Being honest is something we are taught to do from a very young age. There is so much importance in telling the truth and we learn very quickly that people can see through lies. As kids, when we tried to lie, our parents knew it instantly about 99% of the time.
This was very true for me in Kindergarten(that's a very hard word to spell for me...let alone 5 year olds). I was a compulsive liar at 5 years old. My teacher would write me up and send me home with a note for my parents informing them that I had lied. It happened so often throughout the school year that my mom told me that if I lied again, I would not be able to go to the concert of my then favorite artist, James Taylor.
The last day of school came around and I'll bet you can guess what I did. Yep, I lied. My teacher wrote me a note to give to my parents. I knew the consequences so I.......gave it to my parents? Nope. I threw it away in a trashcan on my way out of class. Now I wasn’t just a bad liar, I also wasn’t a smart criminal. My teacher saw me throw it away, called my parents and there was no James Taylor concert in my future. I had learned my lesson.....or so I thought.
Molded To Lie
I began my journey in ministry in 2008. I was often taught, either explicitly or by example of ministry leaders, to always bring your A-game to ministry, no matter what. Never show any weakness. Always look happy. Always make it look like you have it all figured out so that others will look at your perfect life and be inspired to live holy lives. There are two problems with that. First, who doesn't have any weaknesses, is always happy and lives a perfect life? Second, why are we lying to people, including ourselves? All those years of being told not to lie and now, out of what I thought were good intentions, I was doing it again in ministry. I was being taught to lie and probably should have had a letter sent home to my parents :)
A Solution Is Found
Last fall, the Ablaze Ministries staff went to National Youth Workers Convention. In a room full of approximately 3000 people in ministry, one of the speakers addressed this issue head on. He made it clear that while we think we are protecting our image or helping people in their faith life by acting perfect, we are actually turning them off to growth in faith. Most people who see someone whose life looks perfect and they have it all together will NOT be inspired to live like them, they will quit trying to grow in faith because they know they don't have what it takes to be perfect. The effect that those in ministry desire by acting this way brings about the exact opposite response more often than not.
So what are we to do as people in ministry?(which is all of us...thanks Baptism!) We don't want to add scandal by revealing all of the details of our past and present sin but we also need to be honest that we are sinners as well. As I was reflecting on this recently, two statements of Paul in the New Testament stood out. They seem to give parameters so that we don't swing too far on either side of the pendulum, but are somewhere right in the middle.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” This is boldness that inspires. As people in ministry, we should want to lead lives that can be imitated to follow Christ. This is one of the basic tenets of discipleship. But we can’t stop there. We have to also remember the first few lines of Paul's letter to Timothy when he says, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost.” We can see in example of Paul, the greatest evangelist of all time, that we do not have to pick whether we are a good role model or a sinner. We can be both and be honest about both. We should all seek to root sin out of our lives but we should be examples of how to do that, walking the journey with those our faith community.
As I challenge you to examine how these verses apply to you, I’ll leave you with this. “If we say, ‘We have not sinned,’ we make (God) a liar, and his word is not in us.”(1 John 1:10) I, for one, don’t want to be liar anymore.
Taylor Schroll/Forte Catholic