Fact: I am a church going Latter-Day-Saint. I’m not supposed to drink, smoke, swear, have coffee, fornicate, or listen to raunchy music, especially not backwards.
Fact: I don’t drink, smoke, have coffee, or fornicate. Sometimes I listen to Lady Gaga, and I often throw in a “damn” or “hell” for good measure in some conversations. On very rare occasions I have referred to someone as a jack***, but that’s only because my friend’s ex-husband really is one, and calling him a “jerk” wasn’t satisfying enough. Oh, and remember that part about skinny dipping? I’ve done that a couple of times too.
You may recall that a little over a year ago I was asked to serve as the President over our Women’s organization at church. (Key operative word there is “asked” – that’s how it works in my church. With all leadership positions, whether it be a teacher, a pianist, or presidency member of some sort, we are asked to serve and we choose whether to accept or not.) I accepted the responsibility, and instantly inherited a stewardship over approximately 100 women. Along with my two counselors it is my job to make sure that the temporal and spiritual needs of these women are being met.
My quandary is this: As their leader I am expected to serve as an example. It seems reasonable enough, to count on people in certain positions to act a certain way – to “practice what they preach”. However, sometimes I struggle between the boundary of being myself and being a good example. The two should probably not conflict, but hi. Have we met? Here’s where things go fuzzy for me.
First of all, I am suspicious of certain people who change their personality when they get a particular job (we say “calling”) in the church. I want them to be real, and I can see through them when I feel like they’re pretending to be something that they’re not, as if the status of a high profile calling has somehow elevated their worth. (Which it hasn’t.) In other words, if my friend needs a wake up call in her life and I suddenly change from being the sort to shake her shoulders and yell, “What the hell is wrong with you?!” to someone who pats her hand while cooing, “Oh my heck dear, you sure seem to be in a pickle,” she would be like, “Aw crap, you too?!” Most people don’t buy it.
Secondly, I feel like my ability to be “real” is, frankly, a gift that God gave me. It is something that I am drawn to in others, and I think it helps me to be relatable, which is a huge advantage in this job. Nevertheless, being real is tricky because this is the family from which “Too Much Information” was born. So, go ahead. Be real. Perhaps you used to love liquor more than the Lord. I want to know that, and I want to know what changed you. Have you been a victim of a horrible act and found peace through the love of a Heavenly Father? Tell me your story! Let me share in the hope! Did your parents have eight kids with names all starting with the letter “A” only to adopt an orphan later whose name was already “Ben”? How did you handle it? Tell me. I LOVE real. But, are you still struggling with your pornography addiction? KEEP THAT TO YOURSELF. Work out your repentance, figure it out, and don’t tell me how it’s going. Naturally, there are also different approaches when speaking one-on-one vs. addressing a group. More specifically, save the story for the boy you knew that used to pick his scabs for a one-on-one.
In addition, I don’t want to ignore the fact that accepting certain church responsibilities and bearing a mantle of leadership can inspire one to do/be better. It’s no secret that there’s room for me to improve, and I know I’m not alone. But I have found that confessing to sharing similar temptations when you are a leader can sometimes draw a negative reaction. Either your audience no longer respects you as their leader or, they accept you as their leader but now look at you with tainted glasses. What I'm usually going for is behind door #3: I'm working out my own salvation just like the rest of you, and together we can move mountains. Quite honestly this calling has motivated me more than once to consider change not just for myself, but for all of the people with whom I serve. It’s a phenomenal sight to be able to stand in front of a group of women, God’s daughters, and for one brief moment to see in them what I think God sees.
Still, I can’t help but sometimes feel like I am missing the mark, exchanging a bulls-eye for an outside hit of hypocrisy. While I haven’t broken any serious laws or covenants, I’ve still had people question some of my behavior. Should I change that behavior, even though it isn’t innately wrong, to make them more comfortable? What do you think is required and should be required of your church leaders? To take it to the extreme, if you saw your pastor at a topless bar would you leave your church? Not to mention, WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN A TOPLESS BAR?! Perv. And are the rules the same for everybody, or do you expect more from the Pope than you do from your priest?