The Bad News About Burnout, Part Four

In the past few posts, we’ve been talking about burnout and how it can have a severe impact on our health, our time and even our calling in life.  Today, I want to show you how our burnout can affect others in our lives without us even realizing it.

And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. - Exodus 18:17-18

Did you catch what Jethro said to Moses?  He warned him that not only would he wear himself out but also the people that were with him.  How?  Well, for one thing, the people came out and stood in line for hours on end waiting for their turn to stand before Moses and have their disputes settled.  Knowing human nature, I have to think that it was not a quiet or peaceful line.  So, hour after hour, people stood in the desert sun in the midst of strife and turmoil, waiting for just a few moments of Moses’ time.  Want a present day picture?  Think DMV, though they do, at least, have seats.  Is it any wonder Jethro was concerned about the health of the people?  But that’s not all.

Let’s face it, when we’re tired and worn out, we are not the best versions of ourselves, are we?  We get grouchy, irritated, short-tempered and unfocused.  Moses, though a great man, was still just a man.  He was subject to fatigue and the moodiness that follows just as we are.  Can you imagine being that tired and having to listen to people’s complaints day after day?  That’s enough to make anyone crabby!  But here’s the problem:  the more tired and frustrated Moses became, the more his judgment lapsed.  I have no doubt that there were issues that Moses didn’t handle correctly simply because he was too tired to think straight.  It happens, but what we often fail to realize is that our decisions affect the people around us.  First off, that moodiness is contagious, and it doesn’t take long for it to infect everyone around us.  Second, when we make poor decisions, someone (and maybe several someones) will have to face the consequences.  When we stretch ourselves too thin, we are not capable of making right decisions consistently, and it impacts everyone around us.

Lastly, without even realizing it, Moses was stealing from the people.  He was supposed to be teaching them, instructing them in the ways of God, but because he was so caught up in solving their problems, he let it slip.  In a sense, he was creating a need among the people.  They needed him to solve their problems.  No one else could do it.  No one else knew or understood the law.  They needed Moses more than they needed anything else, including God. . .or so they thought.  But what would have happened to the people if Moses had died before actually teaching them anything?  What were they supposed to do then?  When I studied to become a teacher and then went on to teach other up and coming teachers, there was one lesson that was stressed above all else— you are there to help the students not to do the work for them!  It sounds simple, but until you’ve had to sit and watch a child struggle with a problem for hours, you won’t understand just how difficult it is.  Compassion says you give them the answer.  Pity tells you to give another hint.  But love understands that they have to learn to do it themselves because you won’t always be there to help.  Love teaches.

Think about it, even Jesus chose twelve disciples when He walked on the earth.  Why?  Was the task too big for Him?  Of course not.  He may have been a man, but He was still God.  No, Jesus chose disciples (which means learner) so that He could teach them and they could, in turn, go on to teach others, even after He was gone.  If Jesus saw the need to train others, why don’t we?

Moses had a valid argument. . .almost.  There wasn’t anyone else qualified to do the work he was doing.  True, but that didn’t have to be the case.  The same is true in our lives.  Perhaps we have taken on certain responsibilities because we feel we are the only ones qualified.  That may be true, but is it possible that our time might be better spent teaching others to do it instead of trying to do it all ourselves?  Moses discovered the answer to that question, and I pray that we will too. . . hopefully, before we ruin lives in the midst of our burnout.