A few months ago I was taking a seminary course on pastoral counseling through the Washington D.C. campus of RTS, or Reformed Theological Seminary. At one point the professor was making a tangential point about one of the defining characteristics of narcissists, which is that they treat the people in their lives like they’re cardboard cutouts. They can move them around, put them down, raise them up, dispose of them, and use them however it serves them.
Then he moved on, and moved back to whatever the main point was that he was making.
But I couldn’t get past what he had just said. Narcissists treat people in their lives like they’re cardboard cutouts.
I immediately started thinking about how I interact with the members of my worship team. The ones I know well. The ones I don’t know so well. The newer members. The stronger members. The weaker members. Do I value them and treat them like brothers and sisters with love and respect and honor? Or do I see them as cardboard cutouts, names on a spreadsheet, there at my disposal to be used as I deem best, with no consideration of their hearts?
Now, I think I’m a pretty sensitive guy and try to do my best to care for the musicians with whom I serve alongside. But, newsflash of the century here, I’m not perfect, and in that moment in that seminary class, I think the Holy Spirit was convicting me of a dangerous ability to be careless with people in the church and, perhaps unknowingly, act in a way that can be hurtful to them.
Maybe it’s not scheduling someone for 6 months and never explaining to them why. Maybe it’s never responding to an email from someone, deleting it, and assuming they’ll just go away. Maybe it’s not getting back to someone who asked you to call them. Who knows.
Try not to be a narcissist. Treat people with love and honor. It doesn’t mean you to have to make everyone happy and never be tough. You need to be tough in ministry sometimes. But don’t be a jerk.
As a wonderful old lady in one of my former churches once told me, ministry will (hopefully) make you tough and sweet. That’s what the Holy Spirit wants to help us be, and by God’s grace, he’ll keep helping us find the balance.