The Most Useless Word in Your Vocabulary

by Andy Wood on June 18, 2012

in Ability, Enlarging Your Capacity, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Abundance, Time

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have written this word – much less said it (at least to myself).  It was a complete waste of time.

I’ve kept a journal for 17 years now (something I highly recommend), and there’s no telling how many times I confessed to this feeling.  But not once did it ever create my future, solve a problem, or breathe life into a situation.  In fact, it’s more likely to be a sign of defeat, discouragement, or slow death.

It may be a legitimate feeling.  But if feelings are designed to prompt us to action, the only thing this feeling ever prompts us to do is make excuses, whine, or wave the white flag.  In small doses it may be a call to action.  But in standard use, it’s emotional poison, and I hate it.

So I’ve decided to lock this word in a vault and reserve it for special occasions.  I may let it out every once in a while, but only with a chaperone.  I suggest you do the same.

The word?


“I feel so overwhelmed.”

“This all looks so overwhelming.”

Blah… blah-blah…blah…blah.  (Try saying that in rhythm… it’s very therapeutic.)

Care to guess how helpful – really helpful – that is?

Here are quotes from actual journal entries across the years:

Two days in a row now I’ve still been in the bed in the morning, completely stressed out.  There have been a thousand things to do, and I’m having trouble getting them all done (from 2004).

What I need more than anything is a plan for eating elephants.  I know you do it one bite at a time, but when the task in front of you looks so large, it’s too easy just to put the fork down and forget it.  Or to stand there for hours trying to figure out where to get started (from 2002).

I’m borrowing baggage from the past to predict pain in the future.  And asking the question, “Why bother?”  (from 2005).

All these and more were laced with phrases like, “feeling so overwhelmed.”  Whaaaaaa!

That would be fine if there was some sort of manual or accompanying action plan to go with it.  But self-scolding little lectures like, “You’ve just got too much on your plate” just add to the problem.

I Am Not Alone

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.  I routinely deal with people who have too much work left at the end of the day, too much month left at the end of the money, or too much fear left at the end of the courage.  And their overwhelming feelings become like a pet rhino they drag around on a leash.  After a while, you aren’t quite sure who’s leading whom.

Sure, there’s a point to which we can talk about rebuilding margin into your life and schedule.  But life in this world abhors a vacuum, and if it appears you have too much of anything – time, money, whatever – it comes after it.  I know people who have spent a lifetime looking busy and broke so that other people would leave them alone.

But is that any way to live?  Really?

And Now a Word from the Dictionary

Ole Man Webster seemed to get this point long before I did.

O·ver·whelm – [oh-ver-hwelm, –welm] – verb (used with object)

1.  to overcome completely in mind or feeling.

2.  to overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces; destroy; crush.

3.  to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerge.

4.  to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything.

5. to overthrow.

See the pattern here?  Defeat.  Surrender.  Overthrow.  Crush.  I’m helpless.

All of those things may be true.  Or maybe it’s just how you’re feeling – and maybe your feelings are lying to you.  Moreover, you have sources at your disposal when you’re “buried beneath the mass” or “overpowered with superior forces.”

So what are you going to focus on?  The avalanche or action?  The debris or the decisions that need to be made?  The floodwaters or your faith?

“But I feel so overwhelmed.”

And how, pray tell, is that helping anything?

Can I Get a Witness?

Here’s how overwhelmed people in the Bible talk:

“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?”  (Exodus 14:11).

“Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me (Ps 55:5).

“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder” (Numbers 14:2-3).

Do you see any solutions or hope there?  I don’t.

Let me hasten to say that in each of these cases solutions were available and in two of them solutions were found.  But not by giving heed to the feelings. Solutions – even miracles – came only when people refused to believe the message of the overwhelming feelings and looked elsewhere.

Giving credence to the feeling of being overwhelmed leads to false conclusions based on bad information. It makes you think somehow your situation is different, your excuses valid, or your fears accurate.  It confuses facts with the truth and sight with reality.  Worst of all, it elevates feelings to the point of dictating what is right and real and most important in your life.

Stop it.


Get the word “overwhelmed” out of your vocabulary.  It’s never done a thing to help you.  Okay, you’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.  Deal with it.

How?  Start with what Moses and the gang learned at the edge of the water…

From Overwhelmed to Overcomer

Cast your burden on the Lord.  He can handle what you can’t, and He’s waiting for a chance to show you what life lived supernaturally looks like.

Make time for stillness.  “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!” Moses hollered.  Often when you’re overwhelmed, the best thing to do is nothing – at least for a bit.

Use the resources you have.  “What are you whining to Me about?” the Lord asked Moses.  “Use the rod I have given you.”  Sometimes the solution to your dilemma is in your hand (or brain or heart or office) the whole time.

Limit your focus.  This was no time for analysis or figuring things out.  Nor was it time to rehearse their surrender speech (Aw, Pharaoh, we were jus’ kiddin’) or pick out their burial plot.  This was the time to limit their focus on the One who could help them.  The very definition of overwhelmed means you’re trying to focus on too much.

Do the first or next right thing.  Grab the rod.  Strike the water. Start walking.  Take the next step and the next.  Follow the leader.  Lead the followers.  Get across the sea.  We can worry about the Promised Land, the Law, even breakfast another time.

Rally the troops.  Get everybody together.  Two are better than one, and as much as possible, no man (or woman) should be left behind.  Moreover, look for ways to (sorry to tell you this) ask for help.

Win little (and BIG) victories and celebrate little wins.  Something happens to your brain and heart when you focus your mind on the victories won rather than the imminent defeat.  Those Wilderness Wanderers never quite grasped that, and it cost an entire generation life in the Promised Land.  They never learned to get “overwhelmed” out of their vocabulary.

Don’t you think it’s time you did?

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