Tag Archives: pastoral internships

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