cry when someone does the same to them.    We wring our hands and wonder why this selfish behavior has become so common, but we refuse to look in the mirror and admit we are part of the problem.  Whether we are actually fighting or being a voyeur, we are part of the problem.  We are more and more desensitized which makes us less and less self-aware.  In our “real” lives, we are becoming quicker to point out others who are being rude, offensive or a host of other negative traits while not seeing our own.

I said earlier there are days I fear we are too far gone, but there IS hope!  We actually can change, but we first have to want to change.   There is a passage of scripture (James chapter 4) that affected me very deeply the first time I read it when I was a teenager.  The entire chapter is great admonition as to how we should live, but it ends with this verse: “Therefore, to the one that knows to do good and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.”  We forget that not doing the things that are right and good are just as sinful in God’s eyes as doing all the wrong things.  It’s time for us to stand up for what is good instead of defending our positions.  It’s time for us to “think on these things” that are “true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report.” (Phil 4:8) We must remember that our hearts and the hearts of others are not protected behind a wall of perceived immunity.   shutterstock_290171423We are ALL humans.  We are all imperfect and we all are tempted to get caught up in the drama with which we are constantly bombarded.  Instead, let us hold each other close in heart.  Let us truly love each other instead of tearing each other down.  Let’s purge our social media feeds AND our lives of the things that continually remind us of how we are different we are and start looking at how we are all the same.  Yes, it’s time for a “face”lift of a different kind, so I will leave you with this:  “Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Blessings!

Settling For Passionless Work

shutterstock_30626650Work. We all have to do it in one realm or another. Whether it is inside or outside the home, we all face struggles sometimes with the things we do for a living. Every “job” has its ups, downs and cycles of frustration. It is the nature of work. Sometimes it is fulfilling and sometimes it can be draining. Regardless, we spend more time at work than we do anywhere else in our lives. It is important to always be willing to evaluate why we do what we do and the places we do it. This doesn’t just apply to our professional organizations but our personal, spiritual and familial ones as well.

It is interesting to consider the point that you can love what you do and not love the person or organization you do it for OR you can hate what you do and love the person or organization for which you toil. You can also have great passion for an organization or job, secular or spiritual, but that doesn’t guarantee it is what you are called to do. I am a firm believer that our true calling in life can be manifested in many ways over the course of our journey. I have fulfilled aspects of my own calling through different organizations and situations over the years. Sometimes we have to find ways to still honor our calling even when we are in situations where it seems unlikely it might fit. We do whatever is necessary in order to continue moving forward. Over the years, I have worked for people I admired greatly. I have worked for companies and organizations I loved. I have worked for people who are appreciative and I’ve worked for people who aren’t. I have worked for small organizations that were wonderful and some that weren’t. I have worked for a large organization and had pockets of amazing experiences with some amazing people. I have also had pockets of experiences that seemed to drain the life from me but, even in those times, there was something positive to be gleaned. One of the greatest blessings I gained in the seemingly negative times was to recognize the things I vowed to never do to the people that I worked with, for or who worked for me.shutterstock_73290586

Passion can drive us to do amazing things in our homes, jobs, churches and families if we will allow it. The struggle I sometimes face is caring deeply about a cause or organization and then see others trying to tear those things down. It wounds me. It literally hurts my heart to see other people half-heartedly approaching the things that mean so much to me or engaging in activities that are detrimental to the well-being and success of those things. When we find ourselves in these places, we cannot help but question where we are and what we are doing. It’s easy to look at others and be angry when they don’t share the same values or passions as you but it is much harder to not let it deter you from your efforts to make a difference. You can try your best to create something different, to engage people differently and to keep them energized, but you cannot force them. So if you are giving everything you have and you still find yourself faced with a negative or unsupportive environment, what do you do? To complicate matters further, if it’s not your calling, how do you handle it?

Sometimes it is so hard to know what God is working in our lives. When you feel your spirit crushed by the situations you’re in, no matter if it is intentional or not, it hurts. Sometimes the crushing can be a great clarifier but sometimes all it does is injure. Passion is a beautiful and necessary part of truly living but it doesn’t guarantee it will not cause us pain. Having passion about what you are called to do and having to wait for those doors to open is a difficult part of life but there is a reason you are where you are at this moment in time.

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Just remember you may be placed in the midst of people who rarely, if ever, show any appreciation for you even if they do feel it. Some people (or even organizations) seem to think that “no news is good news” and, as a result, only speak up when things are wrong because they assume you somehow just inherently know you are valued or make a difference. Even though it may cause you pain and even create a sensation you are worthless at times, it is important to try and let it go. Holding on to a lack of appreciation will only cause you to become bitter, sad or resentful. Don’t let someone else’s inability to show gratitude keep you from expressing yours.

The passion I have for the organizations I am involved in runs deeper than anyone in those organizations can imagine. That fact often makes for a difficult and challenging life but the alternative does not appeal to me. The reality is if you go through life passionless and numb, it certainly does take the sting out. If you can say, “My job doesn’t matter” or “My church doesn’t matter” then it doesn’t. If you can say, “My family doesn’t matter,” then it doesn’t. There is a certain amount of anesthetic and pain relief that comes with that but it also dulls everything else in life. I struggle with just throwing my hands up and saying “I’m done” when I become drained. I believe life is about truth and passion. I can handle anything but a liar. And I can take anything but apathy.

shutterstock_38318179James described it best when he said, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14). Life really is shorter than we like to think. As James says, it is like walking outside on a cold morning and seeing your breath as it appears for a few moments and then dissipates. Why waste the time we have been given each day by living passionless lives? We need to stop settling for the mundane and expect the extraordinary! If the people around us refuse to step out of their complacency, negativity or sense of entitlement, then we need to refuse to step out of our passion, optimism and sense of gratitude. And if there is no bridge that can be built between the two, then we need to have the strength and courage to step away and follow where we are led.

Blessings!

One of “Those” Days

FrustratedYesterday I had one of “those” kinds of days.  You know the kind I’m talking about: You wake up late, rush to get dressed and grab some type of makeshift breakfast.  Then you take off for work and get behind a slow driver who tests the limits of your patience.  Your lunch hour is filled with personal errands so you have to stop and grab something at a mini-mart for lunch.  Work seems to be nothing but putting out fire after fire with no break at all in the madness.  Then you finally head for home (after working late, of course) to tackle all the personal things you need to get done but things just keep going wrong.  You try to limit the negativity in your home but just can’t stand the thought that anyone around you is taking time to rest or goof off instead of doing things in the house that need to be done (dishes, laundry, you name it)!  Yep, yesterday was one of those days.  I even got mad at my husband because he just didn’t seem to share my irritation over things cluttering up the kitchen and living room.  Was it a terrible mess?  No, not at all, but I had absolutely had enough!

Days like yesterday test more than just my patience.  They often wear me down and drain me of what seems like the last drop of energy I may ever have.  Yes, I realize that is an exaggeration but it sure feels that way at times.  As I stood over the kitchen sink doing dishes, I couldn’t help but think of all the times I have let unmet expectations drag me into the mire of anger and disappointment.  Half EmptyUnmet expectations not only have the ability to create a frustrating day, they can also drag us into a depressive funk that can linger on for hours, days, weeks or even months at a time.  It can become a cycle that begins to feed on itself.  Soon we find ourselves viewing everything in a negative light or with a defeatist attitude.  We start believing things never work out or that the good things really are “too good to be true” instead of celebrating the positive things in life.

All of us have expectations of the people in our lives and the world around us.  We expect others to be respectful.  We expect to be loved by the people we love.  We expect honesty and compassion.  We expect all kinds of things but sometimes we fail to see our expectations realized.  I used to think it didn’t matter if my expectations were met.  I also lived many years feeling as if I didn’t have the right to expect anything from anyone.  It seemed selfish to expect things from others so I lived not only with the disappointment of being let down but also the guilt of having expected anything in the first place.  Ugh…a double hit to the psyche!  I am positive I’m not the only one who has struggled with this mindset at times.

Being let down by others is a reality of life.  For me, I realized just how much my expectations of others were based on how I treated them or expressed my love and care for them.  We’ve all been taught the “Golden Rule” – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It sounds fair, right?  Golden Rule picWhat we miss in that verse is that it says “as you would have them do unto you.”  It doesn’t guarantee that our treatment of others (or the world around us) will cause us to get the same in return.  It doesn’t say if we are nice and helpful that people will be the same toward us.  It doesn’t say if we put others first they will put us first and it doesn’t say if we love them they will love us as well.  It calls us to a higher plane that keeps us from wasting our energy seeking reciprocity OR retribution! We are all imperfect human beings and our imperfections lead us to sometimes having unrealistic expectations of others.  Those imperfections also cause us to sometimes be unable to live up to the expectations of those around us. (I’ll talk about that aspect more at a later time!)   I’ve been let down by people I thought were capable of certain behaviors and responses only to find out later that they just weren’t wired that way.  I have been there to support, love and care for people who have been oblivious to the times when I have been the one to need the same love and care.  It hurts deeply when we feel like our relationships or endeavors in life are one-sided, even if the reality is they are more equal than we are able see when we are hurting or upset.  We will be disappointed in life but if we let our disappointment become the fuel for more darkness in our world then the darkness wins! Let’s go back and look at my day again with a new perspective:

  • I woke up late…..becomes….I am alive.
  • I got stuck behind slow drivers….becomesI have a reliable means to get to where I’m going.
  • Lunch was filled with errands and mini-mart food…becomesI am fortunate that I can take care of personal matters during the day instead of trying to do it after hours.  Mini-mart food may not be my first choice, but I am grateful to have something to eat.
  • Work was full of “fires.” …becomesI have a good job with a good company in this very difficult economy. 
  • I got home late…becomesI have a place to call “home” that is safe and warm.
  • My husband irritated me…becomesI have someone who loves and accepts me as I am.  

spotlight warmIt’s amazing how different things appear when we turn on the light of the truth and shine it on the darkness of our earthly perspective!   I could say “shame on me” for letting the day get the best of me but instead I choose to say “I’m human.”  Thank God today is another day!

Blessings!