We hear so much the days about pastors and leaders experiencing burnout and of the often-devastating consequences that follow. No one ever intentionally tries to sabotage their own health and success, but the truth is that burn out is not the result of intention. It is the result of inattention. In other words, burn out is the result of neglect.
Proverbs 14:1 tells us, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish woman tears hers down with her own hands.” What kind of person would literally take a wrecking ball to her house and smash it to pieces? No one in her right mind would do such a thing! If you think about all the old, decaying houses you have ever seen, they are usually not the result of intentional destruction, but of neglect over time. The longer we let things go unattended, the more overwhelming the repairs become. This is true about houses, and it is also true about people and life in general.
We might not notice the results of our neglect until the “house” of our lives seems so broken down that it is impossible to repair – the work just seems too overwhelming! It seems easier to walk away and start again with something “fresh.” While change is normal, expressions of change birthed out of burn out are simply destructive. When pastors and leaders engage in destructive changes, the effects are magnified and wide spread.
So how can we, as leaders, make sure that we are not falling victim to neglect, like the foolish woman in Proverbs 14:1?
- Learn to recognize the symptoms of burnout. The table below compares the symptoms of stress to the symptoms of burnout. For more in depth information, visit http://www.helpguide.org/toolkit/emotional_health.htm
|Stress vs. Burnout|
|Characterized by over engagement||Characterized by disengagement|
|Emotions are over reactive||Emotions are blunted|
|Produces urgency and hyperactivity||Produces helplessness and hopelessness|
|Loss of energy||Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope|
|Leads to anxiety disorders||Leads to detachment and depression|
|Primary damage is physical||Primary damage is emotional|
|May kill you prematurely||May make life seem not worth living|
|Source: Stress and Burnout in Ministry|
- Make time to practice self-awareness. Self-awareness is the essential for happiness and health. It is the only indicator of a person’s ability to engage in and sustain true and lasting change. The book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, comes with a code that allows you to access an online assessment which will help you gauge your level of self-awareness, as well as three other facets of emotional intelligence.
- Have the courage to make changes that create health and balance in your life. This is where the rubber meets the road. Most of us know that we need to make changes, and sometime we might even know what changes we need to make. But usually there is something stopping us. The key is to identify what is stopping you from making changes that lead to health and balance and then deal with that issue before moving forward. What is stopping you from making the changes you need to make in order to live a full and healthy life? Is it guilt? Perfectionism? Fear? No matter what the reason, you will have to be courageous to face it and defeat it. Remember that God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of POWER, LOVE, and a SOUND MIND. You have the mind of Christ because the Holy spirit dwells in you. So don’t be afraid to lean into truth, however difficult it may be. Truth and freedom always go hand in hand. The prize of freedom will be worth the struggle!