Life on the Pedestal

We place some people on a pedestal, high above all others. pedestal.jpg

I first realized this many years ago when Charlotte and I were in the home of a young couple who lived in North Alabama. They were newly married. She was a Christian and he was not. We were in their home that evening because he wanted to ask some questions regarding Jesus, the Bible, Christian faith, etc.

At one point in this conversation, this young woman referred to her dad, who was a long time minister in our area. She said, “My dad has never done anything wrong.” I then asked her to explain what she meant by that. She went on to say, “I have never known my dad to say or do anything that was wrong. He never mentioned that he struggled with anything. He never apologized for anything. I just assumed for all of these years that he was perfect.”

Now I know her dad. He was a good man. Perfect? No.

Sometimes we put people on pedestals. Some of us place fathers, mothers, and other family members there. Many Christians place their minister or other church leaders on such a pedestal. Our expectations of such church leaders are incredible. Some feel very uncomfortable when they realize this is where they have been placed by . On the other hand, there are some people who seem to relish being there. Yet, the pedestal is a dangerous place to live.

Beware of living on a pedestal.

1. The pedestal does not invite a life of daily repentance. Instead, it can all too easily accommodate secrecy, distance, and rationalization.

2. The pedestal invites unreal expectations. While I may admire someone, to place them on a pedestal is a set-up for major disappointment.

3. The pedestal creates either delusion and arrogance (maybe I really am as great as they say I am), or loneliness (there is no one who I can talk with about my humanness).

Sometimes ministers who have been placed on such a pedestal find themselves living with impossible expectations. Consequently, many feel very defeated. Yet, some ministers seem to desire the pedestal. Complicating this even further, some Christians seem all too ready to place them in such a position. Perhaps it is a way of vicariously living as a Christ-follower through the minister. “I may not be doing very well in my walk with God but you ought to see my minister.”

Pedestal living can create a spirit of arrogance and entitlement. For example, the minister may live among the congregation as if he is entitled to special treatment because of the role, etc. Such a spirit of entitlement can powerfully influence a person toward making decisions that are unwise and even immoral.

Pedestal living often becomes cocoon living where one feels isolated and alone. Instead of a lifestyle marked by ongoing confession and repentance, this minister feels that he must hide and keep to himself his struggles.

We were never created to live on a pedestal nor do we do anyone any favors by placing them on one.

Questions:

What are the costs of being on a pedestal? In what ways do we place someone there? Why would someone desire to be on a pedestal?

     

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “Life on the Pedestal

  1. Wow! This post took me down memory lane. I was still in Junior High, I had my Sunday School teacher on a pedestal. I loved him and his family. I got to babysit their kids. His wife was so kind and thoughtful to me. He made me feel valued as he showered us with compliments, freely grave encouragements and his conversations always contained lots of good humor. One day, totally unexpected, he and his snowmobile disappeared on thin ice while they were on vacation at a lake up north! It made the newspapers throughout the province. 2 weeks later more news surfaced. He had staged this accident in order to ‘disappear’ back to the old country with another woman. Someone had seen him in a bar in the USA however and reported it to the authorities. That was the day that I decided that I would never in my life put someone on a pedestal and think more highly of them than I ought. That’s also when I realized that a pedestal is not the place I ever want to be! It’s such a precarious perch!!!

  2. Great message! I think people are too eager to categorize who they are/ want to be/ want to be like..which leads to placing themselves or other people on pedestals. A guy recently told me, “you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me” and while that’s sweet (or perhaps just a line), the reality is that I’m not. I think a lot about a sermon you gave this year where you talked about everyone being a recipient of God’s grace and, therefor, we’re all equal–no need for pedestals. :)

  3. When I was preaching in Florida, I made a comment during a sermon that I struggled with something (forgot now just what it was) and the wife of the “retired” preacher (who never quite retired) pulled me aside and told me I should never admit to weakness …that people look up to me and I need to be strong for them. I opted for authenticity over a pedestal. The other preacher was like the one you mentioned in North Alabama. Never admitted to any fault. Never made a mistake. Every one could see through that but himself and his wife. Sad.

  4. @Karin
    Karin– What a sad and tragic story. A sad story for the people involved and for those who were young, like yourself, who witnessed something that must have been so confusing. Thank you for sharing this story.

  5. @Aimee
    Aimee– I really like your comment. It occurred to me as I was reading your comment that we sometimes almost idolize other people in relationships. Consequently, we have unreal expectations as we want from other people what no human was ever meant to give. I really think that when we try to get our deepest needs met from a person, instead of God, we will always be disappointed. Thanks so much for your comment Aimee–hope you will do it again.

  6. Very good, true and wise words. I can unwittingly put people on a pedestal because I like to try to encourage others. Though I don’t think I mean to, I can end up doing that, and if I don’t watch out I even start to see them that way myself.