Rising Strong: reacting to anxiety

Everyone deals with anxiety, some of us more than others. Two typical responses are:

  • Overfunctioning – Keeping busy doing something – anything! – to keep our feelings from catching up with us. Not only will we refuse to delegate, we will rip to-dos from the hands of others. (This is my default.)
  • Underfunctioning – Allowing emotion to immobilize us. It embodies the attitude, “I can’t fix things, so why try?”

A bit of one or the other might serve us well in the short term. In times of crisis, there’s often a need to TCB (take care of business). Or we may need to stop in our tracks before we do or say something irreversible out of anxiety. But in the long run, neither over- nor underfunctioning serves us well. It’s basic physics – an object in motion will stay in motion, and an object at rest will stay at rest.

Creative Commons "Inertia (1 of 2)" by brett jordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Creative Commons “Inertia (1 of 2)” by brett jordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It’s not just individuals that are prone to inertia. Communities can over- and underfunction as a collective. A congregation that is so afraid of shrinking numbers that it never takes time to evaluate its many ministries will press on until it has run off anyone interested in innovation. A church that is so depressed that it can’t dream or discern or do will slowly die off (spiritually and numerically).

There is no way to avoid the hard work of connecting the dots:

  • What am I (are we) feeling? What won’t I let myself (we let ourselves) feel, and why?
  • How did I (we) get here?
  • What can I (we) control?
  • Given what I (we) can control, what is the first step in moving forward?

Rising strong from tough situations requires us to combine the best aspects of under- and overfunctioning. We must feel, and we must do.

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