This week we asked our bloggers to reflect on criticism they have received.
I’ll admit that I have a love for personality tests. There’s something about being able to see parts of your personality written on the page in black and white, to know that maybe you’re not as crazy as you think. I’d really like us all to introduce ourselves with our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). “Hi, I’m Kristin and I’m an INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking, judging).”
Part of the preparation to become an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is undergoing a psychological evaluation. This helps in vocational discernment, creating an awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses to hopefully help with personal and professional growth. This assessment wasn’t the first time I was identified as an INTJ… or the last. Cultivating self-awareness is a lifelong pursuit and an absolute necessity for ministry. But it goes beyond just identifying, “Hi, I’m Kristin and I’m an INTJ.”
Through the MBTI and self-reflection, I’ve come to understand that I’m an introvert and my primary mode of functioning is internal. I’ve learned that I take in my environment through my intuition; I need time to be alone, to process internally before dealing externally. Organization, systems, goals and to-do lists are my best friends. I too quickly move to judgments, despise inefficiency and get bored easily.
I’m also a perfectionist. I make goals and do anything possible to succeed at them. I fear failure and will do anything to avoid failing, even if that means deciding not to try something new because I might not be good at it. Because of this drive to succeed, my biggest critics aren’t usually the people around me.
It’s not that I haven’t received my share of criticism. I hear the little complaints like wanting “familiar” hymns or “that’s not the way we’ve done it before.” I’ve had the bigger ones like hurt feelings about a missed hospital visit, a daughter who felt forgotten, a long-time member who felt like she was losing her church. I must say, though, I’m fortunate to serve an extremely loving congregation who are far quicker to praise then critique. And I actually appreciate and ask for constructive criticism. I’m grateful for close friends and colleagues who risk “speaking the truth in love.”
But the little complaints, the constructive criticisms – those aren’t what stick with me or wound me. I’m an INTJ, I live in my head, I strive to be my best, and so the hardest critiques come from within. “You aren’t good enough.” “You must not be doing enough to grow the church.” “You didn’t do enough for that family.” “You’re neglecting your own friends or family.” “You must work harder … do more … be more.” My own voice is the hardest voice to silence.
Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to the sacraments. I hunger to come to the table because as I receive the broken bread, I know that Christ receives me, as broken as I am. I thirst for the table because as I dip my bread in the wine or the juice, I taste the goodness of God.
Like Martin Luther, I too need to shout at the demons in my head, the voices that tell me I’m not good enough, and I need to proclaim “I am baptized.” Each time I touch water I try to remind myself that I am enough because I am loved and claimed by God.
Water, wine, and bread – ordinary elements that speak of God’s extraordinary love. They draw me out of my head and into the world that God so loves. They silence the voices that want me to believe I’m not enough. Sometimes the biggest critics aren’t our congregations or our families. Often we are our own worst critic. So maybe the next time I introduce myself I’ll say, “Hi, I’m Kristin, I’m an INTJ and most importantly I am a beloved child of God.”
KRISTIN STROBLE serves as the pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church in Youngstown, Ohio. She enjoys coffee, books, running and spending time outdoors.