Each Thursday, I post some reflections especially with ministers and other church leaders in mind. If you are not in the ministry but are simply a person who serves God and serves people, I hope you, too, will take something from this post.
Each week, I am elaborating on some “game-changers” for ministers and other church leaders.
Game-changer #2 “Manage yourself. Don’t live in reaction to your past or to someone in your present setting.”
How do I function when I am managing myself?
- Managing myself is the capacity to take a stand in an intense emotional system. This means that I am able to think and articulate my thoughts, my feelings, and even to take a stand when others seem to be very emotional and insist that I think like them.
- Managing myself is saying “I” when others are saying “we.” It is the capacity to think and feel instead of allowing yourself to be swallowed up by your desire to be like and accepted.
- Managing myself is to position myself so that I do not become a part of a church’s polarization. I learn to take stands while I maintain relationships with people in the various polarizing groups.
- Managing myself is to become a non-anxious presence even when the congregation or various people are extremely anxious.
- Managing myself is to take responsibility for my own behavior and my own emotions rather than blaming others or the church.
Bottom line, managing myself is choosing to behave maturely. It is refusing to get sucked into immature behaviors and ways of thinking.
Ministers must put a premium on staying connected with others while maintaining a strong sense of self.
This means that as a minister I need to avoid two extremes:
1. One extreme is to know what you believe to be important but then to only really value the relationships of those who see things your way. Consequently, great energy may be placed on investing in relationships with those in the congregation who agree with you while making little investment in relating to those who don’t really value what you are thinking or saying at this point in time. This happens again and again in churches that are polarized. Instead of ignoring these people, I need to look for opportunities to do anything to bless these relationships.
2. Another extreme is to lose your sense of self as you try to have the approval of everyone. The problem is that some ministers seek relationship by trying to be liked and to win the approval of others. They are willing to say or do whatever will make someone “happy.” They believe that something is wrong if someone is not happy with them. If someone puts pressure on them or expresses displeasure, they react to this anxiety by becoming anxious themselves. As a result of this practice, they eventually lose their sense of self and the church loses a valuable resource.
(This post was written after I skimmed through Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve. I read the first edition in 1999 when it was published and just purchased the 2007 edition, which is very nice.)
Which one of these extremes do you lean toward? How have you addressed this tendency in your own life and ministry?