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Posted on February 2nd, 2009

Geri and I have been working on her book, “I Quit”, since last summer. One to our themes relates to overfunctioning. Most of us in leadership struggle with this, including myself. Like an archeological tell, the depth of the issue only becomes clearer with time. Overfunctioning can be defined as: doing for others what they can and should do for themselves. One way to remind yourself to settle down and wait upon the Lord and His timing  is to remember the following five principles: 1. Overfunctioning disguises itself as caring Martha disguised her overfunctioning as caring for the needs of others. In trying to accomplish too much, she lost sight of herself and her guest – Christ Himself! She offered hospitality at the expense of herself.  She confused caring about someone with having to take care of them. 2. Overfunctioning perpetuates immaturity In Exodus 18, Moses mistakenly believed his self-sacrifice was serving the people. In actuality, he became the largest obstacle, the bottleneck to the people’s growth and maturity. In Numbers 11, the Israelites demanded a rescue from their pain. Moses accepted the role. In doing so, he ensured their continued immature behavior. 3. Overfunctioning prevents me from focusing on my own life direction. Jesus, at the end of his life, said, “I have completed the work you have given me to do.” Unlike Jesus, we easily get sidetracked from our own life direction by over-focusing on others. Overfunctioning toward others often results in underfunctioning for oneself. When I am overly-focused on others, I lose sight of my own values, beliefs and goals. 4. Overfunctioning erodes my spiritual life. One of the subtle yet most insidious effects of overfunctioning is how it separates us from God. When we cross the line into running God’s world for him, we enter into dangerous territory, into the very rebellion of our first parents. When I am overfunctioning, I don’t stop enough to allow God to be God. For this reason, contemplative practices, such as Sabbath-keeping, silence and Daily Offices, help me resist this temptation. 5. Overfunctioning destroys community The examples of Moses and Martha give us a visual picture of the negative impact of overfunctioning on communities, whether that community is a church, a workplace, a school or a family. What other destructive effects of overfunctioning might you add? What has been one or two ways you have kept your feet on the ground to prevent being swept away by other people’s needs and agendas?

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