Don’t expect ‘nice’

It is a truth daily observed by me that legitimate wearing of a clerical collar does not make me a “nice” person.  Just because I have been ordained a priest, doesn’t mean that the normal human feelings get swept away in the rush of the Holy Spirit.  So those of you in regular contact with me know I am frequently pre-occupied, snappy, short-fused and intolerant of those I deem (often unreasonably) to be foolish.  Those of you in less regular contact with me are now grateful that you don’t have to see more of me!

The trouble is that lots of people seem to think that the addition of a white strip of plastic to my normal attire magically makes me a ‘nice’ person.  And because I generally try to be sensitive to others, I try to react as a ‘nice’ person would, to all those minor queries and questions which people ask the curate if they don’t want to bother the vicar, or to those bits and pieces that brides and their mothers tend to worry about.    

However, reacting kindly to detailed queries seems to bring, not closure, but ever more detailed queries.  Especially relating to Occasional Offices.  My TI claims it’s because people ask women all sorts of questions that they wouldn’t worry a man about – is he right?   And at what point is it Ok to say “you really needn’t worry about that at all, we’ll take care of it”? Or even “I don’t think that is important”?

Because of course the danger is that I’m not a very ‘nice’ person (although I am usually smiley, and given enough coffee, often human), but I need to be the welcoming face of church! 

PS For those of you who are concerned I might be getting tired and stressed, my holiday happens in about a month.  


11 responses to “Don’t expect ‘nice’

  1. Getting ordained gave me tourettes.

    I don't know how common this is but the Holy Spirit is creative enough to find many ways to subvert Holy Orders. Now F#~* ^&f!

  2. I think your TI's claim that people ask women all sorts of questions that they wouldn't worry a man about. Is correct!! In all circumstances/walks of life etc.

  3. Apropos yesterday's Twitter exchange, my persistent parenting prayer is: “give me patience so that I can love my kids, but for G0d's sake give it to me now”!

  4. Others agree with you Steve, now I just need to work out how to deal with 'those' questions. All advice gratefully received!

  5. Yup on the female thing…and agree with Steve it's every walk of life. As I said on twitter, what I find most distressing is how policing firm boundaries is often interpreted as women being 'those' kind of women that are not nice. sigh.

    I think in terms of strategy I generally apply a 'would they ask a man that?' (if no then I don't answer), 'Is that a need to know?' (if not then again I don't always answer) and I find that quite often you can turn the questions back to individuals 'what do YOU….'. When it's really blatant invasion of boundaries I have been known to be blunt about pointing the boundary out.

    I also think as a TI, there is a responsibility to speak up for you at times – so if there are repercussions when you are blunt, firm or snappy and someone complains it may give your TI an opportunity to say 'Actually you shouldn't have expected her to do….'.

    Sometimes, especially when tired and busy, it is easy not to see where being welcoming, nice and warm etc is actually giving more (or being demanded more) of yourself than is healthy. We sometimes don't see until after the event that we shouldn't have either answered a question or kept silence when a comment was made. The number of times I have not seen something and other people have been horrified at me being too nice!!

    Patience comes and goes I find… this time of year pre holiday my fuse is always shorter!

  6. I never think of Jesus as a particularly 'nice' person. Which is a consolation because I am definitely not 'nice.'

    Indeed God has exercised his SOH since I became a Christian, I was the biggest people pleaser you had ever met. By people pleaser, I mean I was largely motivated by doing and saying what I thought would please others. I would agonise about conversations long after they had taken place, wondering if I had done or said the wrong thing. I'll swear that if I'd been run over, I would have apologised to the driver for damaging the car!

    Then when I became a Christian I developed what my DDO phrased 'a prophetic gifting' in my sponsoring papers. I started to say what I thought more often than not.

    I had to learn strategies for dealing with the idea that I might have upset people and dealing with the reaction when people criticised me,

    I came to realise that what I say and do is more often than not a a tiny part of the other person's day. Of course some people are sensitive for whatever reason and we can always apologise next time we see them if we feel real offence has been caused. But not answering a string of questions is hardly offensive is it?

    In terms of criticism I've had to learn to separate out the constructive from the destructive. Even if it feels harsh, if it contains something we can usefully learn about ourselves and our way of doing things, then that bit is constructive. If it is said in order to hurt and destroy our self confidence then it's rarely meant to change us for the better, and it is destructive – don't hang onto it.

    I've also learnt that, although some people are quite vocal about not liking me or my style, a lot of people appreciate someone who is 'real' and not trying to create an impression of being 'nice' all the time. Some people just are incredibly lovely people who are careful about other people's feelings all the time. I admire them enormously but I can't make myself into that kind of person, it's not me. All I can do is try never to be deliberately harmful or hurtful, and apologise PROPERLY (no 'I'm sorry if I upset you, but….') if I feel an apology is due.

    God has called you, knowing your faults and your strengths. He hasn't said that he can use your strengths but you have to get rid of all the faults first.

    We are all works in progress, and I believe if we are aware of that it makes us approachable to other people who know they aren't perfect either!

  7. Many thanks Leah, and I agree my sense of proportion disappears as I get tired, although I am seldom accused of being too nice! Your point about maintaining boundaries is helpful, and I am learning to take a deep breath before answering every last thing

  8. Thanks so much Pam, a really good post to see about why being 'nice' is often unhelpful to ourselves as well as to others. Colleagues of the last 20 years know I am not naturally nice, and it's important to give ourselves permission to be ourselves!

  9. Ah, I agree with Pam. I've become much nastier since I became a Christian. I see it as the Widening Participation approach to secretly nasty people which is so delightfully a part of God's plan. Nice is sooo last century, my dear …

    🙂 🙂

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