Think about where you spend your energy in a day. I mean, besides the reasonable concerns—making a living, caring for family, being a decent person—consider the stuff we obsess over in the news and the suspicion whispered by conspiracy theorists and my mom’s friend Margaret.
In the late 90s, when our local grocery store, Bi-Lo, introduced a rewards card, Margaret called frantic. She had heard that, added together, the numbers on the card equaled 666. My mom fumbled for her card and tallied the numbers. Sure enough, the Mark of the Beast appeared beneath her pen like an omen. So there it was: the Anti-Christ would come riding in on the .50 cents savings on deli meat and gas points.
The Anti-Christ would come riding in on .50 cents savings on deli meat.
End-time paranoia aside, there are also unwanted opinions, callow memes from both sides of the political spectrum, discourteous coworkers, rude drivers, comment threads, mommy wars about antivaccination and breastfeeding, incompetent customer service representatives, the vacillating health benefits and hazards of eggs, hidden fees, family members who know better. . . . The point is, we can spend our daily allotment of energy in many places.
Maybe you don’t think of energy in daily allotments. I sure didn’t—at least not before last year.
One evening in January 2018, I was unable to move from my car, depleted by my rants and seething rage about a few people in my life. That night, after months of anger, my limbs felt numb and heavy. In the heaving sobs, I finally realized that I only possess a finite amount of energy—and I’d been throwing it in anemic directions.
I only possess a finite amount of energy
Since then I’ve started looking for ways to cut down on wasteful spending. Maybe you need to do the same.
Here are a few ways to conserve your energy so you can invest it in good places.
- Take time before responding. Last week someone left a patronizing response to something I posted on Facebook. Laura started pounding out a message in my defense. When it comes to conflict, I’m a big baby. So I begged her, “Please don’t, Pal. If it still matters to you tomorrow at noon, you can post it.”
But by noon the next day, Laura just said, “Sometimes the best response to a stupid comment is silence.”
May I recommend the same thing to you. Take a few minutes or hours or days before responding to an email or message or phone call or text. Time often gives perspective and shows us the insignificance of that zinger we had loaded in the chamber.
- Keep it to yourself. We all need trustworthy friends who will listen and guide us when we’re blinded with frustration. But keep in mind that voicing your injustices, anger, and bitterness makes them grow hotter—especially when you put them on repeat. Speaking them into the world gives them air—like blowing on a flame. Scripture reminds us that the tongue is a fire and that “where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” (Proverbs 26:20). Maybe Southern women are onto something when they just shake their heads and say, “Bless their hearts.”
- Keep a journal. I’ve found that writing down arguments or injustices or gripes renders them impotent. Something about seeing them on a page, recorded for posterity, puts them into perspective. It also helps me avoid giving them air time (see point two). I often choose not to write something down at all.
- Give out grace. Grace is equal parts amazing and crazy, isn’t it? It’s illogical and unfair, a disproportional response to wrong doings and stupid people. But nothing is more godlike than “covering a transgression” with grace. This might mean searching out the motive behind a comment rather than reacting to it. Replying to an argument with kindness and empathy rather than angst. And, yes, ignoring an insignificant comment rather than giving a heated response meant to shame the commenter. Though grace costs us self-righteousness and self-gratification, it’s a whole lot easier on the energy bank account than revenge or reaction.
- Focus your energy in productive places. Energy is a resource. It can be thrown away frivolously, or it can be invested in something positive. As with any other resource, it’s ours to steward, to manage wisely. Find good places to invest your energy. Exploring and travel. Art. Reading. Research. Education. Ministry. Volunteering. Meaningful conversations. Silence. Just as there are limitless ways to waste our energy, there are boundless ways to invest it.
- Track your energy account. Now that I better understand myself and my tendencies, I monitor my “energy bank account” to track where my ardor is going (e.g., social media, repeating issues that bother me, worrying about something, obsessing over what I can’t change). If I wear myself out with the petty, I won’t have energy for the important. Get in the habit of evaluating everything you do to make sure you get a good return on your investment.
Do you have any other tips for saving energy? Any ideas for great places to invest?