A blog series on the Biblical approach to self-care for people in ministry profession to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue.
by Julia Bruce
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn
from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and
you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy
and My burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)
You can’t go through life and avoid every stressor. Some stresses can be managed by changing the circumstances. This means that we work to improve how we communicate with others and look for ways to improve how we live our lives. Learning to communicate well is essential to stress management. James 1:19 says, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” I don’t think it was unintentional that God gave us one mouth and two ears. He wanted us to listen twice as much as we speak. However, too often we find it more necessary to “speak our mind” and make someone understand our side in a situation that we don’t take time to listen – really listen – to their side. Good listening skills have to be developed and it takes practice. However, everyone is able to develop listening skills. When listening, you should always face the person that is speaking and make eye-contact with them. Try to relax, even if the situation is tense. It will put the other person more at ease also. Pay attention. Don’t let your mind wander off thinking about something else or try to come up with what you will say next. Try to keep an open mind by understanding that their side of the issues is as important to them as yours is to you. Even if you disagree, give the other person the respect of listening and hearing what they have to say. Don’t interrupt them while they are speaking. Interrupt gives the impression that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. It also sends the message to the other person that you do not value their opinion and that you don’t care what they have to say. When the person speaking comes to the end or a break in what they are saying, ask questions to clarify that you have heard them correctly. Effective communication only occurs when the listener both hears and understands what is being said. By asking questions, you are able to confirm that what they intended to communicate is what you understand. This will remove the stress of miscommunication. Pay attention to the speakers body language. Sometimes more is said without words than with words. Body language and facial expression tell us more about how the speaker feels than the words themselves. Likewise, check you own body language and be sure you are not communicating something that you don’t intend. Lastly, give the speaker proof that you are listening with short feedback phrases such as, “I can see you are angry right now” or “That must have been the highlight of you day.”
Listening effectively is important but so is having the ability to express your own thoughts and feelings. If you are not able to approach people and let them know something is bothering you or that you have a great idea, learn how to approach others in a respectful way and let them know what is bothering you or share your idea. Keeping your thoughts to yourself will likely build resentment and take your stress levels up a notch.
Because we are human and we all come from different backgrounds in life, there will be times where it will be necessary to work towards compromise rather than a solution. We need to be able to identify where compromise can be a solution and where compromise is not possible. If the situation goes directly against the Bible then there is no compromise. However, you need to be able to back up with Scripture why you are not able to compromise.
We can also change the circumstances that cause stress by improving the way we lives our lives. This means we need to be sure our priorities are in the right order and that our schedule is well-balanced with spiritual, family, work, play, and rest. When any of these get out of order or we are not devoting enough time to one and too much time to another, the other areas begin to hurt and we risk a higher chance of stress, burnout, and/or compassion fatigue.
This blog is part 12 in a series. Be sure to begin with part 1.
Return on Monday, October 29th for the next blog in the series
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