This morning in Bible class, we talked about the concept of “over functioning”. Specifically, we were talking about Moses in Exodus 18, and Moses’ problem of micromanaging the issues of the Israelites.As it says in Exodus (from my YouVersion app):
“Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.” So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them.
Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”
Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God. The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.
When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”
Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.
But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.”
Exodus 18:5-26 NIV
Moses was new to leadership. He didn’t understand how to delegate and distance himself from minutiae, and because of that, he “overfunctioned”.
How many times in our daily lives do we overfunction and micromanage? I know I am guilty of this–I’ve definitely told myself, “Well, I can do it better and faster.” I’ve done this in my home life, as a parent and a spouse, and I’ve done it in my classroom as well.
However, as I sat there in Bible class, I thought of a parent and child (or leader and acolytes) as tall glasses. Ideally, as my cup is filled and potentially overflows with life experience and talents, I should tip that cup into my child’s. I should teach them how to do things for themselves, helping them fill their own cup. In this way, when my cup starts to run a little empty, they will be there to tip a little bit back into mine by doing things for themselves.
During class the point was made that no one gains from overfunctioning. The person who’s doing all the work or managing all of the problems simply runs out of steam, and no one is capable of filling the hole that they leave.
I think we could argue that Moses learned from his mistake. He listened to his father-in-law’s advice and eased back on the controls.
This lesson was timely for our family. My son, at eleven, is on the cusp of independence. As difficult as it may be, I have to listen to Jethro’s advice and ease back. Instead of letting my cup overflow with my own efforts to provide him with the best opportunities in life, I must help him learn to fill his own cup. I also need to teach him how to recover when he experiences one of life’s little spills.
Where in your life do you “over function”?