Three lessons for coping with the weight of responsibility

This reflection was written by College Chaplain Norman Robert Boie  for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community. You will find reflections from previous weeks here.

I often have ‘hallway conversations’, as I call them, with students at the College. Lately, the conversation have been about mid-term stress, as exams, essays and deadlines pile up. Sometimes no words are exchanged, but I can still feel, through heavy sighs and physical postures, the heavy load that everyone is carrying on their shoulders. I still remember this weight, because not so long ago I was feeling it as a student at the seminary. The same weight is often felt when one is involved in a pastoral role. To cope with this heaviness, I find that certain strategies are helpful. Strategies, incidentally, that I’m constantly trying to put into practice for myself, with varying degrees of success. As the saying goes: it is often easier said than done!

To help me along the way, I find three practices particularly useful: The Call – reminding myself why I am doing what I am doing; Self-compassion – practising the same compassion I have for others on myself; Community – reminding myself that I’m not alone and that I can rely on others to give me a helping hand and to be there when I am in need.

The call: In times of stress, it is helpful for me to connect with the deep conviction that God is calling me to a service yet to be defined. Reminding myself that it was this inner call that led me to embark on this journey of theological education. I ask God and the Holy Spirit to give me the strength and courage to continue the journey. I ask God to inspire me anew and to guide me through the challenges of the semester.

Self-compassion: In the midst of deadlines and homework it’s easy to neglect self-care. Making sure we get enough sleep, eat well, move around, laugh and relax helps us preserve our physical and mental health.

Community: In the Credo of the United Church, there is the phrase “we are not alone”. God accompanies us on our journey, but God acts in the world through men and women, through us. It’s useful to remember that we are not alone on this journey. The principal of the college, the directors of studies, the teachers, the chaplain, the college staff, mentors and fellow students are there to support you every step of the way. Ask for help when you need it, and offer your support to others in return.

Now,  don’t claim to offer anything grand or complete in this short reflection, but some guidelines to help us continue along the road in a positive way. Remembering our divine calling, being self-compassionate and relying on community support are some of the essential elements for getting through the challenges of work and life. Reconnecting with our purpose, taking care of ourselves and leaning on others can give us the strength to persevere and thrive in our studies and pastoral responsibilities.

Bonne semaine,

Norman Robert Boie, Chaplain