In looking above at my diagram of skin (that looks like a funky casserole), you can see that the nerves are just below the epidermis. I know it is not true for everyone, but many folks in ministry have thin skin when it pertains to ministry. Why? Is it wrong? Is being thick skinned more Godly?
My friend Joe shared a quote the other day saying “we need to have thick skin and a tender heart” in ministry (the context was that I was having a thin skinned moment). In this post I want to self diagnose and counsel myself based on this pithy little comment. Step into my office.
A) My skin becomes paper thin when “who I am” becomes so intertwined with “what I do.” I am a passionate person whose skin happens to be on many of the programs and ministries I have led. God-given passion is good, self-worth based on programmatic outcomes (good or bad) is a literal killer in ministry. Several national ministries and local churches have founding leaders who suffer with “founder’s syndrome.” These leaders have literally birthed, raised and eventually loved to death churches and ministries all over the world. “Founder’s Syndrome” seems to happen when the dream is never shared or entrusted to others. For many of us, founder’s syndrome can happen with a bible study, mission trip or event that we helped create. Thin skin and founder’s syndrome are connected.
I honestly want my validation to come from Christ. I have to frequently pray that when a kid or parent says that something I did is worthless that God would shield my heart and ears from hearing that I am worthless.
B) Thick skinned people annoy me, causing me to doubt if they even have a heart! I was in a ministry training event that relied heavily on personality tests. I sat next to a co-worker who could have cared less about the critiques of people in the church. Some of the things said to this guy made me want to suck my thumb and run to my mother! We were polar opposites, duh! But this person actually helped me to see that our skin can be too thin and too thick in ministry.
Shorter diagnostics about me (and maybe you) :
* when I’m tired, my skin becomes thin.
* when I’m distant from Jesus, my skin becomes thin.
* when I’m spinning too many plates and they begin to drop, my skin becomes thin.
My mother always said that there are plenty of “candle-blower-outers” in the world and in the church, she’s right. May God give me the humility to realize that the qualities that bug me in someone else often reflect what bugs me about me. I think Jesus said something about all this when he talked about logs, planks, splinters and specks of dust.