A couple of days ago, I posted the following FB status update:
Bruce Reyes-Chow is thinking that one major "mistake" we make in leadership is trying too hard. What's on your list?
By the end of the comment flurry there were 30+ comments with musings and additions ranging from how we train lay leadership to letting go of control to focusing on spiritual health.
What I was trying to get at was that sometimes we so badly want people to see us as pastoral leaders that we try too hard. Sometimes it is in a new relationship or sometimes we have lost authority in the eyes of the other. Who knows why this happens: lack of confidence, unspoken conflict, urgency of a situation, etc.? Whatever it is, I have seen it over and over again, when we feel that our pastoral authority waning or absent we become desperate and we overcompensate.
The main way I have seen this is that we resort to words and knowledge as the source of our pastoral authority. We fall into the trap of believing that, "If they only know how much I know they will give me pastoral authority." This plays out often by talking at every possible moment:
- we share our knowledge even if it may be tangentially related to the topic at hand or we force relevance so we can show how much we know, "That Christmas story reminds me of this one Easter when I . . .";
- we recite our credentials, degrees, personal connections, etc. thinking that those things will add to the impact of our knowledge, "As I learned in my master's program when I studied under Smarty McSmartypants . . .";
- we seem to talk only when we want to submit knowledge to others rather than to inquire and receive what others may give, "I know that really don't understand the topic, but let me say that I think . . .";
By doing these things we communicate a desperation that, in fact, works to further erode and impede the pastoral relationship. Left undressed resentment builds up, respect is lost and community begins to break down.
While I may post later on how we repair these kinds of relationships, I think the first thing to do is to discern whether or not this happens to you. I know that when I am at my worst, these things sneak into my pastoral life and I have to open up my spirit for a little talk with God. If I am wise, I will step back and see how I may have been putting too much focus on trying to earn some affirmation rather than respond to God's blessings.
When can truly open myself up to the Spirit, I am reminded that my worth comes from God, the one who gives me breath. My pastoral authority is then strengthened and renewed because it is not that authority that give me confidence of faith and action, but the power and presence of God in all parts of my life.