They say it’s must for those in leadership, or more specifically in my case, ministry.
I think this is one of the aspects of this new chapter in my life that I have struggled with the most. I love my church, so when someone is negative towards it, I’m hurt. I adore my husband, so when someone is negative towards him, I’m hurt. And of course, when someone is negative about me, it is painful. I have asked several veterans of this particular calling how they have dealt with situations in which people have talked poorly about them (not just any people, but people that they have personally have invested in) , and the answer seems to always be the same, “You have to have thick skin” or “You can’t let it bother you” or “You have to just let it roll off your back”.
I’m not sure that I’m okay with that solution. To have “thick skin” means to create a tough exterior around the heart for protection. It’s the philosophy that although the ears may hear a comment, the heart shouldn’t absorb the content. In essence, in order for me to have “thick skin” it would require me to turn off my emotion and sensitivity. Those two qualities are my giftings in ministry, and they fuel my compassion for others. I’m concerned that if I build a fortress around my heart to keep the negative from penetrating, that I will also build a wall so high that the positives won’t find their way in (or out for that matter) either.
This morning I was mulling over this dilemma, and I truly felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “feel it”. Feel the comments. Feel the negativity. Feel the pain. Don’t ignore it. Don’t build walls around your heart. Don’t become emotionally numb so you have a defense mechanism. Take the pain and the sadness these comments cause you and turn to Jesus for support, care, and shelter. He is your defender. He is your peace. He is your example on how to handle suffering. Jesus wasn’t a robot who wasn’t affected by pain…He wept. It’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to feel sadness. It’s okay to feel betrayed. But do as Christ did..forgive. Love. Keep no record of wrong. And keep fighting the good fight.
I think this perspective sits better with me. I’m not going to erect barriers in my heart and mind to keep me from feeling pain when others whom I love have hurt me. I’m not going to fashion a model of thick skin on the exterior of my heart. I am going to let my heart feel what it feels, and I’m going to love in spite of the fact that sometimes it causes pain. I think the enemy would want me to become an apathetic person who doesn’t react to people..that’s the easy way out. The hard thing, the good thing, is to feel the hurt, and choose love anyways.
So for now, I’m going to keep my skin thin…and lean on the Holy Spirit. Jesus has been there and yet he remained soft, compassionate, and loving. I pray for grace to be the same.