Most people when they see me probably think I don’t care what other people think. I have to admit, I project that. I have gotten better at letting things bounce off me and not stick, but the truth is I am a sensitive soul and I take things more personally than I should more times than not.
But what can really compound the hurt feelings for me is when I don’t know who is saying it. You see if someone disagrees with me or has a critique I want to engage them. I want to understand where they are coming from so I can better understand their disagreement or critique. I want to share with them why I am who I am or why I believe what I believe.
However, anonymity doesn’t allow for that. Every pastor gets them. You know those notes placed in the offering or slipped in the office mailbox. Those notes that critique. Those notes that say someone is not happy with you or the way you present yourself. Those notes that lack a signature or a name.
Those notes that carry with them a deeply cutting arrow that pierces the skin, the heart, the soul and leaves wounds at every level. When a name is attached you know that person. You have an experience with that person that helps you to understand where they are coming from. You can identify what is being said and possibly why it is being said. When there isn’t a name, it is like a buried land mine that you don’t see and all the sudden explodes leaving you writhing in pain. You didn’t see it coming. You don’t know how to avoid it. You don’t know what to do with that pain.
People always tell me those notes should just go into the trash can and be forgotten, but even in that action the words still hang. The words have already penetrated and hurt. Even seemingly harmless words carry so much damage when done anonymously.
We have nothing against you as a person, but think more dignity should be shown at the 9 am service. Hanging onto a bottle (as a prop) during the sermon is not acceptable, nor is telling jokes during the service. As a pastor you should be properly dressed (shirt and tie)(no blue jeans) and lets put a little formality into going to church. Could you stand for the sermon?
I shouldn’t be so bothered from a note like this, but the words hurt. Mostly because it conveys a sense that person believes I don’t properly revere God at this worship service. It hurts because I can’t engage the person and explain and ask further questions. I can let go of most of these critiques because some of them aren’t even close to the norm (like what I wear which usually is what that person is wishing I wore (shirt, tie, khakis, and suit coat or sweater). What I can’t let go of is this: why can’t the person sign their name? Why can’t they engage in a conversation by owning their feelings? Why am I the one receiving the note when everything that has been leveled as a critique in this note also applies to the other minister? Why me?
In the end two things help me process these moments. (1) The realization that this person is more than likely writing from a place of uncomfortableness with the way church (and the world) has changed and longs to have the comfortable world they once knew back. This is their way of processing. (2) In these moments I have to remind myself that I serve God and that my faithful following of Christ and leading under God’s guidance is what matters. In these moments I have to remember that Christ looks beyond blue jeans, water bottles, humor, and sees my heart and knows where it stands. I have to remember that Christ loves me.
P.S. It kind of sucks to have this as the beginning of Holy Week sitting in your box, but in a way I needed it to really remind me of how much I depend on God’s love and how thankful I am for the way that God came down to show me and others what Agape looks like.