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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Wanting to be Liked...and MORE!

Holiness isn't found in an instant. I'm constantly reminded it's found in the little moments, the small decisions we make every day. We don't seek holiness for accolades, but because we love God and want to be closer to Him.

The holier we are, the less we worry about what others think of us.

That's the problem, isn't it? We all want to be liked. We all want people to love us, and it really wounds us when someone we know expresses dislike in some way, or if we simply can't get along with them for some reason.

This is something I've often had to face since I began working in a parish.

Given that I came to this position with long experience in male-dominated fields, I'm pretty used to being the "bad guy". Given that I've worn a uniform a certain percentage of the world hates on sight, I can withstand the "evil eye" shot in my direction, especially considering that it's not personal.

I was surprised, then, in starting parish work, to find that the "evil eye" from a parishioner was devastating.

To be perfectly honest, never in my life have I ever hit such directed, personal hatred as I did when I began working in a Catholic parish and ran aground of the people who saw that I was disrupting the comfortable status quo.

Oh, yes, it was personal, and it was hatred. Let's call it what it is; the reality is that this happens across the spectrum of orthodoxy or lack therof. I see and lament it enough in the blogosphere, and I've even been a part of it.

Yes, I know I rant (on my blog), but I try to keep the rant general, not about the people, but the issues that we face. I may look at Sr. XYZ in her navy pantsuit and detest her eco-spirituality, but maybe I like her as a person and find her fun to talk to as long as the topic has nothing to do with theology. I've spoken with dissident priests, seeing in them something truly wonderful (one who had just absolved me after a very powerful confession), gritting my teeth against some of his expressed theology. him I saw great compassion, understanding, and proper knowledge of Christ in the Sacraments. Something that in fact, led me closer to Jesus, lent to a greater ability to trust Him.

You see, I'm trying hard (still working on it) to separate the people from the issues. We are all sinful creatures in need of mercy.

It really hurts like hell when someone we know we are supposed to love directly targets us, takes aim, and fires.

That's what happened to me my first year. I didn't set out to alienate anyone, and actually tried to deliver Truth gently, making sure to incorporate myself and my own culpability in our Faith. I didn't do a very good job...some of my wording WAS too harsh. It wasn't all wording, though. The message itself is sometimes harsh, and if it's never been brought to the forefront, those it impacts the most repel it violently.

Some of the problem was that no matter how gently a message is delivered, there are those who won't accept it, and want to remain with the status quo, which in our day and age involves pluralism and relativism. Anyone who speaks truthfully of the Church, of Christ, is therefore going to offend anyone who rejects those teachings. The "offended" person, wearing the label belonging to the objective teachings, seeing that they don't actually match the label they claim, gets very defensive and lashes out.

They make the attack personal, in a way only an "offended" human can: viciously, with defamation of character and snarkiness. Never in person, though. In person, they are sweet as southern pecan pie. In any case, it's much easier to attack and silence the messenger than it is to go to the Cross and destroy Christ. Or, in someone open to the message, to actually take it in and experience conversion.

It's been some time now, and people at my work have gotten used to me and have gotten to know me as I've also gotten to know them. I recognize so many more faces these days, even if I don't know the names, and have to confess that in knowing them, I want to be liked by them as well. I want to be on their side, I want them on my side. Even though I am but an employee there, I am also a Catholic, therefore I see us as family.

I will their good, and so I teach/preach what I believe to be for their good, and I try to do it in such a way that all can handle the message...and desire more of it.

I guess that's the problem with being "family". Sometimes speaking the truth and doing my job means ruffling feathers. Sometimes it means having MY feathers ruffled. It means being challenged.

It means I have to be dependent upon God, for if I am not, I will be eaten alive.

I'm giving a few talks this week to a group of parents, something I have to do every year, and have to admit I don't think it's fun. I don't think I'm a very good speaker and wish I could just provide the information to someone else and have someone else deliver the message.

This afternoon I expressed this to my boss, saying that all the work was done; all someone would have to do is to step in and READ it!

Laughing she told me, "Adoro...just READ it!"


OK, never mind...I'll go.

The core of my problem isn't any real phobia, or anything else. It's fear, of knowing I'm going to speak the Truth and some people are not going to like me because of it. The Truth is uncomfortable. I know it still makes me uncomfortable, as it should.

But maybe the worst thing: I don't want to experience that because I want people to like me.

Oh, it's painful to admit that fact about myself.

Certainly, it's very necessary, in apologetics, in evangelization, to have a relationship with the other party. If I'm not friendly with Mr. Y or Mrs. M, why should they trust anything I say, or especially that it is coming from an eternal source, not just the Gospel according to Adoro?

In meeting big groups, I find it harder to deliver the message of the gospel, because I'm talking AT people. When I get to have these same discussions with small groups, or individually, they can ask questions as we go, which makes it more interpersonal. If I've been unclear in my presentation, they can ask for clarification. If I am in error, they can call me on it! (So far my biggest errors have actually been typoes, clerical stuff, not theology!)

But still, the key is in the relationship. I think it is easier now to speak to these groups because I know them, and consider many to be friends. I had to speak tonight and had among that crowd several parents I actually would have said didn't have to be present because they were last year or the year before. One said she wanted to be there for support, and after my talk, said she appreciated how the message was delivered.

I was glad to have her there. Her presence DID help, especially because I'd told her she didn't have to be there and I could just meet with her separately with any details.

There were others who didn't even ask, and I knew they were there not for the information, but to give support, to get anything new, to offer what they could. Wonderful people.

It's good to be liked. It's good to have friends. We can't survive without friends, or without their support.

But we can't depend on that or allow that to define us.

We can't fear delivering the message of the Gospel for fear someone won't like us anymore if we do. Or maybe that they'll outright hate us for simply professing our belief.

We live in challenging times, where it is "uncool" to be religious, unless we are "religious" in the pluralistic self-serving sense, that everything is truth, and truth is subjective, personally defined.

We who work in parishes have to wander through such muddy waters and help souls come out of it into the light that is Christ alone. It's tough work, we're going to take barbs, we're going to have fishhooks impale us, and we're going to bring up old boots when we go diving for lost souls.

But we can't give up. Whether we work for a parish or simply love Jesus and want to bring Him to others, we're going fishing in the muddy bottoms, and if we give up, it'll be too late. We're going in for rescue...not body recovery. When it gets to the latter, it's too late.

It's really no surprise that some we bring up through the muddy waters flail about and scream at us and express anger. It's no wonder they are defiant and combative. In emergency medicine, people who have been deprived of oxygen are often combative. It's a HUGE sign, and never one to take personally. They simply don't know what they are doing. Once they have breathed clean air for awhile, they come to their senses, they come to themselves....they come to Life.

Year for Priests

Before I worked in a church, I really didn't understand what priests deal with every day. I know that what I do is a privilege, for I speak with his authority, through the Bishop. If I give Church needs to be Church teaching. Father trusts me to do that, the Bishop, by extension, trusts me to do that...on up to the Pope.

But there's more. People often look at priests without realizing the depth of what they do, who they are. Their parishes ARE their families, their parishioners...their children. I think they even have special concern for their employees (although I haven't much pondered this and need another viewpoint.) Myself, I see the priest I work for differently than I see my own Pastor; the relationship is definitely different, as it should be.

Still, though, it's not the same as secular employment. Faith changes EVERYTHING.

I know I am not called to parish work, although it's where I am now. It has changed me, it has given me a more mature perspective, something I needed, especially as a blogger. It has given me the chance to see people as they are, in all their needs, and the Church, in the depths of her true warfare.

Priests see this too, even MORE deeply. I know that if all I wrote in this post is true, it is even more deeply so for a Priest, who has charge of the parish. When I go home at night, my responsibility is done, but for my moral life. When a priest goes home at night...well...he never leaves. He IS home.

And because he is human, he wants to be liked, too. He wants to be loved. I know guys are not so emotional as we women, but foundationally we are all social and have this same need. I'm sure that it wounds Priests even more than it does me when they have to face the ire of their parishioners, for whom they have laid down their lives.

Pray for priests. Never let a day go by that you do not pray for your own Pastor, for his sanctity, for God to guide him in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and for his safety.

This is his prayer for you as well. Don't let that prayer be one-sided.



Melody K said...

Thanks for the reminder to pray for priests; I shouldn't need to be reminded, but I do.
The need to be liked; yeah, we've all been there! It's unfortunate when people shoot the messenger.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Great post. Even though I don't work in a parish, I know exactly what you mean. The desire to be liked versus expressing the Truth is something we can all relate to.

Charity, oh yes, that too! :-) I struggle with it. Not one of my strongest points.

Anne said...

Wonderful post. I'm always a Nancy-Nice, trying to please everybody, and usually I'm pretty successful, but when I'm not, it's devastating to me. A few years ago I lost a friend who had been very special to me and I fell into a deep depression. My niece pointed out to me that part of my problem is that I'm used to everybody liking me and I can't handle it when someone doesn't like me. It's hard to know that someone you care about doesn't care about you at all, and especially when they are also Catholic and you think that they get the "love others" mandate. It's hard to accept that you just can't please everybody.

My prayers for you.