How to Overcome Over-Functioning
Are you feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities? As the to-do lists and projects continue to grow, are doubts filling your mind with thoughts of failure? Are you afraid you’ll miss a looming deadline or, worse, never finish? As these thoughts swirl through your mind, do you continue to take on more projects and responsibilities while refusing to delegate or seek assistance with your current projects?
Sound familiar? As women, we typically handle far more than our share of the load. We balance family, career, calling, and service. Over the years, we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that it’s our responsibility, and handing it (whatever it is) off to someone else would seem irresponsible or worse, we might appear to be incapable. So, we take on the Martha mindset and run ourselves to the point of exhaustion due to the unrealistic expectations we tend to place on ourselves. And that’s when we begin to over-function.
So why am I writing about this topic? Because the holidays are approaching, we are still dealing with a pandemic, and the pressure is building just like that pressure cooker stored away that you never use. Today, my friend, it’s time to turn the handle and gently release the pressure. Let it go.
The Art of Letting Go
It took me years to master the art of letting go, and truth be told, I’m still working on it each day. I did not understand the significance of letting go until God showed me the importance of surrender (and I still have my days). It was when my lack of coping brought me to my knees. It wasn’t pretty. Don’t judge. But remember, we are imperfect women loved by a perfect God.
What is over-functioning? I’ll use the well-known phrase, “never do for others what they can do for themselves.” Sound familiar?
Making It Happen
Are you a make it happen kind of gal? Are you prone to stepping in and making things happen to “get it done?” Do you believe that if you don’t step in, it won’t get done? Do you take on much more than you should because you think it’s your responsibility? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you just may be in the front running for being an over-functioner. Again, no judgment.
Don’t get me wrong. We need to be responsible, and we should do our fair share of the lifting. However, we should not say yes to every task and every ask. Worse yet, we cannot fix everything! Why? Because it’s not our job!
If we run around taking on everyone’s responsibility or trying to fix everyone and everything, how will they learn? You know who they are – right? It’s the people around you that you are doing their job or taking on their load. It’s not good for them, and it’s not good for you!
As women leaders, it is our responsibility to equip, encourage, and empower our spouses, children, family members, friends, and colleagues. This can only be done through delegation and honoring boundaries.
So, let’s take a look at the downside of over-functioning and how we, as women leaders, can overcome this need to fix and help everyone and everything.
Over-Functioning Leads to Burn Out
In Exodus 18, we find Moses struggling with the demands of being a leader and solving disputes among the Israelites. Moses was leading an entire nation, and he was attempting to carry out this enormous responsibility on his own. When his father-in-law came to visit, Jethro was disheartened by the situation and pointed out the unhealthiness of it, “Then Jethro said, ‘You are not doing this right. You will wear yourself out and these people as well. This is too much for you to do alone.’” Exodus 18:17-18 GNT.
Jethro saw the work was too heavy for Moses to do alone, and he warned Moses that it was not healthy to take on this responsibility. He goes further to advise Moses that his role is to teach the people how to live by God’s standards. He advised Moses to appoint Godly men to serve as helpers. These helpers were to listen to the people and bring the difficult issues to Moses, not the simple concerns they could handle themselves. Do you recognize the boundaries being put into place and how the load was distributed?
It’s all too easy to think we must handle everything on our own, but this is a lie. We were not created to do life alone. God does not expect us to take on the responsibilities of those around us. We are not to enable others to the point of under-functioning. To do such a thing will only exhaust us and create an imbalanced partnership. God desires to work through us. We are the vessel, but we are each accountable for ourselves and to share the load. We are created for community, and it is expected we work with others to accomplish God’s will just as Moses was called to do.
Challenge: Review your to-do list, take one item from your list this week and ask for help or hand it off to another capable person. If you’re unsure, seek God’s direction through prayer and meditation.
Over-Functioning Leads to Self-defeating Behaviors
Self-defeating behaviors hold us back. Self-defeating behaviors will result in actions that sabotage our efforts and hinder our growth and the growth of others. Negative thinking, perfectionism, people-pleasing, comparison, and the inability to ask for help are some of the self-defeating behaviors that lead to over-functioning.
Jethro understood the costs of over-functioning. He saw that the burden of dealing with everyone’s grievances was too much for Moses, and he proposed a better way. As shared in Exodus 18:19-23, Jethro recommended Moses delegate to capable, trustworthy men.
The first step, Jethro observed, and after reflecting upon the situation, he advised Moses. Notice Jethro did not step in and begin to help Moses with the issue. He did not select the men himself, nor did he overstep in a futile attempt to fix the problem. Jethro counseled his son-in-law and warned him of the consequences if he did not make a change. As I reflect on Exodus 18, I wonder if I would have taken the same approach as Jethro, or would I have jumped in feet first with an over-enthusiastic desire to help my friend only to make matters worse.
As we lead, it’s not our job to overstep and correct every situation. God has gifted each of us with unique gifts and abilities. It’s essential to our spiritual growth and others’ growth that roles are filled with a variety of people chosen by God. Delegating tasks and seeking help reduces the burden on us and allows others to contribute as well. It’s disciple-making at its best.
Ephesians 4:11-12 GNT addresses the importance of disciple-making, “It was he who ‘gave gifts to people’; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.”
Challenge: Are there women under your guidance who would like to be included, and who have the qualities needed to help? What can you do to encourage others to use their spiritual giftings to serve?
Do you relate more to Martha or Mary? For me, it can be either on any given day. Those days I prioritize and place God at the center, I surrender to God, and I am at peace. And then, it happens, those days I wake up and find myself anxious and restless because my focus is no longer God-centered but me-centered.
On days such as these, I allow perfectionism, comparison, or uncertainty to drive me to over-functioning. Yes, I get things done but at what cost? My spiritual, mental, and physical wellness are affected, and let’s not forget how it impacts my family and friends.
I know first-hand the struggle with letting go. Handing off a project or task, certainly, if it’s an idea we birthed, can be quite challenging. But delegating or asking for help is so necessary to our growth and wellbeing. As we’ve shared, when we over-function, not only do we face the possibility of burn out (and there is a 100% chance you will burn out), but when we refuse to seek help, we are also communicating that we are not trusting others to do the job. We tell ourselves that we are the only ones capable of doing the job, and honestly, this just isn’t true.
This type of thinking always leads to over-functioning, and when we step into over-functioning, we are stepping over boundaries and stepping on toes! How’s this working out for your relationships? I will confess over-functioning places great stress on our relationships. Just look at Martha complaining to Jesus about her sister Mary. She actually cried out to Jesus and said, “Lord, tell her to help me!” And what was His response?
“The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha! You are worried and troubled over so many things, but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the right thing, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42 GNT
Challenge: Take time this week to reflect on your relationships. Are there any boundaries that you have overstepped due to over-functioning? If so, seek God’s direction for how to correct the issue and improve your relationships.
The Right Thing
Are you choosing the right thing? Have you chosen to over-function, or do you prefer to sit at the feet of Jesus? My desire is to sit at the feet of Jesus. I want to live a God-centered life, using my gifts and abilities to serve. My passion is to live life in the fullness of Christ and not the fullness of my self-inflated importance. As my friends say, less of me more of Him.
How are you doing? Let’s take a moment today and seek God’s help to overcome over-functioning. Let’s take time to be still and be present so we can hear His voice leading us. Let’s not allow our circumstances, the pandemic, the holidays, or any other situation to steal our joy. I want so much to hear God say, “Well done, Robin. You loved, you served, and you obeyed.” What do you need to hear God say to you today?
“Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace. For example, if you have a speaking gift, speak as though God spoke his words through you. If you have the gift of serving, do it passionately with the strength God gives you, so that in everything God alone will be glorified through Jesus Christ. For to him belong the power and the glory forever throughout all ages! Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 TPT
What’s your desire? How can I pray for you? Is there anything I can help you with this week?