I know. That’s a really dramatic title. But I seriously would like to make my confession. Will you hear it?
We had an incident in our Facebook group this weekend. Some conflict. What was really frustrating for me was we were in the middle of the post-tropical storm Arthur and lost power. All I had was my iPhone that loses its charge quickly if I’m online and requires quick thumbs to type with, which I hate. I was getting messages from some concerned people wishing that I could intervene. With the weather storm and the aftermath, plus the TLS storm and aftermath, I became very anxious and stressed out. I had been writing with several of the members trying to help resolve the misunderstanding and conflict one on one. When I finally got power, I quickly wrote a post that I hoped would alleviate it all and calm the waters.
Since then I’ve heard from TLS members and read responses and got caught up more comprehensively. Plus, I’ve evaluated how my performance was. I realize now that my response was not perfect. I could have moderated so much better.
So here are my confessions:
1. I’m very uncomfortable with conflict.
You might be surprised by that considering that I’m the nakedpastor. Ever since I was a small child I did everything I could to avoid conflict and end it quickly if it erupted. I don’t like fighting, arguing, disagreements, tension… all that stuff. So, I just know that there are times I will try to make it stop before it should. This is weird for me to understand about myself because rationally I know conflict is natural. We are humans, not robots, so disagreements are going to happen, as well as misunderstanding and miscommunication and even division. I also know conflict can be very fruitful. Creative chaos! Often the best developments come out of a conflict. I know this. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. So it is strange to me that I still find conflict very unsettling and that my knee-jerk reaction is to stop it prematurely. Like on TLS this weekend. For that I’m sorry. Forgive me.
2. I’m always wiser 20/20.
I’ve done a lot of work with this, and with the help of therapists, counselors, mentors and spiritual directors, I’ve come to the conclusion that while I’m in the middle of conflict, my coping mechanism is to go numb and wait until it passes. Something about intense conflict blinds me, deafens me, and paralyzes me. I remember in 1997 on a Sunday morning while my church was splitting right down the middle, and rather violently, I was standing there in a stupor. One of my leaders came up to me and whispered in my ear, “Dave! You’re the pastor! Act like it!” That startled me awake and I became more aware of what was happening around me. Looking back on what happened at TLS this weekend I can now see that I was not fully aware and that I did not respond with all of my faculties firing at 100%. For that I’m sorry. Forgive me.
3. Sometimes I resort to old pastoral habits.
I was a pastor for 30 years. I had decades to learn methods of how to manage or moderate or mediate conflict. I’m sorry to say this, but my observation is that most church people want a king for a pastor… or queen. They want you to rule them, manage them and regulate them. I honestly found that sometimes the fastest way to fix something was just to do it myself. I found the same dynamic this weekend. In fact, one of our members wondered why we were all waiting for the pastor to get back online before we could do anything. Valid observation! But I do want to confess, even though I am a very empowering person who despises manipulating or controlling people, that I still know how to do it and sometimes do. For that I’m sorry. Forgive me.
4. I occasionally forget that you know how to resolve things.
Another member mentioned that you are all adults and know how to communicate well and that if we let the conversation run its course, there was a good chance that it would have resolved itself well. It was also suggested that rather than the “leader” coming in and effectively silencing everyone, if it as allowed to proceed organically it would have concluded organically. They way I responded reminded some of the church they ran away from or the pastors they’d sat under. I totally understand that. In fact, after I posted my comments and took the time to read back over what had happened, it did look like it was going to resolve itself well and would have proceeded naturally and democratically. I should have involved myself with the conversation itself instead of making a proclamation from above that had the effect of silencing people. For that I’m sorry. Forgive me.
Those are my confessions. These are where I feel I fell short.
I just want to say, in conclusion, that I want to be a good moderator. I think I’m pretty good, but not perfect. And, yes, I aim for perfection. Our site does require a moderator. I’ve seen other sites and communities blow up from poor or absent moderation. I don’t want that to happen to us because I value TLS and each one of you so much. It’s working! I want it to continue to work. I’m thankful for you guys for your patience, not only with each other and with TLS, but also with me. We are all learning here. So continue speaking your mind to me and to each other, and I will do the same. I trust you guys to do community well. You’ve proven it so far.
So, let’s play ball!