Warrior and Worrier Clergy

We humans are competitive by nature, or at least somewhere on the competitive spectrum. Evolution, it seems, crafted us to have a warrior/worrier sense of competition (thank you BrainGames for this nifty piece of information). The warrior part of us is uber-competitive; everything is a battle which must be won, from the fight for justice for all to which restaurant we will go for dinner. The worrier side of us is more collaborative; how can we all win and still be friends. Finding the balance is key to having our selves and souls developed well. Too many warriors in a culture and the field is strewn with bodies and the only winners are the vultures. Too many worriers and wrongs and injustices are overlooked, even empowered by inaction.

So how does this look in the Church?

Not too different, I think, from the way it looks in the rest of the world. With one big exception - we don't like to admit the Church is competitive.

Nope. We all love each other and support each other and want everyone to be in a good place.

So we ignore this part of our souls and pretend we as the Church and particularly we clergy are a perfect balance, if we admit we have warrior/worrier in us at all. And ignoring any parts of our souls causes lots of tragic damage.

My experience is the worrier part of our competitive nature is far more accepted in the Church. We like to worry. Actually, we love to worry. We want everyone to be happy and agreeable. We validate everyone's actions and inaction, creating task forces and committees to make sure everyone is heard...thousands of times over.

Don't get me wrong, people's voices should be heard. It's a hallmark of good community. But what happens when we fail to make decisions because, quite honestly, there is no way everyone can get his/her way? What does it cost our communities and our selves and souls when we stop walking to the Promised Land because there are those who are longing for graves in Egypt? What happens when, as clergy, we try to respond to everyone's demands of us?

What happens is burn out, exhaustion, and anger. When we as communities and as leaders try to please everyone and delay action until that fantasy moment of everyone being happy and agreeable, we become frustrated and stuck. Face it, that warrior part of us recognizes that some people will ask for red if we offer blue, and if we offer blue, they want red.

But lest we think the extreme warrior part of us is all that and a bag of chips...not so much. Winning at all costs leaves a trail of dead and wounded souls and actually has a very high cost. Warriors fight, even when fighting isn't necessary. And they often justify their competitiveness with all their "wins" - see, my church is rich or has the most members or whatever statistic they've decided validates their actions. Warriors also diminish those who disagree. Where worriers want to give everyone a voice and make sure it's heard, warriors don't want to hear any contrary opinions. If you've ever shared a contrary opinion with a warrior, you'll have the scars in your back as a souvenir.

So what to do with this? Maybe we look at that wonderful, rich story of the Exodus. I alluded to it earlier. Yes, the warriors in many ways were out front and the worriers were way in the back, but the core of God's beloved were probably in the middle.

What would happen if those of us who were a bit heavy on the warrior found the deep need for such rabid competitiveness. What part of ourselves needs such validation that we will sacrifice another to get that win? What have we deemed a win, anyway? What part of our souls needs to win, and are there healthy ways to let the warrior run free? Plenty of priests I know engage in sports to give the warrior a place to be healthy in an appropriate setting. An aside, warriors who won't participate in some healthy outlet of competition because they're afraid to lose (whether they admit it aloud or not) are not warriors. These people are bullies. Different issue entirely.

And those of us who are worriers...what is fearful about disappointing some? Do we find our own validation in being popular because we never say, "No"? And how can we find ways to be a worrier in a healthy way, perhaps seeing community not as consensus, but a place where contrary opinions are heard, but not always the final decision?

Neither quality is better or worse, and incorporating their strengths together for our ministry, well, there's the real win.


Margaret said…
Glad to hear it! I am very involved in growing our Girls Friendly Society program and sometimes wonder how much is that I believe in it and how much is my competitive side at work - winning over more believers just to show I am right!!!

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