I’m reading a book that was on Bishop Goodpaster’s recommended book list. It’s called “Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box.” I don’t think I’ve highlighted so much in a book on my Kindle before . . . or, said “OH SNAP!” out loud so often! I’m still reading, but as I turn every page a new revelation is revealed to me about my own life “inside the box.”
It’s funny, really, how we get into unhealthy patterns in life. It’s even more interesting how many of us have these patterns and really don’t realize it! This book shines a very bright light right on these patterns and does a good job leading us into it so that we don’t get defensive and stop reading. The book is written in a neat, storytelling way that has been enjoyable to read and has kept my interest. It leads the reader through the “problem” then tries to help alleviate it. I like it so far.
One thing that has come back to me over and over is this quote: “One way, I experience myself as a person among people. The other way, I experience myself as the person among objects. One way, I’m out of the box; the other way I’m in the box.” Now, I can’t really pour out the entire story before this quote, but what you get here is an issue I believe I have in ministry. Until I began reading this book, I’d be the first to tell you that one of my “spiritual gifts” was compassion. Most people would probably agree with that and state that I am “warm” and “caring” and “personable.” And, they’d be right . . . on the surface.
OK – I’m about to admit something about myself that is a huge flaw that has developed over many years in ministry. I just pray you will offer me some grace after I say that out loud. Many times, when I am talking with a church member on Sunday mornings or if I run into them out in public, I’m “working.” I don’t mean that to say that I don’t care what the person is saying, or that I’m not listening. But, I can say, with honesty, that sometimes I don’t know their name, I am halfway listening and halfway thinking of things I need to be doing. At this new appointment, I haven’t worked as hard as I should to know everyone’s name and something about them. I believe that more times than not I am the person among objects. That is just awful.
You see, as I realized this when reading I felt terrible. Then, I asked myself whether I really cared about these people, or were they objects to me. I do see them as people, I discerned, but I treat them as objects, which is wrong. I believe I have arrived at this unhealthy pattern by years of putting on the “church” face. I didn’t have to do that, I just did. It was easier to do my “job” when I had on the “church” face.
I’m not sure this really makes sense if you haven’t read the book, but I felt that others in ministry may find themselves living the same pattern . . . living in the box when it comes to the people they minister to. I know, for me anyway, that I do NOT want to live like this, nor do I want to treat my dear church family as objects instead of people. So, I’m trying to live out of the box and this means that I have made a conscience effort to know names, faces and personal details about them . . . one person at a time. I’ve made an effort to be fully present in conversations, so much so that I’ve begun writing down notes (if I can) after a conversation so that I remember what was said and can reflect on it later. Anything I can do to treat these wonderful people the way they should be treated by one of their ministry leaders.
Once I finish the book, I’ll reflect more. Peace!