Laura Murray is a pastor, spiritual director and a coaching associate for AE Sloan Leadership. In this blog post, she reminds us that every leader–especially those leading change in the midst of deep disruption–are not meant to be alone.
Find A Friend. Find a Few. Find Some Fun!
It took two years after leaving my pastoral position for me to recognize one of the greatest gifts God had given me was my co-worker Ginny. Ginny had lived more life than me, dealt with really hard people, had seen it all, and raised a family while serving. She was the one I went to when I received my first anonymous “helpful” letter, the one who my children went to see for jelly beans, the one who would make inappropriate comments when we all needed a good laugh. I can mark my sharp increase of isolation to the time I moved offices and was no longer next to Ginny. At the time I was serving as the only female leader on a nine person pastoral staff and one of two minorities.
There were other factors that added to my isolation, but that move away from a colleague, ally, and friend took me down fast. And I believe up to that point I prided myself on my independence, and that independent streak would also take me down.
I needed Ginny. I needed friends. I needed a place where I could be me.
I imagine you are familiar with this isolation. For you it may be geographical. Or it may be social. For some it may be that you are a minority in a majority world and you feel so alone.
This isolation is what I hear about and see more than anything else in my work with pastors. “Where can I be me?” “When can I have a meal without talking about the church?” “Who can I trust?” “I don’t have anyone.” We are surrounded by people and our work is with people but we walk amongst them unknown.
And it is strange to talk about needing friends when we are adults. Honestly, it can sound pretty sad and to start the awkward “do you want to be my friend conversation?” is so humbling. And yet we need it. Our friends are our anvil as we are forged in leadership.
So, how do we go about finding friends?
Admit we need them. This might seem easy enough to say, but your actions based on the following suggestions will show whether you actually believe you need them or not.
Look for those who are already around us. Who are the people already around you that have invited you into friendship. While you look around I ask you to not dismiss or disregard anyone. Who is already around you?
Consider who has already welcomed you. Again, look around. Who has welcomed you into their life, invited you for a meal? Pay attention to how you have rejected someone’s invitation based on age, looks, status, gender. Say yes to those who have welcomed you.
Do not do the pastoral pivot. Do not prematurely turn the conversation around to them. You know what I am talking about, the pastoral pivot we do because we feel like we need to serve another person. Don’t do it prematurely. Receive what they have to give and maybe even allow them to lead the conversation.
Draw boundaries. If they bring up the church, let them know what you desire from the conversation and to hold onto their church questions for another time.
Laugh! Laugh with these friends you don’t have to perform for. Laugh for these friends who are safe to be with. Laugh and enjoy them!
Receive the gift. You are not perfect, they are not perfect. Receive the gift God is giving you through this friend and let them be themselves just as you desire to be yourself.
Repeat. If you enjoy one another’s company and can be friends, get together with this person again and again.
For those geographically isolated: ask your church/denomination/family for time and financial resources to be with your friends. Proximity and time with others is especially necessary for you.
Find a friend. We cannot do this work alone and God never asked us to do this alone. Leadership does not have to be as lonely as we have been told. Find a friend. Find a few. And find some fun!
If you’d like to connect with Laura about coaching for your leadership, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30 minute coaching consultation.