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.