Thick Skin And A Tender Heart

Thick Skin And A Tender Heart

Neal Pollard

We live in the age of hypersensitivity, fragile feelings, and the easily offended. I’m convinced that this is often a worldly, self-centered response our forefathers would have hardly believed could be the serious behavior of adults.  Sadly, it can be found within the body of Christ and even from preachers. I’ve seen articles meant to remind our brothers and sisters that preachers are people, too, and it’s not nice to hurt our feelings. As a lifelong preacher’s kid, a preacher all of my adult life, and now the father of three preachers, I am acquainted with the daily, personal life of a preacher. Yes, we do live in a glass house. Yes, we will occasionally be criticized unfairly. Yes, we will be exposed to brethren who act like the world in their treatment of us. Yes, we will encounter and must endure a variety of hardships.

However, what a small price to pay for the greatest work in the world. Moreover, we would inevitably face pressure, opposition, and unfairness whatever profession we chose as we live in a fallen world filled with imperfect people (even among the redeemed). Further, whatever we face today would seem to pale to the travails and tribulations our preaching ancestors, Old Testament and New Testament, endured for sharing the good news.  Throughout time, in response to that, some have caved, others have callused, and still others have maintained cheer, courage, and compassion.

Especially with the resurgence of emphasis on such a mentality as “the art of manliness,” here is an area where God needs His proclaimers to act like men. What that will mean, in ministry, is maintaining thick skin. Don’t take everything personally. Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeves. Don’t always internalize, when someone who is hurting or struggling lashes out and you happen to walk into the crosshairs. Don’t be ready to cave and cry at every conflict and interpersonal “crisis.” Don’t fail to do self-analysis when these things happen.

Meanwhile, this toughness in the face of “job hazards” must be balanced with a tender heart. Such a heart will help you keep a sunny disposition, see people, their lives and souls, compassionately, maintain a desire to serve God and people, stay devoted to God as you minister, and keep your dependency upon Him strong. This is vital to our own spiritual preservation and growth.

I’m certainly not blind and naive. I could recount sufficient tales of travails suffered within my own family’s collective experience (I have several other family members who have been or are preachers, too). It’s how we view, share, and build on these that can make all the difference. Keep in mind that the great majority of our brothers and sisters will treat us well, often better than we deserve. If we are unjustly treated, our righteous reaction can serve to motivate others to imitate us in their mistreatment (see 1 Peter).  Preachers should be men who maintain hearts tenderized by the awesome power of God and precious promises of His Word.


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