Thursday, August 6, 2020

Apocalyptic? #8: ZERO STRESS—Shalom—The New Heaven and New Earth

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. . . .  

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. . . .  

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


(Revelation 21:1-4 NIV)


How does the matter of stress pertain to the New Heaven and New Earth?  Tomorrow (August 7, 2020), I will officially retire from my Teaching Professorship at Florida State University.  I will continue, however, at the request of the school, to teach two online courses (with the assistance of three mentors who hold master’s degrees from FSU—Ms. Lara Herter, Ms. Mary Sue Woodruff, and Ms. Julia Chrencik).  One of these two courses is my most popular course in my career, attracting hundreds of FSU students each year:  COM4132 Communication and Stress Management, based upon my book, The Seven Cs of Stress. 

In my book and my course, I teach that humans face, essentially, only SEVEN basic types of stress.  I use alliteration to label each of these stressors with a word beginning in the letter C.  Hence, the Seven Cs of Stress are:  Community, Competence, Confusion, Conscientious, Corporal, Chrono, and Cash.  If you desire a fuller explanation of each type of stress and the available relief valves for each, you may read my book.  If you are a good navigator and chart your course using the information that my book provides, you can successfully "sail the Seven C's of Stress!"  In a nutshell, the Seven Cs may be briefly summarized:

Corporal Stress:

Corporal stress is any stress that is encountered primarily due to the functions of the human body. The word root “corp-“ means “body.” When someone dies all that remains is the “corpse.” When children are spanked, they receive “corporal” punishment. Animals and humans certainly experience disease, injuries, hunger, fatigue, thirst, the need to urinate, the need to defecate, sexual tensions, etc. These are all Corporal Stresses.

Community Stress

Community stress is the stress that one feels when one must deal with other people.  Because humans often disagree, stress between humans occurs. Even friendships are frequently tested by Community Stress. Married people experience a good deal of this stress.  A humorous toast goes: Here’s to you, here’s to me; hope we never disagree. Just in case we ever do, here’s to me; the heck with you.  Community Stress may be inevitable in this world.  

Conscientious Stress

Conscientious Stress is the stress humans face due to morality. Kenneth Burke asserts that the human penchant for morality (and the moral codes or laws that come with it) relates to the very nature of humans. According to his definition of the human, humans are “moralized by the negative” (p. 9).   What Burke considers important about the human use of the negative is what he calls the “hortatory negative,” represented by the injunction: “Thou shalt not!”  Saying “Thou shalt not!” to someone implies that the person to whom it is spoken has free will. It implies morality. It implies choice.  The Conscientious Stress comes as we struggle to abide by the dictates of our conscience, to obey our own “Thou shalt nots.”

Cash Stress

Cash Stress is any stress that is produced by the necessity of performing money management.  Kenneth Burke refers to money as a sociological function (1984, p. 163) and as a substitute for God (1984, p. 194, and 1969, pp. 108-113). Clearly, money is symbolic; it can represent time, property, labor, food, shelter, political interest, etc. When one does not have enough of it, Cash Stress results. When one has a great deal of it, but is unsure where to safely and successfully invest it, Cash Stress results.  The easiest stress for many to understand is Cash Stress — stress caused by disparity between one’s monetary supply and the demands of one’s lifestyle.

Competence Stress

Competence Stress is the stress one feels when one questions one's own competence to perform a task (when one does not consider oneself completely competent to handle a specific task).  This stress may be due to a lack of self-esteem, a lack of knowledge on the subject, or a lack of skill, etc.  When you first learned to drive, you were nervous, tense, stressed.  When you needed to take an exam over a subject you were uncertain of, you were nervous.  When you first asked someone for a date or went on your first date, you were nervous, experiencing Competence Stress.

Confusion Stress

Confusion Stress occurs whenever someone feels lost.  Children feel it when they become separated from their parents at a large store. Travelers feel it when they are in transit and suddenly realize they do not recognize any of the road signs or surroundings. Students feel it when taking an educational course that is far too difficult for them to pass. Litigants feel it when attempting to win a court case and the lawyer opposing them confuses every issue.  Religious people experience it when their religious faith is challenged and they do not have appropriate answers.  It is Confusion Stress.


Chrono Stress is stress caused by the perceived need to accomplish something within a fixed time limit.  Chrono-logical means that our narratives are presented according to the logic of time—the time order in which events occur.  That humans are conscious of their own death produces not only confusion stress (we do not know about the beyond) but also chrono stress — the stress one feels when confronted with deadlines. One’s death is, after all, one’s ultimate time deadline. There are tasks one must complete within a specific timeframe. As the deadline draws near and tasks remain unfinished, stress mounts. Any task that carries with it a time deadline is capable of producing some Chrono Stress.

ZERO STRESS is Impossible

No living person has yet experienced Zero Stress.  From the time we first experience pain—even in the womb—our “corpses” (i.e., our bodies) have Corporal Stress.  Once born, we feel stresses to breathe, to eat, to urinate, etc.  We have illnesses, injuries, skin rashes, body aches.  Ask a newborn baby at 3 a.m. if he or she is experiencing stress and he or she will scream the answer back to you.  The only time there is Zero Corporal Stress is when we die and only our unfeeling “corpse” remains. 

From the time we first interact with other humans, we have Community Stress.  When your baby wanted attention and you chose to sleep instead, your baby let you know that there was a disagreement between you two at that time, as well.  When two preschoolers want the same toy, there is Community Stress.  The only way for humans to completely avoid Community Stress is to become total hermits.

Babies might not experience much Conscientious Stress, but teenagers do.  Children who hugged and kissed their parents goodnight are appalled at the thought of such behavior when reaching their teen years.  Why?  Their society (teenage society) issued a Thou Shalt Not on that behavior.  Some humans appear to be amoral, having no moral code, but the vast majority of us do have such a code—whether our list of Thou Shalt Nots is supplied by religion, family, or even political correctness.  To struggle with keeping those moral codes is to experience Conscientious Stress.  Even Jesus displayed Conscientious Stress in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he sweat drops of blood, praying to God that he be spared the ordeal of crucifixion.  Hebrews 4:15 states: “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”  To be tempted is to experience Conscientious Stress.

All humans who exchange money experience Cash Stress.  This includes the boy in the old song, “My name is Michael; I’ve got a nickel; I’ve got a nickel, shiny and new.  I’m gonna buy me all kinds of candy; that’s what I’m gonna do.”  Granted, Tom Hanks’s character in the movie Castaway, could not have experienced Cash Stress, unless he was worried about financial issues back home, while he was stranded on a desert island.  But even Jesus’ disciples were faced with Cash Stress when faced with feeding the 5000 from their own funds.  Jesus, of course, was not concerned.  He just momentarily borrowed two little fishes and five loaves of bread from a little boy in the crowd and solved the problem.  Having served as a financial consultant for several years, I can assure you that humans have Cash Stress until the day they die.  They even worry about cash stress experienced by others after they are dead; they buy life insurance to protect their families.

There are situations where we no longer experience much Competence Stress.  Experts call the circumstance “unconscious competence.”  For example, I may now have nearly zero Competence Stress as I drive my car on “auto-pilot” after years of practice driving.  However, when I drove a new rental van (with the driver’s seat on the right-hand side) in Ireland, driving on the opposite side of the twisting narrow roads, with no knowledge of the land and roadways, I experienced a good deal of Competence Stress.  Michael Jordan may experience nearly zero Competence Stress on the basketball court, but he surely had Competence Stress on the baseball field.  Humans always have Competence Stress about something.

Confusion Stress abounds throughout our lifetimes.  As babies, our Confusion Stress pertains to the frustration of not knowing how to communicate our wishes or needs to parents or baby sitters.  As a child, I became lost in a cornfield on my parents’ farm.  I was in severe Confusion Stress as I wandered seemingly miles in the maze, seeking an exit.  As a retiree, I do not know for certain that my future will be secure.  Though I have employed financial planning, I wonder:  what if the American Currency melts down or what if politicians manage to destroy our nation’s capitalistic system?  I mentioned earlier that humans are conscious of their own death, and that produces Confusion Stress.  Even as a Christian, I do not know what dying will be like.  Not knowing brings Confusion Stress.

Chrono Stress means that human lives are fraught with time deadlines.  When my children were young and we made annual treks from Indiana to Florida and Walt Disney World, they moved frantically from one Disney ride to another, since we only spent one day per year in the parks.  They were afflicted with Chrono Stress as they sought to do everything in a single day—the maximum that we would pay for.  College students experience Chrono Stress as they struggle to turn in all assignments on time.  Old people compose “Bucket Lists,” and try to complete everything on them.  Rarely do we find an individual who doesn’t have incomplete goals out in front of him or her.

Shalom, Peace, and Sabbath

Although there is no such thing as Zero Stress in this lifetime, we long for the “relative” lack of stress from time to time.  “Shalom” is the Hebrew “Hello” greeting and good-bye message that indicates our wish that the one to whom it is spoken has “Peace”—i.e., the relative lack of stress.  The Apostle Paul used the greeting in each of his letters/epistles, but he used the Greek word for “peace (IRENE)” and coupled it with the word “grace (CHARISE)”—plausibly the method by which one attains maximum peace.  God instituted the law of Sabbath to facilitate a period of relative peace, every week, for humans.  We all need respite from stress from time to time (Rest=Sabbath).

Maximum peace/rest involves experiencing the least amount of Corporal Stress—very little illness, injury, hunger, thirst, pain, tears, death, etc.  It involves experiencing the least amount of Community Stress—very little conflict, war, litigation, argumentation, fighting, etc.  It involves experiencing the least amount of Conscientious Stress—very little temptation, desire, greed, lust, need to lie, hatred, etc.   It involves experiencing the least amount of Cash Stress—very little financial need, concern for monetary safety, etc.  It involves experiencing the least amount of Competence Stress—very few difficult tasks or jobs required to be done, very little required skill, etc.   It involves experiencing the least amount of Confusion Stress—a very low sense of being lost, a sense of security, etc.  It involves experiencing the least amount of Chrono Stress—very few deadlines, plenty of time to complete tasks.


I think such “peace” is what most people envision for retirement.  My wife planned a surprise retirement party for me, two days ago, and arrived at my home with pizza and our pickup truck pulling a trailer with a golf cart in it.  It was a big surprise, and I have enjoyed driving the golf cart around our subdivision.  Unfortunately, I have a little too much Corporal Stress (sciatica) to actually play golf, but the cart is a great way to get from my house to my mailbox, up the street.  I still have blog posts and books and musicals to write and courses to teach so there is still some Chrono Stress in my life as I check things off my “bucket list,” but, at least, I have no meetings to attend any more, and that’s great!  I have Competence Stress as I try to master electronic music software to record and publish my musicals, but less Competence Stress regarding job-related matters.  My Conscientious Stress has steadily decreased over the years as I have matured as a Christian, but that’s probably not attributable to retirement.  Having no disagreements with colleagues means that my Community Stress has been diminished.  My Cash Stress is probably lower for the time being, because I have used financial planning principles throughout my career.  I expect my Confusion Stress to tick upwards toward the end of my life, but for now, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge and wisdom.  On the other hand, that’s not really attributable to retirement.  Nevertheless, my retirement years do not even approximate Zero Stress.

New Heaven and New Earth:  Zero Stress

So, John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no stress at all.  Zero Stress or perfect peace/perfect rest involves experiencing Zero Corporal Stress—no illness, injury, hunger, thirst, pain, tears, death, etc.  Revelation 21:4 paints the picture: “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Community Stress—no conflict, war, litigation, argumentation, fighting, etc.  The greatest adversary we have had—the Devil—will have been been completely annihilated in the Lake of Fire, along with Gog and Magog and all enemies of God’s people (Revelation 20).  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Conscientious Stress—zero temptation.  Our “test” will be over.  The “tester” himself is gone. We will have “passed.”  Revelation 21:8 assures us: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice drug use, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”   John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Cash Stress.  Psalm 50:10 states: “For every animal of the forest is [God’s], and the cattle on a thousand hills.  Jesus tells his disciples in John 14:2: “In my Father's house are many mansions” (KJV). No money.  Nothing to spend money on. “The kings of the land will bring their glory into” the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24).  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Competence Stress—no difficult tasks required to be done.  God’s “servants shall serve Him . . . and they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).   John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Confusion Stress—no sense of being lost.  I Corinthians 13:12 states:  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (NIV).  Jesus’ servants “shall see his face . . . And there shall be night no more . . . for the Lord God shall give them light” (Revelation 22:4-5).  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Chrono Stress.  Eternity has no deadlines.  “He that is athirst, let him come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17 ASV). 

Talk about a Retirement Party!  Shalom!

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