Each Thursday, I write this post for church leaders in particular. Regardless of what role you are in, one of the dangerous tendencies for church leaders is the temptation to become far too self-conscious.
A heightened self-consciousness will drain you of energy and eventually diminish your joy. Perhaps what is especially dangerous is that you can easily become a pretender.
Many church leaders understand all too well that they are often being scrutinized by people. One of the unhealthy responses to criticism is a heightened self-consciousness. What I mean by this is an exaggerated preoccupation with how others perceive you. Consequently:
- You try too hard to be liked.
- You try too hard to say what will appeal to everyone and cause no one displeasure.
- You try too hard to preach/teach what will not cause anyone to experience discomfort.
- You try too hard to disclose only what you believe others want to hear and not what you genuinely believe.
- You try too hard to convince others that you are a likable person while you lose your convictions in the process.
- You try too hard to please people and experience way too much distress when someone is not pleased.
After a while, if you are like some church leaders, you become so self-conscious about what others think that you lose any sense of who you really are. In fact, you may look in the mirror and feel like a pretender.
A few suggestions:
1. Pray that you might become more God-conscious than self-conscious. Spending time in solitude and silence might help you discern just how much of your energy is being devoted to pleasing others.
2. Get honest. Start with writing what you really think, believe, want, etc. in a journal. Write this down without filtering it or posturing for others. Just say it. Sometimes people who have public roles can actually lose any sense of what they really believe.
3. Ask those closest to you for their assessment of your public statements, talks, messages, etc. versus what you actually say in private. Suppose for example that your church has a ministry that has become ineffective and should have died five years ago. You communicate this to your family. Then, on a Sunday morning you talk about this ministry as if it were the most important work the church has going. That is inconsistent. Ask your family if what you say in private is in line with what you are saying publicly.
What has been helpful to you in dealing with the temptation to focus too much of your energy on how others perceive you?