"The Pole Vaulter Fallacy"

A lot of my time is spent listening to people beat themselves up for a wide range of reasons. However, a large bulk of reasons that I hear people being so hard on themselves is what I am going to call the "Pole Vaulter Fallacy."

Generally speaking, listening to people I hear them talk about the shame or disappointment or anger they feel when they were not able to live up to some standard. Some of those standards are internal standards that a person has for what they expect of themselves. Some of those standards are perceptions of what others have of them. Either way, when these standards are not met, there is a lot of hurt that is shared. 

Here is why I call it the "Pole Vaulter Fallacy": The internal or external standards that are perceived to be so high that we need a pole vault in order to clear them. What makes it a fallacy, is that too often the reality is that the standards are only as high as a high jumper. Meaning, that many people are more than clearing the bar, but the pole they are using is knocking the bar down and so it looks like failure. 

Friends, consider the ways that the "bar" that is before us is not as high as you think it is. You don't need to grab a pole in order to clear the mark. Your jump is more than enough. You are more than enough. Trust in that.

Put the pole down, you are only hurting yourself. 

I know you are human, just don't be human around me.

There are many people that I come across who talk about how they wish the pastor would be more intentional at practicing what they preach. Perhaps they had an experience with a pastor and the pastor was a jerk to them. How can someone preach love on Sunday and be a jerk on Monday? 


Isn't that hypocritical? 

People have also expressed to me that they appreciate that I am a "real" person and not a 'holier than thou' sort of preacher. Words like authentic and real and human are thrown around and these words of affirmation make me feel good. They make me feel like I am really connecting with people and thus building trust and, in turn, spreading love. But there is an edge to all this "realness" and "authenticity": the pastor can be "real" and "authentic" but in very controlled ways.

Pastors can rarely call out the BS they see without doing more damage.

Pastors cannot flip people off or tell them just how wrong they were.

Pastors cannot tell someone that they are sort of crazy or imbalanced or out of line or inappropriate or acting a fool. 

Pastors cannot let their hair down, cut loose or in any other way loose control. 

Many of my clergy friends feel that people are okay with clergy being human, just as long as clergy are not human around them. 

Many of my friends feel like people give permission to (and would expect) pastors to express the range of human emotions but just not with church people. 

This may not be just a clergy thing. Do you find yourself in a lot in life where you are expected to be happy, carefree and "put together" all the time? Are we willing to let each other really be human?

"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired" - Fannie Lou Hamer

Recently Loyd Allen shared with a group of people I was with three simple lines that helped visualize the trap I feel caught in. I remade it google docs and embedded it below:

Arc of expectations.jpg

Generally speaking, I feel that the level of expectations that are placed upon me are at the red level. I feel like I am supposed to know all things theologically, have profound knowledge of the Bible, have visited every one in the church in their home and can share with anyone who asks about the status of everyone else, run the business side of the church, ensure we make our apportionment contributions, manage staff who each have their own expectations, give the best damn sermons that are engaging and thought provoking, model healthy family life and spiritual formation, give clear vision to every aspect of the church, attend city council/chamber/social club of your choice meetings, keep a rule of life, and be clean shaven at all times. My level of expectations is at the red level. 

In order to get to the red level I work at the grey level. Which is never enough for myself or others because the expectations are at the red level. So I am always letting a good number of people down at least some of the time. 

But what I can really do and maintain my own healthy boundaries is at the black level. If I really worked at the black level I would probably feel like I am lazy and others in the church would become even angrier at how far I am from the red level of expectations. 

We all expect too much from one another. We all expect red from people. We all need black. And grey makes me feel "sick and tired of being sick and tired". 

Can we just admit that most of the time we are all working in the grey, expect the red and dismiss the black level? Can we also admit this is unhealthy? Can we be the change to live more black and less red/grey?