We’ve all received them. Every single clergy person I’ve ever met, has received at least one. You know…those unsigned notes, hastily hand scribbled and left on the pulpit for you to find, right before you read the words of scripture. The perfectly scripted card, stuffed in your hand as you greet each congregant following worship, with the explicit instructions “don’t read this until you get home.” Or everyone’s favorite, “I need to talk to you; call me next Tuesday” as the speaker, practically sprints out the door.
It’s the passive aggressive b.s. that breaks you. I mean, really works one over on the spirit.
And you can CPE yourself to death: It’s not about me…they must really be grieving…I wonder what they’re really trying to say…etcetera…..but it still bites.
So, when the most recent doozy was slipped to my husband, on the day before he left for sabbatical…it sent him into a tailspin. And as the spouse (and also a minister), it just made me mad. And hurt. It made me roll my eyes. And utter something along the lines of “the church is gonna destroy us.” (Yes….that’s a little dramatic. I know.)
But finding no solace in my platitudes, I did what any person born after 1950 does these days: I took it to Facebook (In a private feed. I do have a few boundaries). And I called out to my colleagues…my friends…who are spread from Scottsdale, Arizona to Buffalo, New York…with this plea: Words of wisdom? Tips on how to let go? Thoughts?
And the advice they gave…well, I think it should be shared.
So when toxicity touches you in your ministry, take this advice…from some of the best minds, most lovely spirits, and coolest ministers I know:
1. “The best revenge is to thrive”. – M
2. When I was so angry and hurt that all I could do is rage, I asked someone else to pray for him (without sharing details). And for me. – K
Share the burden and allow your colleagues to pray for you and keep you. – S
This is such a gift. We sometimes get pretty caught up in praying for others…it’s healthy and life-giving to reach out for prayer, ourselves. And above all, “Remember that you’re not alone.” – J
3. “Set it somewhere nonreachable, and do the same of it in your brain. Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow.” Listen to his voice and let him shepherd you into the rich waters of renewal and refreshment”. – J
4. The timing is never accidental. It was meant to upset you. Share it with your elders. – D
Hold people accountable. Make them own their dysfunction. – J
5. Remember that being pragmatic is a gift. At any moment, there are two options: the best possible scenario is that this is one single person and likely won’t hold too much weight; the worst, is that this is the end of your ministry. And if it is, then you’ll deal with it. – D
6. “A good mantra: “Anyone can write a note!”” – B
7. “Take off the burden of this and all the other signs of church dysfunction and place them on the ground and stomp on them or throw them out the window. I had a friend who once stood on the banks of the Missouri River and metaphorically threw her troubles into the river and watched the current take them away.” – L Find healthy ways to release.
8. And I love this one: “I remember a certain yoga paractice I attended where I set my intention for the practice and I envisioned the woman whom I was allowing to enter all of my mental space, because of how she was trying to control me and the church; I envisioned her standing ourside the room…waiting. Every time she started to creep into my mind, I told her (mentally) “NO, you can wait outside…” It was nice to imagine her waiting while I practiced meditation and Sabbath.” – L We give people permission to occupy an awful lot of space in our minds and our hearts. And often…especially within the church…we give the most space, to those who hurt us.
9. “There is no ONE person who is our boss, or who gives us direct oversight and direction. So MANY people can take that role upon themselves and put themselves at liberty to comment on our job performance. So it’s basically like getting 100 evaluations instead of 1.” – E So in other words…give yourself some grace.
10. Realize that it really isn’t about you. – S Unless it is. Then just take ownership and find a way to reconcile.
And possibly the very best advice ever:
11. Resist the urge to hit them with your car. – B