I have always been the recipient of the “Nice Award.” Once, in grade school, I heard a group of girls didn’t like me because I was, “too nice.” – Whatever.
When I was in high school and I had a friend ask a boy if he “liked me,” the boy would always respond, “Well…..she’s nice. ” – Gag Me.
Being nice is a quality that serves us and doesn’t serve us. Having manners, being friendly, sharing, being thoughtful these are all good values. Furthermore being a “nice girl” always gets more affirmation than being, well, a being a word that I’m too nice to write.
In eighth grade, I hit a boy in my science class and my teacher pulled me aside and said, “I know you are nice girl, and nice girls like you shouldn’t hit.” Never mind why I hit the kid, or the fact that maybe I wasn’t being nice, or the fact that I wished I could have invoked more violence on the kid.
In sixth grade, I wore a t-shirt that said, “I won’t work” to school. My creepy sixth grade teacher pulled me aside and said, “I know you are nice girl, and nice girls get A’s and work hard. I don’t think you should wear that shirt. ” Creepy, right?
Being a people pleaser, being nice has always been my mode of operation. If people feel good, I feel good. If people are disappointed, angry, annoyed, unimpressed, then I will pretty much do back flips to see if I can please them. What, you aren’t happy?! Here let me fix this, and that, and that, and worry, and fret, and worry some more. There, now are you happy? Oh. Thank God. I’m exhausted.
Enter the ministry. Ministry is such a mixed bag. On the one hand, you hear people talk about their pastors. “Oh, he’s wonderful. He’s the nicest guy.” You feel this pressure to give people, yes people, not Jesus, people, the sermon they like. You want them to feel comforted by your prayers at the hospital. You want them to know they are loved, cared for, prayed for, accepted. You feel this burden and obligation for the church to grow. If it grows, they like you. If it doesn’t grow, they don’t like you. Let’s just say right now, that if this is how pastor’s function, the church will die and so will the pastor. The question is, Who will go first?
When people leave the church, or are critical, or simply don’t like you, it’s hard not to take it personally, or be indifferent….especially when you think your purpose is to be their shepherd. So the shepherd runs a round with her staff, trying to herd and keep everyone happy. And then shepherd gets eaten by a pack of wolves.
Enter dysfunction, exhaustion, and anxiety. Enter a cancerous system, where the body is taken over by cells that mutate and overtake the soul.
There is a great book, called “People Pleasing Pastors,” by Charles Stone.
If you peel away an avocado’s skin, two parts remain: the mushy green stuff and the pit. It doesn’t take much effort to remove the fleshy part of the avocado. You can easily cut it off or scrape it off. However, you can’t do the same with the seed. You can’t easily cut it or change its shape. Why? Because it’s solid.
A strong spiritual and emotional core (strong immune system) is like that large, solid seed in an avocado. We certainly must have a soft side, but at his core, a good leader is solid, in the good sense of the word.
However, with a weak spiritual immune system, a people pleaser, a margin-less leader, or an inflexible leader has a much smaller inner core and a much larger ‘squishy’ part. We easily morph and adapt to the pressures around us and lose parts of ourselves when we try to please others in an unhealthy way. And of course we could swing in the other direction as well when we become too ‘solid;’ that is, unyielding and inflexible.
One writer on this subject, Murray Bowen contrasted these two parts by calling one a ‘solid self’ and the other a ‘pseudo-self’ when he wrote these words
The solid self says: “This is who I am, what I believe, what I stand for, and what I will or will not do in any given situation. The solid self is made up of clearly defined beliefs, opinions, convictions, and life principles….The pseudo-self is composed of a vast assortment of principles, beliefs, philosophies, and knowledge acquired because it is required or considered right by the group.” [Murray Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice (New York: Aronson, 1978), p. 365]
Evaluate yourself to see how solid or squishy you are as a leader:
SOLID VS SQUISHY leadership
I think it’s very easy for avocados to go soft. If you don’t pay attention, one day they are ripe and ready to enjoy, and the next day, they are too mushy and have to be pitched.
What kind of avocado are you?
How solid is our your core…and how do you preserve it?
Stone uses the acronym PRESENT and says those with strong cores:
- Probe the Past
- Revisit their Values
- Expose their Triangles
- Search for Gaps
- Engage with their Dissidents
- Nurture their Soul
- Tame their Reactivity
So, friends in ministry, as you work through the season of Lent, plan for Holy Week, visit the sick, teach the class, attend the meeting, answer the email, seek volunteers, support families, plan weddings, schedule funerals, write sermons, and try to remember who are at your core through it all, remember this:
1. You have a core. Remember where you left it. Don’t lose it. Preserve it.
2.Remember it’s all about love. – Including loving yourself.
3. You are not Jesus.
4. And if you were Jesus, remember that Jesus wasn’t always nice.
5. No prophet ever won a popularity contest.