Have you noticed that confusion can be stressful? Ironically, confusion about stress itself can be stressful. The words that you use can add to your stress whereas a clear understanding can be a solvent of confusion leading to an awareness of steps to stress-reduction.
Perhaps you sometimes use the words “pressure” and “stress” as if they meant the same thing. They do not. Knowing the difference can make a difference.
Pressure speaks a little for itself. It is that which presses on you. It can be a sense of something pressing down on you like a demand from a boss or a heavy workload. It may be a sense of something pressing in on you from around you like demands from team members, coworkers, clients or the public. Then there is the pressure rising-up such as demands from reports or staff who may work for you.
Less easy to describe is that which presses from the inside of you such as a demand that you place on yourself to achieve a high standard or hit a target, or please others.
The list is endless, but the idea is the same. It is some force which seeks to shape you to its timetable or world view.
You already know that pressure is not necessarily bad. A deadline can be helpful, a push can move you forwards, a nudge can stop you making a mistake. Pressure can help you win, achieve and be satisfied.
Stress, on the other hand, is found in your reaction to pressure. Stress is always a reaction. An event or person can be pressurizing but not automatically stressful. Pressure develops into stress according to how you react.
It’s not any old reaction; it is the angry reaction which generates the stress. If you react with prolonged anger to a pressure, then stress occurs.
For some people there is a pattern of behaviour which quickly turns anger into pressure. Its a pattern we all have to an extent, but character, personality, and family history can harden that pattern into a default habit.
When writing his opus letter to the Christians in the global capital city of Rome, Paul urged them not to conform to the pattern of this world. The pattern of anger in response to pressure would certainly be high on his list.
In another translation it reads, “Do not let the world squeeze you into its mould”. Can you see the pressure?
He proposes an alternative. Instead of conformation he speaks of transformation. This transformation involves a new way of thinking (remember repentance, a change of your mind?)
Paul is proposing that you react differently to the pressure pattern. But there is an important detail here.
You cannot control all the pressures that come your way. They don’t always start with you. But you can control how you react. Don’t be fooled into thinking that its just about you learning to think differently. Paul’s language says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. He is not saying transform yourself.
Which bit then, do you control? The clue is in his earlier words. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices”; that’s the bit that you control. Put yourself on the altar, consciously and deliberately, then God will work on you and with you to enable you to react differently to pressure. That’s a world of difference. We will visit this again.
Work well today,
© Geoff Shattock March 2019
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
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