Monday, September 10, 2007

Ego and ministry

Today as I bask in the congratulatory remarks directed at me about yesterday's very successful groundbreaking celebration, I find an old bugaboo raising its head. It's a failing I have struggled with most of my life and that is the desire to give into and seek out strokes for my ego.

Not that there's anything wrong with having good strong self-esteem, but when I receive compliments and adulation about something I've done, I start getting edgy. It's because I am so aware of how easy it is to be ruled by ego.

I notice my ego-wishes rising when I am overly pleased by compliments or overly hurt by criticism. And today I'm fighting the battle against taking too seriously the nice things said about me as a minister. Other days I fight the battle against taking too seriously the critical things said about me as a minister.

We have all seen public figures who get so much adulation that they become quite addicted to it and end up doing many foolish things in their pursuit of it. Preachers are particularly susceptible to praise (maybe because we get so much non-praise) and it can become an addiction. It also means that the preacher becomes quite susceptible to criticism and gets defensive.

I see these qualities in myself and I strive to find a middle way of living so that neither praise nor blame shapes my day.


Chalicechick said...

So, if I tell you this was an interesting post, am I helping or hurting?


ms. kitty said...

What a great question, CC! Actually, it's not for you to worry about-------it's my responsibility, not yours. You can tell me any number of nice things, and it's my responsibility to stay on an even keel about them, not crave them too much! I guess it's kind of like food-----we need it but we can get into an unhealthy relationship with it. Does that make sense?

Terri Dennehy Pahucki said...

Here, here! I've been struggling with this very thing (like all my life, but it seems to be even more pronounced in the spotlight of worship leading and ministry.)--My struggle is to see compliments as gifts, and criticisms as challenges (another kind of gift really), and trying to see that inner light (the ego-less part) as whole and separate.
Your words really resonated with me. thanks, terri

Ms. Theologian said...

I'm jealous of the praise! One of the really awful things about being an editor is there is never any praise....always an error to find.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Terri, that's a good way to look at it. I like it.

Ms. T, I know editors really only get the criticism. I'm sorry! And I vow to quit finding fault with editors.

Ms. Theologian said...

Oh, you don't have to go that far!

Miss Kitty said...

I hear you, Ms. K. I've long struggled with the same kind of things. When someone tells me they've enjoyed my class, or that something I did was great, I get very suspicious and am afraid to enjoy the compliment. Other times, I've indulged in the compliments and have lost sight of what I was really meant to do. And of course women aren't "supposed" to have egos in our society, so that makes the whole thing even more difficult to navigate.

LinguistFriend said...

Well, these things are practical for professional survival. It is not all a matter of ego. And then
sometimes one must ask "X made a positive comment. What does he want?" Speakers say things to listeners to achieve results,some of which are quite benign, and some of which are not.

ms. kitty said...

VERY good point, LF. Thank you for making it.

PeaceBang said...

I love Anne Lamott's old remark that she's an "egotist with low self-esteem." (I wonder what it means that over the past few years, I've begun to find her totally unbearable, when formerly I adored her writing?)

You need a good infusion of Jewish blood, which causes one, directly after a huge success, to say to oneself, "Oy vey, and will I ever get taken down a few pegs for THIS one!"

Just kidding - but not really!! :-)

It's the Jewish version of karma!