Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Taking the Hit

Sometimes life, The Universe and Everything conspires to make a point. This week started with a difficult few moments for me, which in turn have been informed by two very helpful blogs posts.

The first I read was from the wonderful Ray "I am not a Man" Barnes about 'turning the other cheek', which in turn was born of a post by Jonathan Haggar along similar lines. Both posts are worth a read - one from a lay person, one from a priest who has a very clear interest in this particular thought process!

I had a difficult experience on Sunday. It wasn't difficult because some faithful people were rude to me (alright, perhaps in part). It was difficult because I felt unable to 'fight-back'.

By style, I am not one who takes poor behaviour directed at me well. I am apt to fire back with both barrels, and in the past, I have employed a cruel streak that I have in cutting retorts and the like. I learned all this in retailing, and rarely did customers get away with being rude to me (less so if they stated that the customer is always right, which of course they are not). I developed an armory of the sort of come-backs that stand-up comedians might use more, and coupled with a fairly pronounced frown and a 'look' that can whither, meant that I fought back adequately in those situations. 

Then I got myself ordained. Now let me tell you - it doesn't change our emotional make-up. We are who were were before, only more so. What moderates our behaviour is the projections of others of how a minister should behave. Vicars are 'not meant to be rude', so we try not to be. Sometimes, it feels like having our arms tied behind our backs, and it is hard at times. However, I also recognise that by projection or not, the Vicar really can't say "so piss off then". Naughty. 

So we take the hit. Sunday was my first hit, and it was horrid (and saying "well, it wasn't my fault" isn't acceptable either, I believe - mostly because a gracious Vicar should not enter into buck-passing). Curates are blessed because we are not placed in that position (if we have a good trainer, as I did). Incumbents really do become un-defended by virtue of their role, because as leader-members of God is Love Plc, we have to lead by example. I am now thirty years before retirement. A lot of hits will wing their way in my general direction in that time - because I am human and I am flawed and do get things wrong, because people have a funny view that they have a right to be more direct with the clergy than others it seems, because we must rise above it, because in part it is our job. 

Let it not pass by our attention, however, that my post now makes three that talk of aggression and needless rudeness by Christians to other Christians - just saying. 


  1. I wonder if people think that they can abuse Clergy because they think that they are to 'nice' to hit back. To my mind, this is a form of bullying and taking advantage of the vulnerable (we're all vulnerable)knowing full well that there is unlikely to be any comeback.

    I know that it's a pastoral situation, but sometimes wonder how some people feel and have the capacity and the right to be 'cutting and cruel' rather than diplomatic or civil. Perhaps asking for a private meeting to discuss any concerns they might have, rather than inflicting it in a few sharp remarks in passing and than disappearing off in self-satisfied smugness at having vented their spite.

    Forgiveness and mercy missing from their make up? possibly, or perhaps, self and ego being central to their faith, rather than Jesus in his mercy.

  2. ours is not to reason why... and all that - what a crock! funny how people think that ministers don't have feelings. It's like it's a green card to tell them whatever you think and in whatever way and then walk away (or not as the case maybe). Hope they do a 'developing a thick skin' at college or I will be ruined!
    It is a sad inditement though that often Christians arguing with Chritians produce the most vitriol.
    keep going, the digital world will always provide some sympathy!

  3. ps: just watched the silent monk thingy on your sidebar - brilliant!! very funny...



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