No one becomes a pastor with the intention of burning out.
But when news hit this week that a well-known pastor had resigned because he was burned out, one of the leaders in our church asked me the question that I want to ask you…
Are you burning out?
My immediate response to the question was ‘no.’ But just to make sure, I went home and made a list of warning signs—call them symptoms of burnout. See if you recognize any of these in your life:
1. I want people who have hurt me to suffer. Instead of naming and dealing with my hurt, I project that hurt on someone else. Nursing a grudge effectively blocks my heart from experiencing healing, forgiveness, acceptance and love.
2. I self-medicate in ways that nobody else knows. You think I’m strong, but that’s just because I don’t want to feel sadness. But I need to feel something so I turn to anything or anyone who will make me feel like I matter. Turning to my drug of choice (food, alcohol, sexual release, narcotics, etc., etc., etc.) has made me a master of justifying my sin while making excuses for why I can’t mortify my sin.
3. I don’t sleep well because I’m overwhelmed by anxiety. Today was painful, and there’s no end in sight. How could I possibly sleep until I’ve turned over every rock that I can imagine to make sure that tomorrow won’t be more of the same?
4. I struggle to care about anyone or anything. How do I respond to a growing sense of loneliness? I defiantly act like nothing and no one matters. You can’t hurt me anymore because I don’t love you enough or hate you enough to care about you. Try to get close to me and you’ll pay for it by my cold indifference.
5. I’m ready to flip tables when people around me aren’t perfect. I’m scared to death that you’ll abandon me if you knew the truth about me. So here’s what I’ll do—I’ll threaten to leave YOU. I’ll punish you. I’ll give you the silent treatment. I’ll tear into you with my words and maybe even my fists. Don’t believe me? Just ask my spouse, my kids and my co-workers. All of them know who’s boss.
6. I act like I care about people, but I’m just using them. I have worked hard to earn my reputation as someone who really, really cares about people. I’m always available to help people, to encourage people, to be their pastor and friend. What they don’t know is that the hospital visits and the text messages and the looks of concern are ultimately about me. I’ll do whatever it takes for them to think I’m amazing. Don’t believe me? Ask me when is the last time I took a day off.
7. I have no one who I can talk to honestly without fear of losing my job. The last time I had an honest, unfiltered conversation with someone was during the Bush administration. No, not W. His dad.
8. I avoid God. Do you know how easy it is to look like I have a relationship with God when I talk about him every Sunday? Do we need to walk through the litany of reasons in my life to prove that God is out to get me? I could wrestle through that, but what good does that do? I’ll just fill my life with so much other stuff that the only time I have available to open a Bible is when I’m trying to put something together for my sermon.
Do the Next Right Thing
Odds are you probably don’t feel all of that right now—but you might. And I’m hoping God has graced you with enough courage and self-awareness to recognize yourself in some of these symptoms.
If any of these symptoms are true for you today, please press pause on your day and take 10 minutes to read this post on solutions for symptoms of burnout. It might be the difference between you thriving as a healthy, happy human being and becoming a statistic.