Many pastors suffer with relational anorexia. Pastors can find a cure for this devastating issu....
Many pastors suffer with relational anorexia. Pastors can find a cure for this devastating issue when we seek out and find people with whom we can process the pain ministry inevitably brings.
As you consider the traits you’d look for in a safe person (below), consider these Scriptures and the guidelines they infer, because these people are often difficult to spot.
When Samuel went to look for Saul’s replacement, God told him, Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. GOD judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; GOD looks into the heart.
Outward impressions may belie the heart of a potential safe person, so don’t let a poor first impression turn you off. When David looked for those with whom he’d surround himself, he wrote, I have my eye on salt-of-the-earth people—they’re the ones I want working with me; Men and women on the straight and narrow—these are the ones I want at my side.
Character and integrity took front and center when he chose his advisors and leaders. He also said, Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they reprove me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it.
David looked for those with the courage to tell him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear. Daniel Goleman (most known for writing on emotional intelligence) wisely notes,
People deprive their co-workers—whether bosses or subordinates—of honest performance feedback for several reasons, chief of which is that it can be uncomfortable to give such feedback. We’re afraid of hurting others’ feelings or otherwise upsetting them. Yet, while we tend to keep the truth about how others are actually doing to ourselves (oddly, not just the negatives, but also the positives), all of us generally crave that kind of appraisal. Candid evaluations matter deeply, in a way that other information does not.
When Paul taught about rights and privileges he said, knowledge makes us proud of ourselves, while love makes us helpful to others. Someone with all the right replies may not be who you need. Actually, we need those who will ask us the right questions more than those who want to give us answers.
Below I’ve listed several qualities to look for in a safe person. Only perfection, however, will embody them all, so don’t expect to find someone who meets all the criteria. A safe person, however, should evidence many of these.
• Not a cliché giver, doesn’t over-spiritualize
• Asks good questions, effectively reflects back what he hears you say, and seeks to understand
• Believes in you
• Consistent, a promise keeper
• Trustworthy, can keep secrets
• Not afraid of your anger, tears, or other emotions
• Has his own scars yet doesn’t wallow in his pain; empathetic
• Around him you don’t feel like a child with a parent but feel you are equals
• Will genuinely pray for and with you
• Not critical or judgmental
• Approachable, vulnerable, humble
• Wise and discerning
• Can and will challenge you to get outside your comfort zone
• Around him (or her if you are a women) you feel comfortable; he’ll let you be on the
outside who you are on the inside
• Won’t try to make you someone you’re not; appreciates the real you
• Likeable to be around (I can’t overemphasize this)
• Strong commitment to Christ, helps your commitment to Christ deepen
• Willing to confront with love and grace, doesn’t flatter
• Helps you become a better person
• Doesn’t have a lot of expectations of you
To boil it down, a safe person is one who truly will listen, occasionally offer advice, and consistently will support and strengthen you. Pastor, I encourage you to find a safe person in your life, sooner rather than later.
Pastor Newsletter Archieves
Click to read past articles --->
Praying for Peace And It Does Not Come--->
What Pastors Should Look For in a Safe Relationship--->
Turning a Little Criticism into Major Carnage--->
Why Smart Pastors Stumble--->
When You Don’t Know What To Do, Find Someone Who Does--->
A Biblical Mentoring Model--->
When Ministry Knocks You Down--->
Introverts in Ministry--->
Should Pastors Repent Publically?--->
Guilt Producing Questions Pastors Secretly Ask Themselves--->
Saving Your Family Without Killing Your Ministry--->
Eight Healthy Ways To Respond When People Leave Your Church--->
When You’re Challenged, How Do You Respond?--->
Making the Move from Conflict to Cooperation--->
I’ve been a committed Christian for over 40 years.
I’ve served in vocational ministry for over 30 years.
I’ve earned a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry.
I’ve preached over 1,000 sermons.
I’ve memorized hundreds of Scriptures.
I practice spiritual disciplines such as prayer, solitude, and fasting on a regular basis.
You’d think that with that spiritual pedigree, I should always experience God’s peace or at least when I lack it, should immediately regain it through prayer, quoting scripture, etc.
Not so in my experience.
One of my all time favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:6-7:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
That verse, as do many others, implies that when we feel anxious and lack peace we if we turn to the Lord, cast our anxiety on him, pray, and yield our wills to His, then emotional peace should readily follow.
When I’ve done these things, sometimes I have regained His peace. At other times I haven’t. Not only have these experiences perplexed me, but when I faced difficult times with our oldest daughter’s rebellion and chronic illness with our youngest daughter, no matter how hard I prayed and quoted scripture, peace would sometimes elude me.
When peace didn’t come, an accusing voice inside me would add to my misery by suggesting that something must be wrong with me.
Maybe I didn’t have enough faith (so I would try to muster more of it).
Perhaps unconfessed sin was in the way (so I’d confess any unknown sins that I may have somehow missed).
Possibly I didn’t pray correctly (so I’d reframe my prayers).
Mostly these techniques failed. So I soldiered on, figuring something was still wrong with me.
My neatly packed theology hit a brick wall. It was like when Neo in the movie The Matrix said, "Something was just not right, something was missing, something was lacking, something bothering me like a splinter in your mind."
My spiritual coping strategies fell short. I don’t mean to imply that we reduce Christianity to pragmatism. We love and obey God simply because He is God and is worthy of our worship and allegiance. Even so, I finally allowed my honest questions to bubble to the surface.
Why, if I did the right things, did peace not come?
Then... I began to understand how our brain works.
I began reading about the brain and enrolled in a master’s program in neuroleadership (a process that applies neuroscience insights to leadership principles). I began to understand that our brain is not simply like a computer, but also like a pharmacy. It’s constantly releasing chemicals into our blood that profoundly affects emotions like peace, anger, fear, and anxiety.
I’m learning that I can be right with God in all respects, and yet not feel emotional peace in the current circumstance. What a relief to learn that lack of peace does not necessarily mean I’m messed up.
As a result of these new insights, I have begun to see how we can use this incredible gift from God, our brain, for healthy living and productive leadership.
Have you ever struggled with this issue? How are you dealing with it?