This week's prompt at Wrapped Emotions made me pause and consider....
As you can see from my "about me," I am a rabbi. This means that I am constantly in the forefront of my congregation, constantly the person to whom they turn for words of advice, words of wisdom, lifecycle events, holiday celebrations, and more. One of our great rabbis, Arnold Jacob Wolf, once said that if 50% of the members of your congregation don't hate you, you're doing something wrong. We are also told to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." While in my intellectual self, I know that these are laudable goals for me as a rabbi, I also know that in my emotional heart, I want them to like me.
There, I said it. I want them to like me. (I wonder how many of my congregants actually read this blog? Anyone lurking out there?) I think this extends beyond my "job" though, and into my life. I've always wanted people to like me, to be happy with me, rather than dislike me. Sometimes I'm sure that this did not serve me well (think middle school) but overall, it makes me a generally happy person who is happy to do for others as often as possible. I suppose it is part of what makes me "good" at my job. (and by the way, I'm not the only one who feels this way in the clergy. Here's an interesting article, although not totally relevant to my life, that gives a bit of insight into how we feel...)
The past few months, and coming to a head this week, I have been dealing with someone who decided that she didn't like me. It's a long story and of course, confidential, so to paint broad strokes, it involved a life cycle event and a congregant-friend, and some decisions that I made regarding the life-cycle event and this friend's ex-husband. I believe in my heart that what I did was right, and today's event (mostly) played itself out beautifully. But I have indeed lost my friend, who no longer "likes me." I struggled with it all through Yom Kippur. I struggled with it all week. I struggled with it all day.
And now I'm done with it. I have to be. I'm not even sure where the ritual is in this (I know that was part of the prompt) but I also know that I've told myself that I'm going to be done with this. I think the ritual is in the writing, right here, right now, I'm done with it.
Someone doesn't like me.
I'm sure there are more out there, people who just haven't told me yet, but in this world, I know, this person is now out there, not liking me.
And I have to believe that that's okay.
How to let go of it? I tried my hand at some art, of course. (Thanks, Melody!) Using my trusty new journal, I ripped and glued and stuck and just mucked around, all with the intention of "letting go" of this need, this fear, of being un-liked. (As I did it, my husband's PC Magazine was on the table, and the cover headline caught my eye: "Who can you trust?" At first, this seemed in total to belong in my art. Trust is, after all, possibly one of the most important parts of this. But thinking more, I decided just to use the word "trust?" because I thought that the whole sentence perhaps illustrated that I hadn't quite done the letting go that I was working on!)
Here's the result:
And you know what? I do feel better. Much of this occurred, by the way, before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The day that "does not atone for the sins of one human being against another until they have made peace with one another" (that's from our liturgy for the holiday)... and I couldn't do it. It was too fresh, too raw. But I don't have to wait until next Yom Kippur to let it go....
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Oh, boy, can I relate to this struggle... your art expresses it beautifully.
I see such power in your art (yes it is art and I like it). It's strong and emotional from a soft, kind heart. Letting go is the most difficult thing for me to do, and through this week I've learned I'm not alone in this lag.
Your insight as a woman AND a person of the clergy is so good to read. We tend to put our church leaders on precarious pedestals...not allow them to be human...such a mistake.
(Thank you for your prayer for me.)
I think most of us have this same struggle. I learned something about Trust a while back, because I'm somewhat of a control freak and a worry wart about my kids. Trust is NOT trusting others or trusting a situation. But, it is trusting in God and trusting that you will be able to handle the worst when it happens. Fear takes hold of you b/c you think you wouldn't be able to handle something if it happened to you. But, when you know that you can handle it or lean on God for your comfort, support, and answers then you know you can and finally you can begin to trust and let go.
how beautiful, great art work.
and if it matters, not that i know you, i like you. i admire you, i imagine with your job you spend a lot of time helping other people and perhaps people don't realize you need help too.
im sure your friend, oneday will realize the reasons you acted as you did, and even if she doesn't God will provide someone to take her place.
God bless you.
I lost a twenty year friendship through circumstances somewhat beyond my control about five years ago. It wasn't pleasant but when you finally come to terms with a situation like that, your understanding of yourself grows by leaps and bounds. I've learned to muddle through life with the knowlegde that this person doesn't (apparently) think very highly of me. Also, I've learned to trust that everything will work itself out for the best in the end. (Still waiting, though.)
So, here's some empathy. Go be human and wallow in it for a couple of minutes. Oh, and chocolate helps. Really.
Phyllis - I am just overwhelmed by your honesty in this post. I know that we don't share the same faith, but I hold such a deep respect for what you believe.
I understand too, what a challenging place you are in: To say what is right and true, even if it is not popular and then struggle to mesh that with the human desire of being understood and appreciated as an individual... so very difficult!
My father-in-law is a minister and I have watched him struggle prayerfully over this very same issue. And, I often feel a similar struggle within myself, as does probably just about anyone who takes a stand for what is right, and true, and just and then feels the sting of criticism for their efforts.
And as for your fear of not being liked... From where I sit, there is much to like!
I can really identify with the need to be liked, especially for doing what is right. I dealt with some harsh blows as a young adult of trusting others to do what is right, instead of what was right for THEM, and was sorely hurt. Now, I guess, I don't completely trust that people won't be self absorbed in their decisions. I expect less, but not of myself. I think if you know what you did is right, and someone dislikes you for that, you have to accept that sometimes life is not fair...people are not fair. Good for you in letting it go.
What a powerful post. It is such a big fear... the fear of not being liked. Not everyone will like us in life. It is a fact, but a hard one to accept. I am glad you have decided to accept the loss of this friend who has decided not to like you. Hopefully it will get easier.
Kim @ TheBitterBall
What a moving post. And even if one of your congregants read this, I hope it inspires them to send you a note or give you a hug. I believe to serve as you do is the highest calling there is. Thank you for serving and sharing here so sacrificially.
Your journal pages are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
I know how hard it was for you to write out the words "Someone doesn't like me." I want everyone to like me, too.
This was a very brave and beautiful post.
Back from my crazy few days and happy to come reconnect with you here.
This post was provocative and engaging. It is hard when people don't like us, hard to let them be who they are and not step in and try to control it, meaning them.
Letting go sometimes comes in pieces.
Your art is moving.
Thank-you for sharing.
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