How do you react when someone applauds your efforts? For a pastor, the moment of appreciation has an awkwardness that’s hard to fully grasp. Yet, managing this moment and receiving gratitude in a healthy manner are essential for building self-worth.
Over the past four months, we’ve been exploring the pastor’s battle with insecurity. We’ve considered what forms of expression that insecurity can take, the type of moments when it can rear its ugly head, a simple strategy for winning those occasional battles, and, more recently, have been looking at some biblical help for improving our sense of value. God has much to say about our identities, our brokenness, and the purpose with which He has christened our lives.
In this last installment of the series, there’s one more biblical idea that should connect with our struggle—the giving and receiving of blessing.
- GIVING AND RECEIVING BLESSING
You must learn to let others love and bless you, and do the same for them.
Perhaps it’s culturally drawn, but the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, contains stories of multiple occasions where one is blessed or extends a blessing to another. This somewhat unusual practice was actually quite common within families, as one generation defined its view of the future with blessings for each of the children.
But the giving of blessing occurred outside the home as well. Melchizedek blessed Abraham, kings blessed their warriors and were blessed by prophets, and there is ample additional evidence that gaining a blessing was considered a treasured moment. Even Jesus used this expression as He blessed or called attention to those who were doing good, like the widow giving her significant offering and a group of dancing children who became His picture of faith. He even provided us with a series of statements that define the one who will be blessed.
For pastors, modern moments of blessing are a bit more difficult. We can find ourselves extending God’s blessing over people’s households, possessions, marital unions, and newborn children. In those moments, we recognize that we speak such blessing on God’s behalf and ask Him to demonstrate that blessing in measurable ways. But will God bless what we bless?
And what of receiving. Here things become especially challenging. Many pastors struggle to feel appropriate in any response to someone’s appreciation. “Great sermon, Pastor!” The well-intended applause is usually met with a sheepish smile or some clever quip that seeks to take the spotlight off one’s self, like “Well, the Bible’s a great book,” or the smiling, “Praise the Lord!” Every pastor has been told that if you do things for man’s attention then you have your reward. Jesus said that. So we are quick to redirect all appreciation because we cannot allow ourselves to feel worthy of such sentiment.
Of course, there’s another extreme. Some pastors feel so underappreciated that they’ve decided their people owe them. They can’t receive praise in a healthy way either because they don’t trust such expressions or they demand them. I once met a pastor who wanted to plan his own Pastor Appreciation Day, so he handed out assignments to his puzzled people and expected them to put their hearts into it!
Here’s some truth.
When we are losing the battle with our insecurities, we find it especially difficult to bless or be blessed. Instead our internal struggles twist and warp such sweet moments into something sour or tasteless. But a little work in this area can help rewrite your internal programming a bit. So let me offer you two steps that can start making a difference:
First, Pastor, it’s okay for your people to appreciate you. Like every other human being, such affirmation is a part of healthy self-worth. For the same reasons that you pat your own kids on their backs, you need a few pats too. When someone expresses gratitude for your efforts to care for them, just say “thanks” or “glad I could help.” Smile and receive. You see, pastoring has many moments that aren’t affirming, so don’t push away the ones that are. I’ve kept every card, every “thank you” letter, and every picture a toddler has drawn of me during a worship service. I keep them in a fat envelope in my desk drawer, and I pull them out every now and then, especially when I want to remember the special moments and special people God’s has brought to my journey.
Second, Pastor, look for ways to bless others. Applaud them when they live your church’s values. Pat them on the back when they offer the simplest acts of service. Celebrate their victories with a Facebook post or a card. When you get into the habit of blessing others, your own sense of value expands and you become less susceptible to the twinges of insecurities.
Blessing and being blessed can get their own chicken-and-egg cycle working. The more you bless others, the more you cultivate an environment where others do the same. See you people through a critical lens and you shouldn’t be surprised when they wear the same glasses as they look at you.
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.