What a word! We all want to have it as a part of our character, especially in leadership. The definition of resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or toughness. It’s been said that leaders should have thick skin and expect to be criticized, critiqued, and be free game for people to give their honest opinions about us. Leaders are also open to personal attacks because of their decisions. But we strive to be resilient. To brush ourselves off and pick ourselves up for the next conflict and issue that comes our way.
But resiliency isn’t the ability to grow a thick skin. It isn’t about forgetting everything everyone has said about you or your leadership. It’s about the response. As a young pastor, this concept has been a lesson lately. I told a friend that when I received my calling at 13, I wanted to know everything about youth ministry. I had come to learn all of the tropes and stereotypes and found the humor in them, never really taking them as truth until I experienced them. One by one, these once hilarious theoretical situations became a reality. I’ve had people turn their backs when I offer to pray for them to find an older, wiser prayer partner. I have had people give me theological tips and tricks to help me be a better pastor. I even had one man who came to the church looking for our pastoral team (who were all in meetings except for me) to pray for him and his family. “I can do it; our other pastors are currently busy,” I told him. “No, no. I’m looking for a real pastor.”
These situations can be comical. I mean, what else can you do but laugh it off? No, they hurt. They can leave us questioning everything we’ve done, and all God has put in our hearts as leaders. Thick skin isn’t a solution. If we grow it, we lose out on letting people see us as leaders in true transparency. We miss out on offering advice or counseling or investing in people because of how they have hurt us. We hold onto a scorecard of pain and unforgiveness and, in doing so, render ourselves ineffective to lead. So, what can we do? Grow resilient. Don’t hold onto the things people say or do. In most cases, like the man who discounted me as an equal pastor on our staff, they aren’t even aware they are being hurtful.
We must do our part to let others see that leaders hurt like everyone else, that we are not superhuman, and above being brought down. Be honest with people. Find people who can help you process. Be resilient, but do not grow cold towards people that have been entrusted to you. In most cases, they say and do because they love you, not despite it. Give it up to God and let it pass away. Breathe. It will be okay.
Josh Seaton is the youth pastor at Life Pointe Church in Prescott, Arizona.