Ten years ago, I was privileged to be part of Group Four of the Arkansas Conference's Connected in Christ ministry. Taking the Birkman personality assessment was a significant part of this project. Birkman identifies your usual style, your needs, your interests, and your stress behaviors. The report is generally used for leadership development, team building and conflict management. Most of the report was familiar to me - I wasn't surprised to learn I was a "blue" or learn the traits that were identified as my strengths and interests. What I had not seen before were my stressers.
Now most of us do not like to admit the things that stress us. We prefer to give the appearance of being cool, calm, and collected, especially those of us who strive for continual competence. While I found it helpful ten years ago, I had forgotten just how accurately it nailed me. Until this afternoon. My associate pastor and I were discussing our upcoming planning meeting and I mentioned the Birkman for a future retreat. I pulled out my report and there it was:
Under stress people with the Square in this quadrant:
ignore social convention
find it hard to act
see the worst possibilities
Yep, that is me. Truthfully, it would be nice if it were a description of someone else but no, not so. When faced with too many stress factors, I stand on the shore line with the tsunami coming and I do not move. If that were not enough, it also suggests I may become impatient and restless, self-protective and distracted, and overly cautious. Yes, I have been there and in the not so distant past.
The thing is not to beat yourself over the head or think the sky is falling. Everyone has stress factors and we all react to stress in different ways. Some become distrustful and domineering, others become dismissive, and some become obsessed with following rules. We are human. In this age of economic uncertainty, political polarization, and cultural changes, we are all facing stress. We see it at work, in our homes, at school, and even within the congregation. The key is developing the ability to recognize stress behaviors in ourselves and stress behaviors in others. The colleague that just dismissed you may not be reacting to you but to other situations that have nothing to do with you. For those of us in ministry, whether by vocation or service, it becomes crucial not to judge each other in stress but to find ways to help our brother or sister in Christ deal effectively with their own stess behaviors and stressers.
Fortunately, most of us have at least one person in our lives that will hold up the mirror and ask what we see. They cannot fix it - their job is to help us see our own reflection and how others are responding to it. Yes, the tsunami was coming but thankfully, my feet have finally lifted out of the sand....but truthfully, there will probably be a next time....