Pastor, Is Your Stress Hiding?

My last post opened the topic of needing to take a sabbatical. I talked about what a sabbatical is, why it’s important, and who should take one. But it dawned on me that most people who read that post will think it’s for someone else. Stressed?  Not me. Or if you are experiencing stress, you just think you need a few days off, a little more exercise, or sleep or whatever, and you’ll be good. Not to worry.DebtStressGetty460

How’s that working for you? Haven’t you been saying that for a while?

A couple of decades ago, when I thought I was superman, I was a director of marketing for a small psychiatric hospital that was sinking fast (back in the day when insurance coverage changed where insurance companies no longer automatically paid for 30 days of inpatient care). Not only was I superman, I thought I should also be their savior. The success of the company was on my shoulders and I was out to make good.

I walked into the lunchroom one day, sat down with my peers, and the Director of Nursing took one look at me and said, “I teach on stress and you are exhibiting every symptom of it.” So what did I say? Did I humbly ask what she meant and ask for some help?  Superman and Saviors don’t say that!  I said, “It comes with the job. I just have to deal with it. It won’t always be like this.” She just shook her head and left me to eat my lunch alone.

I was such a fool. 

It doesn’t matter if “life is good.” It can still be stressful. You still need a break.

My point is, no matter how stressed you might be, you don’t always see it, and you will always have an excuse for why it’s not that bad. How do YOU spell D-E-N-I-A-L?

Fast forward twenty years.  I’m a pastor of a thriving church. I have great leaders and staff who consistently do great work and take the weight of the world from me. My kids are adults and so my wife and I live a quiet peaceful life. We have many supportive friends. So…I can’t be stressed right?  I realize that twenty years ago I was in denial and didn’t see my stress. But today? It’s different. Right? I mean, if life is good, it can’t be stressful.

Well, that’s what I thought. But then why the unexplainable fatigue and depression? My wife kept asking me when I was going to take the sabbatical that was approved two years ago (and I delayed). Maybe I really was stressed and I did need some time away. I finally pulled the trigger and we left in June for six weeks.

Again, my point: you don’t see stress very easily. If you don’t see it when it’s obvious to the world, you can bet you don’t see it when it’s subtle. What I learned this past year is that life keeps adding thin layers of stress one day at a time. At first it seems like no big deal…something you can throw off at any time. But one day you wake up and realize you are under so many layers you can’t move…it’s crushing you and you don’t know how to escape.

You see: It doesn’t matter if “life is good.” It can still be stressful. You still need a break.

Like I said in my last post business owners, or CEO’s, or pastors, or any position that brings the weight of the organization home with them at night carry a weight that the average worker doesn’t carry. You may THINK that you left work at 5pm, but work never left you. It’s always working in the background of your mind like a program on your computer.

So…go back and read my last post…you know, the one you thought was meant for someone else.  Better yet, have a friend or loved one read it and ask them if they think you need a break…then listen to what they say!

Send this post to a friend that isn’t seeing the warning signs of stress in their life.


2 thoughts on “Pastor, Is Your Stress Hiding?

  1. Pingback: Planning Your Sabbatical - F. Remy Diederich

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