People Pleasing, Relationships, Stress, Work

Laura’s Story: Responding Defensively to Work Stress

I struggle with work stress as a high school counselor. The stress varies from situation to situation, but each produces a similar reaction in me: defensiveness.

People often come to me with questions and I generally love sharing my knowledge. However, sometimes when I am asked certain questions, I can react short and defensively.

Also, when I have challenging student situations that I can’t solve quickly (like on-going depression and/or anxiety resulting in low school performance), I feel helpless because there is only so much I can do. Or when someone emails me angry about something, especially if it was a situation I spent time proactively to avoid or if it was due to an error by someone else, I get very defensive. I find myself wanting to “over explain” and to lay out all the steps I took. 

Lord of problem solving

In these situations, I am reminded that Jesus is Lord over others and sees their pain and challenging situations. While He may use me to help them, it’s not up to me to solve these problems. He is the God who created me and gives me the gifts I have in relation to my work.

The Lord is compassionate to those in need and comforts us in our afflictions, so that we may comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). So when I am feeling stressed and worried, I have access to the peace of God, which guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).

Pride at the root

The fear of man is my main sin issue in my work stress and defensive responses. I want others to feel that I am knowledgeable and good at my job. I am afraid it will reflect poorly on me if situations aren’t solved. I get defensive when I have done everything “right” and people are still frustrated by the situation. I often take things like this personally, even when the person may just be expressing their concerns and not pointing blame at me.

Pride is underneath this “people pleasing” or “fear of man.” Ultimately, I am caring more about what others think of me than what God thinks.

Slander/gossip is another sin issue here. I might “vent” or gossip in agreement to fit in my co-workers (again, the fear of man), but sometimes it’s just passive aggressiveness instead of talking to the person I am angry with.

Worthy because of the Savior

Thankfully, Jesus Christ is my Savior, and He has died for these and all of my sins (Romans 5:8, 6:23)! And because of His resurrection, I have a new life in Christ, and I can trust that He will help me resist temptation (1 Cor. 10:12-13).

When I am feeling less than or prideful, God says that I am worthwhile because of what Jesus has done, not because of anything I do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Scripture says that Jesus is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Therefore, He will give me peace in this situation, and He is the ultimate Counselor when I feel that I can only do so much to help my students. Jesus is also the only one who can fully change hearts, and He is able to bring my students and co-workers to saving faith in Him.

Responding in faith

By faith, I can praise Jesus for who He is. I can come before Him honestly and confess my sins.

I can approach His throne of grace and pray for the means to help my students and co-workers (Heb. 4:16). I can ask that He would equip me to glorify Him in my work. I can ask Him to work in me, my students, and my co-workers for His glory and not my own. I can pray over these situations instead of trying to solve them within my own strength.

Through the power and help of the Holy Spirit, I can change my way of thinking. Instead of being annoyed at a co-worker, I can humbly appreciate their trust in my input and feedback. Instead of being frustrated that I can’t solve all my students’ issues, I can look at them as opportunities to show them God’s love, even if it’s just by listening and letting them know I’m in their corner advocating for them. I can remember that I am working for the Lord and not man (Colossians 3:23), and that my performance isn’t what defines me.

These responses will help develop the fruits of the Spirit such as self-control, gentleness, kindness, and peace. This is the heart I want and a faith I want to live by.

Laura has been a high school counselor for 10 years. She has been attending the Orchard since 2015 and lives in Wauconda with her dog, Bella. She is passionate about working out, volleyball and gathering around the table for good food with family and friends.

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