A few years ago I was in a conversation with someone who questioned my calling to become a pastor. During the course of our conversation they inquired if the reason I wanted to become a pastor was for power. We didn’t discuss my calling or my heart for others at all, the conversation centered on power.
Honestly, I was taken back. Surprised at this comment or slight accusation that I was looking for power, I responded the best way I possible could, “answering a call to serve others in a pastoral role was not one of power but of servanthood. Power had nothing to do with it.” Our conversation focused not on serving others but power. To say I felt uncomfortable would be an understatement. I walked away from the conversation feeling very frustrated and almost angry. Frustrated because we didn’t discuss my calling and angry because there was nothing in my character that would demonstrate I wanted power.
This conversation was one that I reflected on quite often. During my reflection I began to understand the comments and questioning, I realized that quite possibly this person was the power hungry party in our conversation and had already demonstrated their willingness to thwart team efforts to gain a more “powerful position” within the church. I say “powerful position” lightly, because in ministry, especially pastors, are called to be the least. If one was looking for power…the church is not the place to seek it out. The more “power” you receive with additional responsibilities the more you should humble yourself to servanthood. Jesus did not come to be served he came to serve (Matthew 20:28). And pastors especially are called to serve others, not be served. So for my calling, and me power had nothing to do with being a pastor at all. I also came to realize that the pastor I was conversing with might have been projecting their need for recognition and power on to me.
Today’s point is projecting. As I have had time to process, think and pray about that interaction, I realize the other person was projecting their desires on to me. In other words, if they considered their pastoral calling as power, then they assumed others certainly did as well.
Projection is a psychological term; it involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings or emotions.
I wonder how often in life this happens…people projecting their own feelings or emotions on to us and we don’t even realize it? For me, when someone projects on to me I start to think I am a little crazy, like maybe what the other person is saying is true and I was unaware. If you are like me it will rock you a little bit until you seek the Lord for understanding. It is especially painful when the projection comes from a pastor or other prominent well-trusted person in your life. You think to yourself, “Why in the world would someone say something if it weren’t true?” The answer quite possibly may be projection and the other person cannot deal with his or her own feelings or emotions.
Projection works both ways. Projection is not just something someone does to us its something we do to others. I am fairly sure I have projected my own feelings and emotions onto others unintentionally at times. It happens even when you aren’t meaning too. And I would even venture to say that the pastor whom I was talking to didn’t realize they were doing it when it was happening. Projection is a defense mechanism to preserve self and hopefully to keep from getting hurt. It’s about self and for self, and honestly does not take the others best interest into account.
Another way to look at projection is that it can be viewed as weapon that inflicts pain on someone else. As with any weapon the weapon is designed to preserve the life of the person holding it. Just like any weapon, projection is designed to inflict injury or pain on someone else, but requires the user to pull the trigger. I know I am guilty of pulling the trigger at times. Sometimes I realize it, as it is happening and other times I don’t. But my goal is to realize what I am about to say before I say it. That is hard but can be done.
As believers we need to be self and socially aware. We need to guard against projecting onto others our deepest and most painful wounds. It is a difficult thing to do especially when it is a subconscious action that takes place without real thought. Something that we need to remember is that no weapon formed against you can prosper…even the weapon of words.
“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 54:17
My challenge to you is to think about what you say before you say it because life and death are in the power of your tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Not only think about what you are about to say, but challenge yourself to analyze why you are about to say what is forming in your mind. If what you are about to say is something that you see in yourself that needs to be addressed don’t say it. Sometimes saying nothing at all is the better response.
What are you projecting every day? Are you projecting life, joy and encouragement or are you projecting hurt, pain and doubt.