We are driving on Transcanada Hwy just past Swift Current, Saskatchewan heading home to Winnipeg. Every driver is supposed to drive at 110 km per hour on this highway. I am driving at 114 km/hr, just 4 km above the limit, not too bad. In front of us to the right is a line of truck, my assumption is that they too are driving at 114 km/hr because it is taking too long to pass them. We stay on the left side. As I attempt to pass the 6 trucks on the right lane, I see a sports car veer just behind us. They must be driving at around 130 km/hr. As we pass the first truck, I see car behind tailgating us, kind of putting pressure on me to speed up, coming just a few meters close to us. We accelerate to 119, he comes even closer.
I can not go faster than that to impress him…but he keeps on coming even closer. I choose not to yield to the pressure. These guy behind me is in a black BMW. I see him checking his phone, then making angry faces at me and getting closer and closer. I am feel threatened by his tailgating, I know that his car is too closer to us than it is safe, a bad accident could easily happen should I have a sudden need for to slow or stop for unforeseen circumstances ahead of me. I speed up alittle bit, thinking it might calm him down but it did not. We continue like that for the next ten kilometers until we finally passed all the trucks. Finally he zooms past us at a speed of lightening.
“I hope he does not get a ticket.”
I don’t how others feel when I was telling you this story; I have to be honest with you that when I first saw the car behind me I started to feel under pressure to speed past the trucks to give him a right of way. But as I thought through it I decided not to speed any faster, I knew that speeding was only one part of the solution of yielding to the driver’s behavior, I also knew I could show some anger or probably swear at him but that is not me….I wanted to handle the situation differently, I wanted to stay calm and allow him to pass as soon as I had a chance. I had to choose to keep my testosterone in check and I knew that deep in me I had that power of saying no to the tempting spirit.
We all experience pressures in our lives. We feel pressured to perform, to conform and please others. We experience financial pressures, social pressures, career and professional pressures – pressures in relationships, (marriages, partnerships, parenting, etc.). We want to pin the blame for pressure. In this situations we feel that we need to take our power back from these external forces. And, this accurate – when we are experiencing pressure, it’s a signal that we have an opportunity to call our energy and power back to ourselves. We just get confused on how to do that.
The dictionary defines pressure as stress, a constant state of worry and urgency. It’s a force that pushes or urges, (emphasis on force). To pressure is to compel, or make someone do something. Some pressures are healthy, and even necessary. The adrenaline rush we feel at the start of a new project, or when we have a deadline approaching, helps motivate us. But when we try to do too much, all the time, stress becomes the enemy – quite literally. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, raises the body’s metabolic rate in readiness for a ‘fight or flight’ response. It increases heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. It affects background body functions too, like digestion, cell division and even our reproductive processes — putting them on hold until calm returns.
Being on constant alert and able to react to an imminent, life-threatening emergency is great when you need it, but living constantly in that state is detrimental. Stress affects our ability to think clearly and remember things; it has been shown to increase the likelihood of depression and can exacerbate health risks like stroke and heart disease. It also impacts our immune systems, which scientists now fear can impair our ability to fight cancer. Thus, unrealistic worries are over-reactions to a tolerable situation or a prolonged over-reaction to a threatening situation that can not be avoided. But how can you be sure a situation won’t cause trouble? You can’t. How can you be sure you won’t handle the problem any better if you worried about it a lot more? You can’t be. However, we can learn to recognize extreme over-reactions, e.g. being terrified while flying or obsessing for hours about an insoluble problem. But a little worry about crashing while flying is realistic and some thought is necessary to know that you can’t do much about a problem. So, how much time should you devote to a particular problem? There isn’t an exact answer; that’s why some of us let anxiety overwhelm us.
Many a times, we all find ourselves under pressure similar to my tailgate experience, we feel pressure, spoken and unspoken, to do everything and be everything, pressure to provide for your family, to be available to everyone, to meet company targets, to attend every meeting, to keep engaged, to have meaningful and well-maintained relationships. And as we well know, as we grow up we are taught by the people or our environments that we should suck up when we are pressure. We start on a journey that I call survival journey, you start to say, “I just want to get through today.” or, “Just one more party and it’s over.” We start to walk through sad places where we quit to enjoying the season s, the presence, others and starts trying to get through it instead. Beyond stressing about your general workload, if you dwell on the related risks and get wrapped up in thoughts of what could go wrong, you generate patterns of fear that start to seem normal. You get so used to being afraid that you actually start to accept it as a sign that you’re working hard: “Oh, I’ve got to give a big presentation, so I’ve got to be nervous.” That sort of thing.
Over the years I have learnt a thing or two about working under pressure. I have learnt that when one acts or live under intense pressure one start to create survival environments for themselves. I have seen people who live in survival journey making impulsive judgments, angrily rushing to bring closure to whatever matter is at hand. He or she feeling is compelled to get the problem under control immediately, to extinguish the perceived danger lest it destroy him or her. When one lives in survival journey they are robbed of their flexibility, their sense of humor, their ability to deal with the unknown. They forget the big picture and the goals and values they stand for. They lose their “cool” or feeling at peace, they lose their creativity.
I can’t help but think we’re a lot like that when life presses down on us. When the pressure gets too intense, we start looking for ways to bail ourselves out from under the thumb of circumstances that seem too much to handle. And all too often we are tempted to bail in terms of our attitudes, feeling angry, bitter, or even mad at God—or anyone else we can blame our problems on. Or, we are tempted to bail in our actions by refusing to persevere in righteous ways.
Apparently, gaining a sense of mastery or learning one is able to handle problems early in life, e.g. in monkeys who get good mothering and social support when young, seems to protect the adult from serious anxiety. Although fears are generally based on primitive automatic emotional reactions, more intense panic and specific fears occur when we feel particularly vulnerable–open to being seriously hurt. Some of this vulnerability may be genetic tendencies but much is probably learned, often at an early age. How are these dangers, these “Wow, that scares the hell out of me!” reactions, learned? Sometimes, we see the actual results of a real danger–a heart attack, an auto accident, someone going crazy–and we vividly imagine that might happen to us. Examples: Panic attacks often are exacerbated by the scary thoughts that the tightness in my chest and high anxiety means I’m dying from a heart attack, going to faint, going crazy, etc. Such thoughts greatly increase the panic.
Sometimes, we are given specific instructions by others to expect danger, e.g. some social phobics have been told that interacting with others can be disastrous–“they will think you are stupid or weird,” “you can’t trust them,” “you’ll make a fool of yourself,” etc. Sometimes, we have started to think in a certain way (the source may be totally unknown–a TV, movie, book, or just our own fantasy as a child) that implies some situation is dangerous. Examples of this might be: “Oh, what I just said sounded really selfish… dumb… critical… ” which grows into “I’m going to mess up when I talk to them,” “I’m not good at socializing,” “I can’t think of anything to say,” or “I get really uptight and start to sweat when I try to talk to someone.” We can create, in effect, our own dangers, and may be especially prone to do that if we are given certain genes and childhood experiences.
Norman Vincent Peale tells how a young business man asked him to talk with his father, the head of their business. He said. “I’m very worried about Dad. He is so nervous and tense. There are so many pressures and problems in the business and my Dad is giving way under them.” Dr Peale encouraged him to relax and talk over his problem of pressure in the business. After a time, Dr Peale said to him, “I don’t suppose you ever read the Scriptures do you?”
“Certainly I do” the man replied. Dr Peale said, “You read them but you don’t practice them.”
“Of course I practice them, I’m a moral man.”
“I wasn’t talking morals and ethics, I was talking about the healing power of God. Have you ever read the 26th chapter of Isaiah, 3rd verse – ‘You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you’?” Peale then went on to explain that the father had not been keeping his mind on God, he’d let it dwell too much on his problems. He urged him to repeat the text three times a day to get it fixed in his mind and heart. Faith in God, more than anything else, helps us to keep things in perspective and cuts our pressures down to size
It boils down to whether or not we want comfort or character. You or I may think that life should be a bed of roses, but if that’s your take on life, you’re in for a big surprise—trouble happens! The issue is not if you will face trials, it’s how you will respond to the inevitable pressure that the problems of life bring. It may be that you face pressure at work. In the face of a seemingly insurmountable project, it’s easy to think, “If I just fudge a little bit I could get this job done faster.” Or, when the problems at home won’t go away, we find ourselves wondering, “Maybe I’ll just leave so I won’t have to deal with this anymore.” The sin of pride causes us to respond to problems with thoughts like, “I don’t deserve this.” And soon our attitudes are in the dumper and God’s work is derailed.