Recently I was at a Happy Hour celebrating new positions for some friends. One of them was Patti. I had a few minutes with her and asked what she was enjoying about her new role. While going through the list of things she liked, she said something that stuck with me.

Smiling, she said there was stress, but it’s “good stress, not stupid stress.” 

Good stress comes when you are growing and learning. It’s the stress that heightens your awareness and your senses. If you are starting a new position, there is a lot of stress involved. You’re:

  • Learning something new.
  • Getting to know new people.
  • Taking in new information about your work, department, and organization.
  • Trying to use that information.

This is stressful, but it’s good stress.

Or maybe you are preparing to make a presentation to those in your department or others within your organization. You’ll feel some stress, but it’s good stress because you are learning and growing.

Stupid stress causes anxiety and drains us. Proverbs 12:15 describes the impact of “stupid stress” on us: Anxiety weighs down the heart

Stupid stress comes from conflict, both internal and external. The external conflicts are ones we experience related to others within an organization. We often think it means a direct exchange with someone, but usually, it’s the indirect exchanges that cause the most anxiety.

It’s the stress of working with those who will say one thing in a meeting, then say the exact opposite later.

Or, members of your leadership team might give “lip service” in support of an initiative you are responsible for. But that’s all. They won’t hold their team accountable, which is necessary for true success.

The internal conflicts come when you are faced with decisions that others won’t necessarily notice.

For example, perhaps you’re in a situation where you know what you need to do, but doing so will be unpopular with your colleagues. Do you do the right thing or the popular thing, even though it’s wrong for the organization?

Here’s another: Someone in a position of authority has said something in a meeting that isn’t accurate. Not only that, it makes someone else look bad. You know the real story.

Do you say something in the meeting to correct the impression, or do you keep quiet?

God allows both “good stress” and “stupid stress” in our lives. They are both there to help us. I think the “stupid stress” is a way that God tests us, to see how we handle conflicts. Do we do what’s right or what’s easy?

He also uses it to push us. It makes us uncomfortable. And the more uncomfortable we are, the more willing and open we are to change. However, if you’re constantly dealing with “stupid stress,” maybe it’s time to consider an exit strategy.

Good stress helps us grow. If we want no stress in life, we won’t grow, we’ll never stretch ourselves. We often don’t know what we are capable of, or what God has gifted us for, until we tackle something new.

In doing so, we will experience stress, but that stress is helpful.

Scripture tells us: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4 NIV).

When you’re facing stress, know that God is with you in the middle of it.