You will notice, as a leader, that your struggle with your insecurities can “come and go.” You will likely feel as if you’ve won the war during times of success or popularity among the people you lead. However, insecurity raises its ugly head most often in times when you feel intimidated in certain situations. By understanding when a pastor is most susceptible to insecurity, we can gain the opportunity to address those fears before they materialize into their most powerful forms. So, when will a pastor most likely face such feelings?
1. CRITICISM & REJECTION —When colleagues or subordinates attack your performance or character.
Ever notice how easy it is to feel rejection when a family decides to attend another church? There are many moments where a pastor can feel rejected, so this situation often raises its ugly head.
2. MEETING SOMEONE IMPORTANT—When you’re first introduced to someone you feel you must impress.
This can arise from meeting a well-known ministry leader, authority figure in your denomination, or anyone we might believe is more important than we are.
3. FAILURE AT AN ASSIGNMENT —When you fail to reach a goal or standard, and you take it personally.
Imagine that the goal of the outreach was to connect with 50 people, but only five showed up, or worse, nobody from the congregation came to help. Any time ministry effort doesn’t meet expectations, pastors are susceptible to feelings of failure as a leaders.
4. A COLLEAGUE’S SUCCESS —When a peer achieves notoriety and reward for their own success.
We want to celebrate with another pastor when his goals are met or he is rejoicing over a particularly effective Sunday, but somehow his success magnifies our own feelings of inadequacy. Surely, that shouldn’t be, but…
5. UNRECOGNIZED ACHIEVEMENT —When people you respect fail to notice your own success and accomplishment.
Ever heard your state leader bragging over the efforts of another pastor and wished he knew your success story too? Or maybe the state event used someone else’s worship team and you are convinced that your team is better. Many pastors operate in hidden places so this situation can arise frequently for them.
6. PERSONAL LOSS —When people & resources you’ve relied upon are taken away.
How do you celebrate the promotion that’s taking one of your strongest families to another state? How personal is it for you when people leave your congregation for “greener pastures.”
7. REFLECTING ON AN UNFAIR PAST —When you become melancholy about your own victimized, unjust background.
Now this doesn’t mean you were once a victim of abuse (though it could). Instead, this can be as simple as focusing on the limitations of your situation—we don’t have the people we need, the building we need, the finances we need, to do what others are doing.
Each of these moments—and most occur multiple times in a pastor’s life—open the door to insecurity. And when they come (sometimes more than one at the same time), we find ourselves susceptible to the behaviors we have discussed in our last few blogs.
So what do you do?
I’ve read many of those lists that identify the most stressful occupations, and “pastor” seems to always make the top five. Surgeon is up there, along with air-traffic controller, and even funeral director! But my point is that pastoral ministry isn’t for the timid. Stress has a way of intensifying every feeling and really making ministry life extra challenging.
Consider this: If the truth makes us free (John 8:32), then lies put us in bondage. The level of defeat and bondage you face as a leader may be directly linked to the volume of myths or lies you’ve embraced about your identity. Our problem is that while we know the truth…we believe the lie. Dr. Chris Thurman has written an insightful book entitled, The Lies We Believe . He provides a helpful process for us to understand.
If the truth makes us free, then lies put us in bondage.
1. DETERMINE – the trigger event, which fostered the lie/bondage.
Example: Your deacons failed to affirm the hard work you put in on last week’s successful outreach event. You feel resentful and insignificant. As we have seen, there is typically a moment or event that “triggered” our feelings of insecurity. What happened? Who said what? It’s very important that we identify the situation or statement that started our journey down the road of these feelings.
Now, it’s important that we not think of blame here. Our goal isn’t to blame someone or some moment for our feelings. We are simply looking for what occurred so we can reframe how we deal with that situation. You can’t overcome your insecurities by blaming their existence on others. These are our feelings and as we understand them better, we can conquer their destructive capabilities.
2. DISCOVER – the lie you’ve believed about that situation.
Example: Perhaps you’ve embraced the lie: “I am only as good as what I do.” You’ve attached your value to your performance, and the approval of others.
So why did that moment bother me so much? When that pastor shared his story of blessing, why did my thoughts immediately focus on my own sense of failure?
If a disappointment or moment of “dropping the ball” leaves me thinking I’m worthless, I’ve likely made some faulty assumptions. If someone else’s moment is affecting how I feel about my own, I’ve probably misconnected some dots. Give some thought to the “what-I-have-to-believe-for-this-to-be-true” ideas that are driving my assumptions. Find the lie so we can discard it in favor of some truth.
3. DECIDE – what response is truthful, appropriate and realistic.
Example: My personal worth is tied to who I am not what I do. My congregation does appreciate me, but they are human like me and likely failed to notice my work due. After all, they’ve been very busy with their own lives. Often, this step is simply insisting that the lie is just that—a lie! I may need to remind myself of that a few dozen times before I start believing it, but now I have truth on my side.
But don’t just talk yourself out of a lie. Talk yourself into truth. When we pick this up again, we’ll explore some of the truth you need to help you build a healthier sense of your own value.
Here are a few thoughts that may help you manage your insecurities a bit better:
TIPS & TRUTHS…
1. Never put your emotional health in the hands of someone else.
The Bible tells us that Jesus didn’t entrust Himself to any man because He knew what was in a man. This sure seems difficult for us because we do need people. But, as we will soon see, the only safe place for a pastor to invest his emotional needs is in his own relationship with God.
2. The truth is a requirement for spiritual and emotional health.
Nothing can take the place of being honest about your own feelings. Pretending that your insecurities aren’t real does little to free you from their impact.
3. Most of our unhappiness and insecurity is the result of lies we believe.
The good news is that much of what your insecurities are telling you isn’t true! We’ll explore this reality soon.
4. Recognize that you will believe what you want to believe.
If you choose to believe something—even if it is false—you will live as though it were true. This is where many of us find our deepest struggle.
5. The truth can be eclipsed by a thrilling lie.
For some reason, human nature can lead us to prefer the lie to the truth, especially if that lie is reinforced by how we have long felt about ourselves.
6. A secret to healthy living is negotiating and balancing life’s hardships.
We have to have an effective plan for dealing with our setbacks. If we don’t, they will be able to unleash their most destructive capacities on us.
7. Remember that hurting people naturally hurt people; intimidated people intimidate.
Many of the sources that enhance our insecurities are likely covering up a batch of their own. Once we’re free of our own destructive thoughts, we can begin seeing others’ insecurities more clearly.
8. We can only pass on what we possess ourselves.
We need to conquer the destructive elements of our insecurities. Unfortunately, they can be contagious—sneaking into the lives of our children as well. If you want to overcome those insecurities, yu may need to do some rebuilding of your life in four key areas.
IDENTITY – You must tie your self-worth to your identity in Christ, not people and performance.
BROKENNESS – You must allow God to break you of self-sufficiency and self-promotion.
PURPOSE – You must discover and practice your God-given purpose in life, not someone else’s.
GIVING AND RECEIVING BLESSING – Y ou must learn to let others love and bless you, and do the same for them.
Ultimately, each of us serve for the pleasure off our Master, and we all look forward to a final day when we hear words of blessing like, “well done, good and faithful servant…” Maybe God doesn’t want to wait to tell you some of that, so He’s going to send a few of His friends to you with that message. Receive them with gratitude, knowing He’s the One who sent them.
Living with a healthy sense of self-worth doesn’t mean we manufacture some artificial self-talk that build us up. No, the real solution is to embrace the truth of God’s view and value of your life. You’re his servant and His joy, and the road you’re walking is the one He’s designed especially for you. So grab His hand and enjoy every minute!
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