Saturday, October 3, 2009


I blew a gasket yesterday evening at one of the neighborhood kids. We--usually my wife--often have to redirect his behavior when he’s at our house: don’t throw toys on the roof—especially when they’re not your toys; quit tromping in the flowerbed; and it’s the end of the day so go home.

I think there are kids in the area who like to come to our house because it’s comfortable for them, and perhaps safer. No one yells at them.

And I didn’t yell yesterday either. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a substantially sized fellow. I have a fairly intense personality but I try to temper it with a softer voice.

But even though I kept my voice low, the neighborhood kid, who does not seem to be burdened with an overabundance of good sense, could see I was irate. He had been roaming in the front yard and started looking through our windows into the house.

Maybe this doesn’t bother you, but I have enough of people looking at me and commenting on my life and I don’t want some kid invading my space like that. I open the front door abruptly enough to get his attention and tell him, “Don’t look in the windows of houses. It’s considered impolite. Especially, don’t look in the windows of MY house.”

The kid said, “I didn’t know it was rude.”

I shrugged. “That’s why I was telling you.”

I’m a public person. I stand in front of people and open up my thoughts and feelings regularly. Sometimes in my sermons I confess a vulnerability, so I can get others to look at theirs. While most appreciate this, there’s always some that want to pass judgment.

There are others who monitor where I am constantly. They notice when I leave the house, how long I’m at the office, who comes to see me, and for how long. It’s their hobby.

When I get home, I close the doors and the drapes. I don’t want the public to see when and what I’m eating, what I watch on TV, and what I wear at home.

I’ll admit I’m just plain sensitive about it.

Just as soon as I write these words, I also remember the searing loneliness I feel most of the time. If I feel that isolated, shouldn’t I open the doors and windows and quit yelling at little kids who peer inside?

Being evaluated is not the same as having company. Friendship begins with acceptance and then with maybe, I don’t know, friendliness?


  1. I can identify with this a whole lot. There are several things going on, I think.

    I'm also someone who is also a very open and relatively vulnerable public speaker/writer/conversationalist and I think for people like us a sense of control over how our information is used starts to become important and control over some bits of information that come to represent our special privacy becomes extremely important.

    We don't want to hide ourselves, we want to be known, but then we don't want to be exploited and we don't want our space invaded. SO much is out there that what we reserve is OURS and nobody's business. It seems like a vital counterbalance to making so much public. It's like the reclusive among movie stars. They're putting so much of themselves on the screen that they need to draw a line and demarcate a clear personal space that's just theirs.

    And the other thing that you're facing is being designated a "holy man." This means that the line between professional and private is gone. You need to be in professional holy man mode all the time. Only among fellow holy men and the most well established friends can you be you and not have the weight of being a symbol on you. As a holy man, people will note every deviation from every moral precept and social expectation. In their minds your job is to be perfect. EVEN when they enjoy your being "human" on some occasion, they enjoy it as a novelty and give you "permission" only as a gesture that makes them feel better about their own "unholiness" a moment.

    There is no real such thing as private interaction with anyone in your flock and these are probably the people who take up most of your energy. Their time off is your time on. You're in a social environment which isn't social for you, it's work for you, and it's alienating to be in a social context that's got to remain professional for you. It's alienating to constantly be in social contexts in which you are under the weight of professional obligations that constrain your actions, make you feel not at liberty to be yourself, express yourself without repurcussions or jokes about the pastor "letting loose" or "saying/thinking/doing something he shouldn't".

    It's got to be brutal to live as a full-time symbol. It's a job you're always at, even in private and on days off. Only alone and with your closest intimates can you rest from it.

  2. I don't know how you stand this. It's one of the main reasons I decided not to go into the ministry. I had enough of this kind of treatment inside the walls and windows of the home I grew up in. Everything I did was evaluated, usually negatively, by the powers that were (parents). Anything good I did was either flea-picked or ignored. Anything outstanding was jealousy regarded with a silent stiff-arming or a stern warning about "giving God the glory," something they never did. And on the rare occasions when my overconscientiousness failed me and I actually did something wrong ... OMG, Judgment Day arrived early and I was one of the goats, sentenced to a hell of angry tirades and eternal reminders of my slip-ups. In other words, it was exactly like the ministry you're describing. I hope you didn't grow up in a home like I did. If you did, no wonder you feel a searing loneliness. Twenty years of wrongful imprisonment is long enough, and 35 years later I still have the searing loneliness.

    I hope you can find an oasis of safety, privacy, and approval. If you ever do, please let the rest of us know about it. That desert of disrespect and disapproval, past and present, is half killing me, and as I look around I see people everywhere, in and out of the ministry, going through the same thing. Why do we do this to each other? May God slap the shit out of me if I ever do it to another person. Or perhaps that's exactly what he's doing to me, and why he's doing it. I have some thinking to do.


  3. I'd be going crazy under such scrutiny. I was happy, recently, to see a parishioner talking to his priest about, not God or religion, but sports! That scrutiny happens in the corporate world. The higher one goes in management the more they are talked about where I work.

  4. Daniel, I can tell you have "been there" with the whole scrutiny thing. You made an interesting point that people use my "human" behavior to excuse their own. It's also a sad thing that in my work, I walk that fine line of being genuine, open, and private, all at the same time. Thanks for understanding.

    Mike, I'm not at all surprised to hear that public scrutiny happens in other areas. One of the things that makes me lonely is that while they might like to spy, they are uninterested in hearing from me about my personal life. I don't follow sports, but I like reading, I'm a movie buff, I love all kinds of music, good conversation, hamburgers and chocolate cake, to name just a few things.

    Jag Man, I suspect no one tried as hard as you to please the unpleasable. I'm sorry about wounds you've sustained, and I pray often that you find healing and happiness. Peace.

  5. Scrutiny/privacy issues aside, you did that kid a great kindness by setting some boundaries and limits for him. It sounds like he doesn't get any of that at home. If he does get "corrected," it's probably with a loud voice and a strap. Plenty of kids don't mean to behave badly; they've just never been given simple, reasonable guidance. I guarantee, you're his hero.

  6. Volly, I think you're probably right about the boundaries thing for that boy. I see so many children being raised in chaotic homes, where no one has the energy or time to teach about boundaries and respect.

  7. Bravo to Volly. That's the other thing I wanted to say, but she said it better.