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“We are not designed to live so fast or undertake so much”

A Gallup report shows that up to 44% of workers feel stressed. “The Bible talks about stress a much more than we think”, say evangelical experts.

FUENTES Protestante Digital AUTOR 45/Jonatan_Soriano,5/Evangelical_Focus BARCELONA 19 DE JUNIO DE 2024 10:15 h
Photo: [link]kwan fung[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

The latest Gallup employment report, published in 2023, shows that up to 44% of workers say they are stressed, 13% more than in 2009.

In the United States, Canada and East Asia it reaches levels of 52%, while in Europe it stands at 39%.

“The culture of companies, which is not written anywhere but made of practices that often work unconsciously, is much more powerful than laws, trade unions, etc”, says Jaume Llenas, national coordinator of the Biblical Graduate Groups (GBG), a movement supporting Christian graduates and professionals in the workplace.

That is why, “when a company talks about a culture of effort, what they really mean is that if you don't do two or three hours more of unpaid work a day, you are not committed to the company”.

“In particularly competitive environments, all workers are being pushed to compete with each other to avoid being at the bottom of the rankings of the least productive workers”, adds Llenas.


A moral problem

Although he acknowledges that there are many factors to take into account when talking about stress, Llenas focuses on two causes.

“Since the 1970s we have been experiencing a crisis in our employment model that produces structural unemployment. The hiring model in Spain is based on the exploitation of human resources to the limit. Sick leave is not covered by other workers, but the same staff has to take over not only their already complicated tasks, but also the tasks of the absent workers”, he explains.

Companies “argue that labour and firing costs are very high, and in order for the company not to bear them, they make the worker and the clients bear them”. This needs to be understood in a Spanish context in which, in fact, “labour and firing costs are below the European average and the average for the Eurozone”.

The second reason “has to do with a moral aspect”.

“Richard Sennett said that in the 'new capitalism' there is a profound contradiction between the practice of companies that promote labour flexibility, superficial commitment, personal relationships based on utility, etc., and those values that we want to pass on to our children, such as stability, trust in others, integrity, commitment, etc”.

That contradiction “ends up producing 'the corrosion of character'. It is something much deeper than simple tiredness or exhaustion, it is the decay of that person's character. It is not fixed with mere rest, with a few hours of work or a holiday”, he states.


Stress in a time of increasing rights

For Christian psychologist Lidia Martín, “where rights have possibly been lost significantly in recent times is in the workplace”.

“There is an overemphasis on super productivity, companies tend not to look after employees too well because economic criteria are more important than people, and people know that leaving a job means that there are usually dozens of people willing to accept the same or worse conditions”, she adds.

“There is a feeling of a frightening climate of job insecurity, and that is absolutely overwhelming. Seeing the current situation and not foreseeing an improvement is leading to one of the most common effects of stress: anxiety”, underlines Martín.

For Jaume Llenas, “there may be many practices that are verging on the legal and yet are accepted, such as unpaid overtime”.

“It is not that workers are ambitious, it's just a strategy for survival in the workplace”, he says.

Although it seems that trade unions have gained ground and influence over the years, according to Llenas, “66% of workers in Spain work for small and medium-sized companies, where the respect for rights and the presence of trade unions is much lower in general terms”.


Increasingly fragile people

Taking into account other data, such as the latest report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which states that the number of hours worked has fallen by 3.8% compared to 2008, some talk about stress triggers beyond the workplace, such as leisure or parenting.

For Martín, “work is not necessarily our main source of stress, they are a part of it, no doubt, but mainly we live obsessed with avoiding the discomfort, often even the natural effort and frustration that accompany the little things in life, and we are becoming increasingly fragile people who are overwhelmed with less”.

“We are not designed to live so fast or to undertake so much. The natural rhythms of human beings are different, and we are not respecting them, not even when it comes to leisure, which is eating up our time to sleep, or rest”, she adds.


Another perspective on dealing with stress

“The Bible talks about stress much more than we think”, underlines psychologist Martín.

According to her, the biblical teaching and the choice to “live at the rhythm of Jesus” has no competitor: “Jesus teaches us that each day brings its own trouble or concern (Matthew 6:34). Those who do not have God worry about many things to fill their heads, but our heavenly Father knows what we need” (Matthew 6:32).

Furthermore,God invites us to seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and reminds us that everything else will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). That is exactly the idea that the Master explained to Martha, who was anxious and troubled about many things, in contrast to her sister Mary, who had chosen the good part, which, moreover, would not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).

“There are things that control us. How many of the stressful situations we live in come, precisely, from bad decisions about daily life that keep us from living at the rhythm of Jesus, whether at work or in any other area?”, wonders Martin.


Work has to do with purpose, but affected by evil

Llenas reminds us that “work is good and is part of the purpose for which we human beings were created”, but it has also been "affected” by evil.

He explains that “we live within the 'economy of Egypt', where we have to produce the same bricks, but we will not receive the hay to make them. God had a different intention for the people of Israel, he wanted to see the new Kingdom relationships among them, but the prophets have to denounce exploitation in many cases”.

“God is portrayed throughout the Old Testament as the one who defends the exploited, the unprotected. Institutions such as the Jubilee were put in place by God to reorganise the effects of an economy affected by sin”, adds Llenas.

He underlines that the New Testament, in passages such as James 5:4, “tells us of a wealth built upon the exploitation of workers and announces that God is not indifferent and that God's justice will come upon those who take advantage of the weakness of others”.

Llenas is “really struck by the fact that Jesus, in his preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4), speaks of setting the oppressed free. That is the 'Jesus manifesto', his statement of purpose, and it is very much linked to the exploitation of the most vulnerable”.

For the GBG national coordinator, “we often say that Jesus came because of sin, and that is absolutely true, but Jesus always takes the side of the one who, because of structural sin in the labour market, is under abusive conditions in their workplace”.

“Jesus is not equidistant, not neutral, when it comes to the effects of sin on the weak. Christians hope for new heavens and a new earth where justice dwells”, concludes Llenas.


[title]One more year[/title]


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