Have you noticed that two people can have the same experience yet react very differently? It is in this observation that one of the big secrets of stress is revealed. There is a saying attributed to Dale Carnegie which goes “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw the mud, one saw the stars”.
Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor wrote in 170 AD “Everything is what your opinion makes of it, and that opinion is within yourself”. Similarly, a philosopher named Epic Tetus wrote “People are disturbed not by things, but the views they take of them”.
So, here’s a thought for you. Many of the things we label stressful may not be stressful in their own right, they only become so in your reactions. Stress, you see, is not the event, it is your reactions or response to that event.
Of course, there are some events which are so overwhelming, take a tsunami as an example, that everyone in its path will respond with extreme stress.
But in the quieter waters of your week there will be many events that wash up on your shores and the stress factor is entirely down to how you react.
This is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that you become responsible for your stress levels. The good news is that you can take control over your stress levels.
I have opened this series by illustrating some aspects of the stress prone personality. If you are a little stress prone it will be related to how you respond to events or people, not just the events themselves.
You only have to look at Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to capture the variety of responses to his donkey ride into town. The crowds saw a King, the authority saw a threat, his friends saw a liberator, the children saw a donkey. Each reaction played out with dramatic consequences.
We will look at that part of the story another time but let me use the Christmas story to illustrate my point.
Mary received astonishing news that she was to be the mother of the Messiah, the King of the Jews. Herod also received news of the King’s arrival. Mary’s response was praise and trust, Herod’s ended in murderous rage. Mary saw it as an honor, Herod as a threat. Mary was calm, Herod was explosive.
The responses were related not just to the event (or Advent) but to who was receiving the news, what they believed and how they saw it.
If you can capture this thinking, you’re on the first steps of a big journey to understand and reduce stress in your soul.
Work well today,
© Geoff Shattock February 2019
38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
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