A Pastor's Failings, Pt. 4

It's time for yet another installment in this recurring feature here on the Desperate Pastor blog, confessing some of my failings as a pastor and leader in the church and (I hope) by doing so, encourage other pastors not to feel alone and not to make the same mistakes. Or not to make them again. Or not to make them as BIG as I did.

I'm beginning to have misgivings about the whole series. Primarily because it will never end. I think my faults and failings will outnumber the days I have left on earth to tell of them. Alas, and alack. Mostly alack. But with a little alas thrown in there.

Anyway, here's number four: my unbiblical tendency to believe the best about people and to expect the best from them. I've come to call it "pastoral naiveté."

I know, I know, that sounds a little like an answer to the interview question, "What's your greatest weakness?" "Oh, I guess I work too hard. And I tend to believe the best about people and to expect the best from them."

But I think I'm being totally honest here. See, I know the human heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately sick" (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV), but despite my head knowledge of human fallenness, I have always tended to operate from a default position that expects people will be truthful, that friends--and brothers and sisters in Christ, especially--will be gracious and kind, faithful and loyal, not mean, petty, vindictive, fickle, back-biting, lying, and proud. I tend to think that, heck yeah, people will treat me fairly, and will not turn on me and my family (and faith family) after years of praying for them and with them, counseling them, sacrificing for them, supporting them, and seeking good things for them.

And, to be fair, some faithful souls distinguish themselves by actually rewarding my naive faith. But that's just it: they distinguish themselves, because they are the exceptions. I have been utterly and repeatedly shocked at people--and WHICH people--who have lashed out at me, who have lied about me and/or others, turned their backs not only on me but on my whole family, whom I thought they loved and valued! Literally the LAST people I would have suspected. But that's because I don't suspect ANYONE of being capable of such behavior, certainly not those I consider friends, colaborers, brothers and sisters.

And therein lies the source of my naiveté...my damaging naiveté. I don't want to become cynical or jaded, by any means. But if as a pastor I had done better in years past at remembering that hurting people hurt people--and we are all hurting--I think I might have been a much better pastor, a wiser leader. I would have spared myself a TON of hurt and heartache and, more importantly, might have spared the flock a lot of harm.

The good shepherd, like the Good Shepherd, is neither naive nor jaded...but is like him of whom it was said, "Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men....he knew what was in a man" (John 2:24-25, NIV).

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