What I Learned

Grace and giggles asked: I wonder Dave……what did you learn and /or take away from that experience? Was there some grand lesson in it for your life?

What a great question!  Here are some things I learned:

  1. This pastor was a jerk.  Yes, I believe that is a true statement.  He was so intimidated by the job I had done that he could only respond with accusations and attacks.  He lifted up himself by tearing me down.  I learned that this wasn’t really about me—it was about him.
  2. Jerks can neither run nor ruin my life.  I confess that I have had to learn this over and over.  Jerks have a way of pulling us to a place that is uncomfortable for us, a place where they seem to have power.  They have learned, through the circumstances of their lives, how to manipulate and most of them are pretty good at it.  But that doesn’t mean that I have to do what they say or think what they want me to think.
  3. In the middle of the process, I learned nothing.  I was numb.  I remember some of the things he said (even now 35 years later!), but nothing in his words impacted my ministry performance.  In other words, I made no changes because of what he said.  This is important.  When we are cornered, we have two choices: counter or cower.  If we have the strength, we may counter-attack.  Most jerks are too smart to put strong people into that position.  Instead, they attack subordinates or people they believe are weaker.  That’s why we usually cower, waiting for the next blow.  The words mean nothing as arguments.  Their only meaning is as weapons.  So we learn nothing.
  4. Not only was the pastor an abusive jerk, he was wrong.  I had done well there, so well that he heard about it and was compared to me.  In some ways, I think this was a beginning of being able to separate feedback from real evaluation in my life.  What I mean is that I began to understand that I could not judge the quality of my effort by the responses or criticisms I received.  That’s a challenging thing for most of us to learn.  I have to be reminded of it from time to time. 

So those are the things that come to mind quickly.  It was a tough experience, one of the worst of my life.  Yes, I value it as part of what the Lord used to bring me to grace, but I would never have chosen it and I wouldn’t want to go into another situation like that. 

One of the things I have tried to learn, perhaps partly based on the feelings I had in this experience, is not to do this to others.  Kay mentioned this in her comment.  When I think that I have, I have returned to the person and I have admitted being a jerk and apologized.  To try to motivate someone using shame and condemnation is more than ineffective, it is cruel.  Grace teaches me to value the other person.  Motivating others through love may be difficult for most of us, because it is foreign to the way we were trained, but it is the right way and the best way.

Watch for a post on jerks tomorrow!



Filed under Church, grace, heart, Narcissism

4 responses to “What I Learned

  1. graceandgiggles

    “I could not judge the quality of my effort by the responses or criticisms I received”
    You say this is a challenge for most of us to learn. So far, in my journey, it has been downright foreign to me. There is a false truth I have carried with me the majority of my life that tells me quite the opposite. If someone around me says I’m wrong in doing what I’m doing, or doesn’t like what I’m doing. Well, I need to stop, change or be better. Period. Someone else couldn’t possibly be wrong and if I think so, then I have some sin or rebellion for thinking that way. And if I believe that what I’m doing it right or good, than I am being selfish and self-centered.

    This all runs very deep in my soul. God works with me. Patiently. It’s always nice to hear another’s story on how they came out of it. Thank you! And I can’t change my “sign in” name, but it’s Rebekah :o)

    • Rebekah,

      Thanks so much for the comment. This is exactly what I mean. The legalists teach us to avoid “the fear of man” and then set up a system that feeds that same fear. We are too sinful, too stupid, too compromised, to walk apart from their control. That way we think their control is spiritual.

      Guilt and shame are the tools of the evil one. They keep us from victory and joy. Paul consistently taught that we are accountable to the Lord alone. In 1 Corinthians 4:3, he says that he does not even judge himself. Why? Because he is not answerable to himself. The old system would call him to shame and condemnation. The world would call him to license and sin. So, he has to walk with Jesus. Jesus will lead us.

      So, if you have a project and you do it “as unto the Lord,” then let it be judged by Him alone. Trust that He will have led you to do well, enabled you to do well, or that He has a purpose for your failure in the project. Either way, you are free. Isn’t that amazing!?!

  2. Kay

    Dear one in Christ: First, I am not, never will ‘correct’ you.
    Secondly, You are right about jerks. My experience with offensive, self-absorbed people who do bad things is no different, just different situates. The Lord got my attention one day and that’s all I needed. He reminded me He never called me any name but ‘in the beloved’. I said, ‘but, but..’ He said for me to use disparaging names keeps me clinging to my ‘right’, my anger and pain. This was the largest change in my life leading up to the last 5 months. It was a “WOW!” few minutes and His voice was undeniable.
    That person whom I devalued? He uses the label now with relish and is less aware of his own disdainment, devaluing of so many people than when I first labeled him. Names, like all words, have a lot of power.

    • Joyce Landorf called them “irregular people” many years ago. I suppose that is nicer than “jerks,” but jerk is what comes out of my mouth. On one hand it isn’t particularly helpful to label anyone. As you say, the label can be used against us and narcissists often wear the label with pride. I will be talking about this in a few weeks.

      On the other hand, so many people have been victims and have attributed the cause or failure to themselves. They blame themselves for the cruelty of others. I think it is sometimes quite helpful to look at behavior and draw a circle around it with a label. If I can think about a cruel person and say, “He’s just a jerk,” that allows me to understand that his meanness is not caused by my failure. Obviously, this can become another way to avoid the Lord’s correction, but it is important to let the sins of others be their sins.

      One of the things legalists taught was that negative things happened in our lives because of our own sin. So a woman who is raped must have been provocative in some way. A child who is abused must have been disobedient. An employee who is fired must have been disloyal or insubordinate. We are always to blame. That simply is not the truth much of the time. Sometimes, many times, we are hurt by the simple meanness of others.

      Thanks for the comment! You are certainly welcome to correct me or disagree with me at any time. I don’t believe I have a corner on truth and I am willing to let others be wrong if they want. 😉

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