Parker Palmer on Burnout

“Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess.”

Parker Palmer


Another way he puts it is this:

… violating my own nature in the name of nobility.

Powerful stuff.


And here’s another way he puts it in this short video:

In my own life at least, burnout was not about trying to give too much, it was about trying to give things that I didn’t really have to give. It involved what I came to think of as a ‘high artificial ethic’ about what I ought to be doing in the world rather than an ethic that grew up from my natural giftedness and my place in the ecosystem of my own life, where I could give what grew in me. When you give what grows then that crop replenishes itself, you don’t end up in that depletion of having too little to live on psychologically, spiritually, etc.

So, it’s a tricky question because one does not want to hold back. If you’re going to be in the world with the fulness of your heart, it’s hard to hold back. And yet there is some kind of way of holding yourself that is a hedge against this violence to self — which often results in violence to others as well, that’s another layer of this problem that we need to look at. If we’re doing violence to ourselves we’re almost always doing violence to others — to people close to us, friends, family, people who work with us or for us, and in some cases to the larger world of people who consume whatever it is we’re creating.