aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be preachers, Part II

Just as some people are not cut out for the conditions of the pastorate, some are unable to deal with the emotional demands.

Not everybody is going to love you. Some people will not respond warmly, though they'll work with you. Others will just plain not like you, for various reasons: some will take offense at you personally; others are mad at God, but you make a good substitute for him; some people are just mean or crazy or both. And all this assumes that you are at your most reasonable and winsome. So, if you are one of those people who just MUST have everybody love you, guess what. You are going to be absolutely miserable in the pastorate. Learn to take responsibility for your goof-ups, learn how to apologize gracefully when you've done something offensive, and above all, find the emotional resources that allow you to shrug off negative emotions being beamed at you. It happens to everybody who works with people. As President Truman said of politicians, "if you want to be loved, get a dog."

I am an introvert, as are a great many preachers. This doesn't mean I'm shy, just that all the time I spend with people, my batteries are discharging. I love people, but they wear me out. I have to take time regularly to recharge my batteries -- to get away and rest up emotionally. Don't feel bad if you are this way: so was Jesus. I turn my introversion to my advantage in this way. As one who is very aware of my own insides, I use my imagination and my ability with words to articulate things that others feel, but are unable to describe. This makes me a better preacher and counselor.

A very wise man once said to me, "If you want to be happy in the Methodist ministry, you have to be able to leave it." Many clergy feel trapped in their jobs. They are so drained from dealing with people that they suffer from low self-esteem. They think that if they lost their position, they would not be able to survive financially (not to mention the burden of disappointing God). When I went off to get my PhD some years ago, I discovered that I could support myself and my family -- not only would God take care of me, but I was an overall capable person. This means that every year I continue in the pastorate is a year I have CHOSEN to stay in and do what I do. That is very liberating. I am not trapped; I am here by choice.

The ordained ministry will sift you like wheat. You've got to know who you are, and how to find the resources you need to stay emotionally viable, or you won't last; indeed, you may find yourself embittered or worse.
Tags: church, clergy

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