Have you ever been guilty of being your own worst enemy? This is a hard truth to discuss and it’s even harder to admit guilt. This being the case I will begin with transparency. Hopefully you will see me as a fellow struggler and not a stone thrower.
I once found myself to be my own worst enemy with a group of deacons. This group of deacons fulfilled an administrative role instead of a ministry role. This is fairly typical in older traditional churches. Pastors struggle to cope with this type of deacon ministry. Our success or failure in coping with this situation is not altogether dependent on the deacons. Our success or failure requires that we manage our hearts properly. In my situation I failed because I stopped communicating with these deacons and emotionally avoided them. There were several times when I became frustrated with this group of men and failed to manage my frustration. My frustration caused me to turn inward (causing depression) and at other times to lash out in anger. This caused some of the deacons to become frustrated with me. I was my own worst enemy.
Consider this verse from Proverbs. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1) Another person responding in an inappropriate manner does not justify my responding in an inappropriate manner. If I respond in an inappropriate manner, I become my own worst enemy. Ultimately, I am not responsible for the other person; I am responsible for myself.
Over the years I have seen a number of situations where individuals become their own worst enemy.
Consider these examples.
- Anger- Sometimes we react to people with anger and frustration. Jesus was severely abused yet He never became angry in His response to His tormentors.
- Immaturity- Ministers can be guilty of mishandling anger, conflict, and personality issues as much as other people.
- Superiority- Ministers sometimes develop a superiority mind-set whereby we conclude our vision, decisions, and opinions are superior to lay people.
- Poor people skills- If we do not treat people with dignity, respect, and integrity they will return the favor.
- Poor communication skills- Words are tricky creatures. They often do not communicate what we intend. Over the years I have inadvertently run off a number of people from churches I served because they did not hear what I was trying to communicate. I realize those people are responsible for handling their issues. However, I recognize words to be a problem from time to time. Misunderstandings and poor communication are behind most broken relationships.
I could belabor this truth, but I think you see my point. What do I do if I am my own worst enemy? Consider these suggestions.
- Begin by swallowing your pride.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in this vital area.
- Ask a professional (denominational worker, counselor, or advisor) to evaluate several issues you have faced and offer an opinion of your behavior.
- Find a faithful friend. A faithful friend will tell you the truth.
- Continue to grow. It is good to read Biblically-based self- help books from time to time.
- Listen to your critics. In listening to your critics you should do it with the accumulated wisdom of the prior suggestions. If you put too much weight in your critics it will destroy you.
- Learn from your mistakes.
Dear Friend: I close with this honest but painful truth. I tell you the truth because I love ministers. If you have faced or continue to struggle with relationship issues, on a regular basis, the problem may not be the other people!