For me, the hardest part of being a pastor’s wife is my fear that so much of what I do, or say, or think, is interpreted by other people as a direct reflection of who my husband is as a spiritual leader.
My husband and I share a lot of views and opinions on many different topics, both secular and religious. But I’m not a carbon copy of him. Sometimes we disagree. Even though he has the benefit of four years of seminary, even though he’s my pastor, and even though I respect his opinion highly – even with all that – sometimes I think he’s wrong.
And we’re both okay with that.
He doesn’t expect my thoughts, views, and beliefs to be a direct reflection of his own. I’m married to man who values me for being me; he has no desire for me to parrot his opinions as my own. Lively debate is typical to our relationship as we enjoy intellectual sparring on topics large and small.
Even so, I often find myself editing my own thoughts and opinions when I am in a church environment.
Mind you, that’s not always a bad thing. There are a lot of reasons why my husband is a pastor and I’m not. One of the big ones is his ability to engage in meaningful discourse with people who disagree with him. He’s quite good at listening. He doesn’t feel the need to prove people wrong. Even when someone says or believes something he finds personally offensive, he somehow manages to find a place of commonality and begin a discussion from there.
Me? Well, not so much. I’m a blurter. Something pops into my head and it’s a struggle not to say it. That’s great when I’m inspired to crack off a line of snappy repartee, but no so wonderful when I’m in disagreement with someone. It’s very difficult for me to find a constructive way to reply to someone who says something I find offensive, especially when my first impulse is to list seven reasons why I think what they just said was banal and injurious. And sometimes I just have the urge to call them a stupid doo-doo head.
Like I said, I’m a blurter.
Obviously, immediately jumping someone’s case or resorting to name calling isn’t a mature response. And it’s certainly the last thing I want to do, especially in light of the fact that my words might be interpreted by some as the opinions of my husband. At the very least, they might pity Pastor Brian for having to put up with his loud mouth, opinionated wife.
Childish impulses aside, I do care (very much!) how my words or actions might affect others, especially the man I love most in the world.
Because of that, I spend a lot of time willing myself to say nothing. In fact, the stronger I feel about something, the likelier it is that I will remain silent. I just don’t trust my mouth to say the right words, in the right way.
In short, I’ve been operating under the belief that staying silent could prevent any problem.
But I was wrong.
It’s a problem for ME. It’s a problem because every time someone says something I don’t agree with, and I don’t respond, my silence is taken for assent. I’m not being authentic. I’m starting to think I might as well not be there at all – a cardboard cut-out could take my place if I’m not going to express my thoughts or opinions. I do believe I need to resist my tendency to blurt my thoughts without thinking them through first, but it doesn’t follow that I should have NO reaction. When I disagree, I can respond respectfully, yet remain true to myself. (At least I think I can. I might need to engage in a few practice conversations with my house plants first.)
The crazy part is that I created this problem for myself. My husband has never told me to censor my thoughts or beliefs. I’ve never been instructed to act a certain way. These restrictions that prevent me from speaking my mind — I put them on myself.
I just realized something, though, and it’s a real game changer:
I can take them off myself, as well.