Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

I’m Thankful for Humor

Posted: December 18, 2013 in Humor
Tags: , , ,

LaughI’ve had some good laughs in the past few days – some with my team at work, some online, some at home. Laughter is healthy, both physically and emotionally. Over time I’ve written several blog posts related to humor, and I’m compelled to do so again as I reflect on some of the highlights of recent days.

There was a period of several weeks recently where work was more stressful for me than usual due to turnover on the team, but a new team is forming and it looks like it will be a fun group. Some of the apprehension of recent weeks is giving way to confidence in our future. Humor isn’t the reason for the confidence, but it is a welcome indicator of the manner in which personalities are coming together to gel and start a habit of getting things done while having fun along the way. That’s important. Workplaces, homes, schools, churches and other types of gathering places that don’t encourage and inject humor into everyday life are missing out on an important part of the joy of living.

A former pastor of mine in Missouri would occasionally tell his congregation that some of them looked like they were weened on dill pickles! At least that line got a chuckle out of them for a brief moment before they returned to their typical sour expressions. Perhaps you know people like that.

I appreciate people who can find humor in everyday things. I like it when a well-timed spoken line breaks the tension in a room. I don’t want to be around someone who thinks he always has to be funny constantly – never having a serious conversation, but I admire those who have good judgment on when to let their humorous side show and when to tone it down.

Life has enough stressors. We need humor as a daily part of life to balance things out.

Don't WorryWhat is your reaction when people tell you not to worry about something? Maybe you feel like saying, “That’s easy for you to say, but I can’t help worrying about it!”

All of us worry about things from time to time – some of us more than others. Some seem to not be “happy” unless they are worrying and stressing over a myriad of issues, most of which never come to pass.

That’s why a study note related to 1 Peter 5:7 from the ESV Study Bible jumped out at me recently. The full sentence of the biblical text includes verses 6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” The study notes for verse 7 then include the following statement: “Worry is a form of pride because it involves taking concerns upon oneself instead of entrusting them to God. Believers can trust God because, as their Father, he cares for them.” I had to stop and chew on the thought that worry is a form of pride. I had never considered that before.

The words from the Apostle Peter coincide well with the words of Jesus in Luke 12:22-31:

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried (emphasis mine). For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (ESV)

Jesus does not command us to do that which is impossible. In the above passage, he clearly tells his children not to worry, but to trust our heavenly Father for what we need (not necessarily what we want). In light of this command, and in light of considering worry as evidence of pride that we are trying to handle what is rightly God’s to deal with, we can’t get away with excusing worry by saying “I can’t help worrying about it.” We can help it, because we can place those anxieties on the shoulders of the One who is far more capable of bearing them than we are. In a sense, we need to just stop it.

And because it wouldn’t be right to have a post called “Don’t Worry” without this, here is a video of Bobby McFerrin singing Don’t Worry, Be Happy. I’m not sure how theologically sound it is, but it’s closer to Jesus’ teaching than pridefully worrying about things he said not to worry about.

Don’t worry.

Glass Half FullI saw a few related communications this week on various media that I want to pass along. They triggered a fun memory from a Bob Newhart TV scene that seems appropriate to throw into a post on the topic. I’ll end on a deadly serious note.

The first of the items was a Facebook post from my friend, Pat, who shared from someone else a photo of a glass half filled with water along with the following text:

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired:”How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” 

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

Remember to put the glass down.

Pretty good advice, huh?

The second related item came in a morning newscast on TV while I was getting ready for work one day. One anchor was telling a story about people addicted to social media sites and all that some are going through with professional help to address that addiction. When she finished her story, the other anchor said: “or they could exercise self-discipline and log off.” My wife and I both laughed out loud at the simple, down-home advice that stood in stark contrast to the complex remedy for a formal diagnosis just discussed in the story.

Both the glass illustration and the “exercise self-discipline and log off” advice brought to mind a Bob Newhart TV scene from years ago. Take a few minutes and watch it:

Bob’s “stop it” advice makes us laugh, but the truth is that we don’t always want to stop our self-destructive behavior. Maybe we’re more comfortable with our familiar issues than with the unfamiliarity of changing behavior. Maybe we like our sin and don’t want to give it up in spite of the consequences. Maybe we really do need professional help with some behaviors that we honestly would love to stop but have not yet figured out how to do on our own.

I’m not taking lightly actual addictions or diseases. I’ve known too many people whose lives have been torn by the struggles and downward spirals caused by them. I’m no doctor, psychologist or therapist, nor do I play one on TV. It rings true, though, that not every behavioral issue is an emotional or physical illness deserving of a formal diagnosis and professional treatment. Sometimes we have to decide that we’re going to grow up, let go of things which hinder us, do what we know to be right, and move on to better ways of living.

The truth is that I don’t need to blame others or any condition for my bad behavior. I’m knowingly, willingly responsible for it when it happens. I need to accept that responsibility and make better decisions going forward. And for those times when I find it too difficult to do all alone, I know people and Someone higher who can help when called upon.

I’ll close with another video that was in the news this week by Matthew Cordle. He confessed in a YouTube video to driving the wrong way on a road and accidentally killing a man. His behavior was reprehensible, but at least he’s owning up to it and now facing the legal consequences.

Sometimes we need professional help to change our behavior, but sometimes we just need to stop it.

I do well under pressure.  Not much gets me out of sorts or frazzled.  In the midst of a crisis I’ll be a calming influence and, if possible, interject a little humor along the way to lighten the mood.

In academic study, the ability to do much over a short period of time has served me well.  In work situations, I can churn out a lot into the wee hours of the morning night after night if needed until the work is done.  Granted, I can’t keep at a lightning pace indefinitely, but it is possible when I know there is an end in sight.

This past weekend was an example of a lot of pressure on me over a short period of 48 hours.  It was all good pressure of places to be with other people, prepping for and officiating at a wedding, and prepping and teaching a class for a friend.  Individually, any of them would have made for a pleasant, enjoyable weekend, but together they made for quite a challenge.

I don’t take public speaking lightly.  I’m not about to wing it for a class I teach, much less a wedding I officiate.   So especially for the wedding, I wanted everything said and done to be perfect for the couple’s sake.  When it comes to my part, therefore, I script every word, rehearse it aloud dozens of times, and make constant edits up until the last possible moment to craft each word and be able to speak it as naturally as possible without relying heavily on notes.  I want to look into the couple’s eyes as I speak and reassure them with a smile and a comforting word and voice.

There were moments in preparation for the weekend’s events when I wasn’t quite sure how it was all going to come together, but I have traveled this road too many times to doubt that it would.

And it did.

Depending on the source of the quote, today’s lesson title comes either from Scottish Victorian-era writer Thomas Carlyle or indie film screenwriter Mary Case, but whichever first wrote it, I can attest to it’s truth.

Leap year lesson #171 is No pressure, no diamonds.