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Our primary calling is not to serve people or meet their demands but to be available to God: to know him and worship him. So we must say ‘no’ to some things so that our ‘yeses’ will have meaning.

A young man talked to his pastor about his conflicts between work and family. The wise pastor replied: ‘serving your family is the Lord’s work’.

Our calling to serve others is always a limited call, for specific tasks. We are not called to be Messiahs, but baton-carriers in life’s relay, handing it on to the next person. Workaholics often masquerade as devoted servants, but really it is a sickness, an addiction, a desire to control, an insatiable appetite for ‘glory’. ‘Work enthusiasts’ on the other hand are healthier, are generally better delegators. Be enthusiastic about your job, but do not let it define you.

Stress is what life is about: it is necessary for our wholeness. But when stress produces distress, it’s destructive. Some of the effects of ‘distress’ are reversible, others irreversible. One person out of four in the U.S. – 65 million – suffers from hypertension/ high blood pressure: a state directly attributable to stress. One million of these will die this year from the effects of heart disease. Further: one in 8/9 suffers from a serious gastro-intestinal problem. 50-60 million have sleep problems. One mental health authority says panic-anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem U.S. women suffer. For men it’s second, after drug and alcohol abuse.

Stress and burnout are not the same. One can contribute to the other, but most suffer from one or the other. Stress produces physical exhaustion, a loss of physical energy. Burnout is emotional exhaustion. We have fragile minds and bodies – clay pots, Paul calls them – and we have no mandate to abuse them. We die a little each day. The question is: Are we dying too much, or too quickly? Are we spiritually disciplined, caring for these fragile vessels?

If you are not careful you will burnout. Burnout is emotional exhaustion. You’ve lost your dream, your ideals. Your emotional resources are inadequate to meet your emotional needs. Rewards are inadequate for the sacrifices involved. You are over-extended. You lack a sense of fulfillment. There’s inadequate appreciation or encouragement from the support-people above you. If there’s an inability to get such support from your ‘superior’ (accountability is an important principle here) demoralization occurs. Extroverts experience little burnout if their supports are in place, but introverts have a lot of burnout despite the degree of support (they often don’t know how to use support systems). The mark of a good leader/ manager is to sense the need of support and offer it regularly and appropriately.

Remember people who understand that money isn’t what’s most important live fulfilled lives. If you do not have sense of purpose you are lost. You can’t enjoy life by obsessing over work.  Money is only an unfortunate necessity. It does not dictate your worth as a person.

{For more from Oretha Winston follow her on Twitter}

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