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Lessons from Leave - #3: I Don't Need to be Needed

Before my Leave, I came to learn that my value as a person was tied up into what I do for a living.  People praised me when I did well and it made me feel good about myself.  People admonished me when I did bad and it made me feel bad about myself.  When people didn’t care about what I do, it made me feel unimportant.  My self-value was tied to my profession.  I sought the value of me in others instead of seeking the value of me in how God defines it.  I learned this over 23 years.  It’s embarrassing.  I have preached this many times to others.  God values me.  That should be enough.  It hasn’t always been.

Lesson #3:  I don’t need to be needed. 

I believe co-dependency is a major issue among clergy and I was becoming a part of it.  While I might still care about your opinion (or not), it will no longer be tied to my value as a person.  Truth is, a good portion of my congregation doesn’t know much about my person beyond my job anyhow… somewhat because there isn’t much more to know (another sad commentary on my personal life… see lesson #1).  But I also think it has to do with some people wanting the idealistic, picturesque pastoral leader.  Getting to know me as a person would ruin that (I am not ideal nor picturesque).  Nevertheless, like it or not, I realize that, at worst, I fill a role for people.  At best, I fill a relationship for people.  However, my 23 years has taught me that it is usually the role I fill and not the relationship.  I am the preacher, teacher, prayer, care-giver, administrator, etc.;  I am rarely Joe Royer who is devoid of any professional pastoral role/label that has expectations tied to it, realistic or unrealistic. 

This is even more reason to avoid co-dependency.  If people don’t know Joe Royer, they certainly have no right to dictate my value as a person.  Therefore, your praises and admonishments and apathy of me will be held in the strictest of contexts.  If you think I am a fabulous person because I give good sermons, you can think that.  I won’t.  If you think I am a heartless person because I don’t visit you enough, you can think that.  I won’t.  If you think what I do makes me unimportant, that’s okay.  I won’t think that way.

On the other hand, consider that just because self-value is separate from job performance issues doesn’t mean we shouldn’t deal with job performance issues.  Just because your opinion might be that I am not a good pastor doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to find ways to be a better pastor.  It just means that our interaction and processes doesn’t affect my self-value.  However, I can and should still pursue excellence.  Why?  Because God, who graciously values me, wants me to pursue excellence.  Enough said.

I don’t know if this lesson refers to a ‘boundary’ as opposed to just an attitude adjustment.  Either way, it has vastly improved my self-care. The last lesson of 4 will delve even further into my psyche as a clergy person.  I hope you join me.

Be at Peace,
Joe Royer (who happens to be a pastor)
pastorjoe [at] emmanuel-umc.com

Rev. Joe Royer is the pastor of Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Batavia and recently returned from a 12-week voluntary leave of absence for rest and renewal. This is the 3rd of 4 "lessons" from his time away that he shares with clergy colleagues to help with maintaining healthy boundaries.