I was talking to a former student, who is now a pastor, this week about what to do when you get THAT email that just knocks you down. You know the one…it’s something you did, said, or tried that rubbed someone the wrong way. Although your intentions were pure, that email made you feel like you were the lowest creature on the planet. The simplest of comments (in your mind) has seemed to stir up a litany of offenses that have become the talk of the Women’s Bible Study…for some of you, this is all too familiar!
If you are in ministry, the bad news is that it’s part of the deal. It’s too public of a leadership position not to tick people off on a regular basis, even when you’re trying not to. The good news is that great emails are part of the deal, too. And the only way that you’ll make it in this gig is to give partial credit to both kinds.
You simply can’t ruin your life over a critical email and you also can’t measure your worth on the kind emails. They are both relative to the moment. Make a different decision and the same people who were singing your praises will be criticizing your comments. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow, but if you don’t believe me, just read Paul’s letters to the churches in the New Testament. Same problems, different century. We work with people. And people offend each other ALL of the time.
For those of you who want to sit down and type that critical email…just remember this…you offend people just as much as the person who offended you. You are made of the same flesh and if you can keep that in mind, you’re bound to have more grace for your offender. What if you let go of the offense and typed that email about everything you love about that person? Which one would go over better? Sometimes the answer will be that the issue needs to be dealt with, but more often than not, focusing on people’s strengths and assuming the best will be the road that gets you to the destination you prefer.
Now I’ve gotta go check my email and see what kind of day I’m having…just kidding.