i launched a new initiative via my blog some time ago, something i was extremely proud of and excited about. within a few minutes, i received my first comment. it was from and old college buddy, who i’ve loosely stayed in contact with thanks to our digital world.
his comment was negative and dismissive, along the lines of, “this is a bad name, and i hope, for your sake, it’s not too late to change it.” his terse little comment, on the public space of my blog, rattled me and left me on edge all day long.
i’m not a newcomer to criticism – including both the well-meaning kind and the mean-spirited kind. in fact, there’s even a website or two that have called me out as a heretic! and i receive plenty of negative comments on my blog, and in real life. but there was something about a comment this strong from a friend that really threw me off balance and filled me with anxiety.
i told my patient and calm wife about the comment, making it clear that my friend was being an idiot. she responded, in that gentle spiritual director voice of hers, “you like to think of yourself as thick-skinned; but you’re really very sensitive, and you can have very thin skin sometimes.” she smiled.
my first response was defensiveness. i knew better than to verbalize this (i knew i’d “lose”); but i thought about how wrong she was, and what a complete tool the guy was being.
but, reality slowly sunk in. ok. i’ll admit it – even to myself: i am sometimes caught off guard by my insecurity. i come off as this over-the-top confident guy; and, most days, most minutes, i do experience a sense of drive and purpose that provides confidence rails to run on. but there’s this fragile guy in there also, cowering in a corner when Mr. Confidence has the stage.
this whole thing is such a tension for those of us in ministry (or any kind of leadership, i suppose). confidence misplaced is arrogance and a complete lack of dependence on god. we’ve all seen that kind of leader. nope, don’t want to be that guy.
but the ragingly insecure leader, whose every word and action is colored by his or her lack of confidence is equally undesirable. i’ve been around those leaders plenty, and i can’t trust them. i never know if what they’re saying is actually true.
so this must be one of those tensions to be nurtured, rather than problems to be solved. i need to bring my insecurity to god, as well as my confidence. i have to cultivate dependence and assurance.
and i have to notice, rather than react. if i can give myself a fraction of the grace god flows my way, maybe i can pay attention to my extremes and submit both of them for transformation and growth. at the end of the day, maybe my “thin-skinned” moments can remind me of my humanity. i am not the messiah. that role has already been taken.