While many people are struggling with the forced rest placed upon them during the COVID 19 pandemic, I have been using the time to recover from burn out. Burn out, a condition of fatigue and being overwhelmed by the problems of others, is a serious issue for massage therapists and the number one reason many end their careers. To be clear, burn out isn’t the fault of our clients. It’s a phenomenon that happens in all caregiving professions when the demand for care is greater than a person’s ability to provide it.
I recently discovered Pour, Don’t Push, a wonderful course developed by David Lobenstine, which teaches massage therapists to reevaluate their habits when administering massage in order to avoid burn out.
Massage therapists, in general, tend to prioritize their clients over themselves. When a client presents with neck, back or headache pain, the instinct is to set about alleviating the problem. We, literally, begin pushing our clients into feeling better, compressing tissues and attacking trigger points. While all of this sounds good in theory, the result is our propensity to work too hard with our own bodies. We ache, wear out, and then burn out. Our approach is often unintentionally counterproductive and, simultaneously, oddly ironic. The stress and pain relief we want to provide for our clients is the very thing from which we suffer.
In the days since finishing the course, I began to consider how the idea of Pour, Don’t Push translates into our everyday lives.
Let’s look at the definitions of pouring and pushing.
Pouring is to send something flowing or falling, as in from one container to another. Whereas, pushing is exerting force on someone, or compelling or urging a person to do something.
To me, pouring sounds easy and effortless. Pushing sounds aggressive.
Looking at the larger picture, how is this a metaphor for how we live?
We can ask ourselves (and hopefully answer honestly) where we tend to push in our lives and where we pour when it comes to our interactions with others.
When we post and share aggressive agendas on social media, political or otherwise, to make sure people know how we think and feel, we are pushing.
When we walk through a dark time with someone, praying for them, holding a hand, fixing a meal, we are pouring.
When we try to dictate to our spouses the way we want things done, we push.
When we teach our children how to tend to the basic necessities of life themselves, readying them for adulthood, we pour.
Pouring adds to someone. Pushing literally creates distance.
The way I began to understand pouring into someone was to consider the intent behind the action. When we pour into a cup, our intent is to fill the cup. Likewise, when we pour into a person, we are filling that person. Pouring considers the good of the one receiving, while pushing is all about ourselves and what we intend to gain.
In other words, pouring is full of compassion for another.
The greatest example of pouring can be found in the life of Jesus Christ. Just some of the examples of how Jesus poured into the lives of others are:
- Offering living water to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4: 5-26)
- Healing the nobleman’s son (John 4: 46)
- Healing the paralytic man on the Sabbath (John 5: 1-8)
- Feeding a crowd of 5,000 (John 6: 1-14)
- Offering forgiveness and a second chance to the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11)
- Giving sight to a blind man (John 9: 1-7)
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11: 1-44)
- Washing the feet of His disciples (John 13: 1-20)
- Pouring out His blood as the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation (John 19: 17-30)
Of course, there were many more instances of Christ’s pouring. He was full of compassion and mercy, giving preference to the widows, the children, the poor, and the sick.
So how did Jesus give so much of Himself without burning out?
The answer: Jesus knew who filled His cup.
In John 5: 19-20 (NKJV), Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”
Jesus also knew how to fill up.
Luke 5:16 (NKJV) tells us that “He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”
Time alone with God was His refreshing. God poured into His Son; His Son poured into the people through healing and teaching.
Then came the ultimate pouring; the pouring of His blood shed for us for our salvation.
Mark 14:32-35 (NJKV) tells us “Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray. And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch. He went a little farther and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.”
After His night in the garden with His Father, Jesus poured out His very blood on the cross. He did this with compassion for mankind, as a sacrifice (pouring), not seeking His own will (pushing) to have things go an easier way.
What began as learning a principle for avoiding burn out in my work morphed into a deeper exploration of what lies at the root of pouring. Jesus took pouring to a level I’ll never be able to match. But He left us a formula for giving that will never run dry: seeking the will of our Father through prayer and walking it out in obedience.
It is my hope, post-pandemic, that more of us have become empty vessels eager to be used by God. Let us use this time alone to examine ourselves, seeking His will, to release our need to push our own agendas, and commit to refreshing others through the act of pouring.
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? ~ unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that you are not disqualified.” 2 Corinthians 13: 5-6 (NKJV)