Do you ever find yourself trying to do All. Of. The. Things. to make sure your holidays are Instagram-worthy and Pinterest-perfect? If so, you may be guilty of overfunctioning. This was Geri Scazzero’s problem; take the quiz to find out if it’s yours!
Recipe for a Melt-Down
I remember vividly the time my husband Pete invited two important guests to come to our home for lunch. I worked extremely hard to present a perfect-looking home and exhausted myself cooking an elaborate meal. Beginning two days ahead, I prepared homemade clam chowder, homemade bread with cheese, and a killer homemade chocolate cake. And all of this was done with a baby on my hip and a toddler tugging at my leg.
Sadly, I believed that my exertions themselves meant I was caring for these people. But I was confusing caring about them with having to take care of them. I was tired, cranky, and stressed out with those around me. “I’m sick and tired of this,” I complained. “Why doesn’t anybody help me!” I was so busy overfunctioning that I had a melt-down, not even realizing I was the cause of the people around me underfunctioning!
O’ver-func’tion (verb): to do for others what they can and should do for themselves.
You know you are crossing the line into overfunctioning when you hear yourself saying things like, “We won’t celebrate Christmas as a family unless I do it.” “I’m the only one who can do this right.” “It is just easier if I do it myself.” “I’m afraid of their reaction if I ask them to do more.”
Overfunctioning is more than simply a bad habit; it is a weed whose deep roots can often be traced back through generations in your family of origin. And the thorny branches of that weed reach far out into our relationships and the way we handle things like the holidays.
Check the boxes that apply to get an idea of where you fall on the continuum of mild to severe overfunctioning:
□ I generally know the right way to do things.
□ I move in quickly to advise or fix things lest they fall apart.
□ I have difficulty allowing others to struggle with their own problems.
□ In the long run, it is simply easier to do things myself.
□ I don’t trust others to do as good a job as I can.
□ I often do what is asked of me, even if I am already overloaded.
□ I don’t like to rock the boat, so I cover for others’ shortcomings.
□ Other people describe me as “stable” and as always “having it together.”
□ I don’t like asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden.
□ I like to be needed.
If you checked three or more boxes, you may be overfunctioning; if you checked four to seven boxes, you probably have a moderate case of overfunctioning; if you scored eight or above, you are in trouble!
Caring for People vs. Taking Care of Them
It wasn’t until years later that I began to realize I could care for people without overfunctioning. I knew I had turned a corner one evening when we hosted another guest. I straightened the house, but I didn’t clean it immaculately. I served a simple, not elaborate, dessert. I let my kids be themselves.
After dinner, we settled down in the living room with coffee. I sat and listened as our guest poured out his heart. I remember being aware of Christ’s presence. If one of the kids needed something, I let Pete jump up and get it. When the dishes piled up in the sink, I let them be. I was able to be truly present with myself, with Pete, and with our guest. I thought back to Jesus’ beautiful invitation to Martha. “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one” (Luke 10:41 – 42). And I began to realize that this invitation was also for me.
The lie that overfunctioning whispers in our ears is this: “You are the only thing holding everything together. If you stop, things will fall apart.” Actually, the opposite is true. The more we overfunction, the more others underfunction, making them demotivated to make changes.
So let go of your overfunctioning ways. You’ll be amazed at how you’re freed up to care for your friends and family in an emotionally healthy way this holiday season.
Geri Scazzero is the cofounder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, where she serves on staff as a trainer in marriage and spiritual formation. Geri is also a popular conference speaker for church leaders, married couples, and women’s groups, both in North America and internationally. She is the author of The Emotionally Healthy Woman book and Bible study and coauthor of the bestselling Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Course and The Emotionally Healthy Skills 2.0 curriculum. Geri, along with her husband, Pete, is the cofounder of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a groundbreaking ministry that equips churches in a deep, beneath-the-surface spiritual formation paradigm that integrates emotional health and contemplative spirituality. Geri lives in New York City and has four lovely daughters.