Out of Exile: Day Thirteen – Invalidation

In Day Twelve I talked about secondary losses and how not knowing about them can leave you in exile.

Over the next few days I want to talk about five categories of loss and the secondary losses that accompany them.  Remember,  a primary loss is like “losing your car keys” while the secondary loss is what happens as a result of losing your keys, like losing respect from co-workers because you are often late for work. 

People don’t understand pastors or what it means to be in ministry. We are set up to be invalidated.

The first category of loss is INVALIDATION. To invalidate someone is to insult them or to put them down. It means to disrespect or discredit someone: to make them feel worthless.

Simon Cowell made a name for himself invalidating people. That’s why people got so mad at him. If you are in ministry, you are an easy target for the mini-Simon Colwell’s who are in your congregation.

Here is a list of quotes from pastors that gave me an example of their being invalidated:

I’ve had several variations of this conversation: “So you’re a pastor?” (oh, how interesting, a female pastor, tell me more) “Yes, I work primarily with the youth at the church.” “Oh, you’re a YOUTH pastor.” (oh, just a youth pastor) (as if that somehow makes my credentials not as legitimate)

Oh, it must be nice to work one hour a week.

A pastor… Right, preach a sermon and then back to drinking coffee.. All you do is drive around and socialize with people, what a easy job..

First compliment I ever received from a member (who actually went to the trouble to use the phone): “Great job getting us out of there on time today pastor.”

“Oh, you’re a chaplain? I could never be a chaplain. I could not compromise the word of God.” (Spoken by someone uncomfortable with my ministry to non-Christians in the hospital.)

Someone asked for financial assistance we couldn’t give and said, “you pastors don’t know what it’s like to have to work for a living.

My wife and I often find ourselves excluded from social gatherings. We’ll hear of groups that get together for parties, or to catch a game, or a night out for drinks. . .and we just never got invited (even though we would consider these people friends). I think, in their minds, having the pastor along would be weird, if not a complete killjoy.

We served a church 3 years. The church doubled in size. Everything was going great. New youth group and plans to build and hire a youth pastor. One night the elders decided they wanted the church to remain small and asked me to resign. They said we ruined their quite country church with all the “new” people. They’ve been through 3 other pastors in the last 2 years since we left. It was and has been heart breaking. 40 people have been displaced.

The invalidation that gets me is when people  ask me what I do for a living. That’s a conversation stopper. The other day I expanded it. Instead of saying that I’m a pastor I said that I’m a writer, speaker and I pastor a church. I thought giving them a few options might help. It didn’t. I got the same blank look and the conversation quickly shifted.

People don’t understand pastors or what it means to be in ministry. We are set up to be invalidated.

So let’s look at this…What’s the secondary loss associated with invalidation?  I think it’s the loss of respect.  Everyone wants their worth to be recognized.  No one wants their life’s work to be trivialized.

Plus there’s the loss of control.  We want to stop people from saying stupid things. Or, in my case, I want so much for someone to show a shred of interest in the life of a pastor. Just once it would be nice for someone to lean forward and saying, “Wow. Interesting. What’s that like, getting to work with hundreds of people, talking about some of the most important issues in life?” But we have no control of what people say or don’t say to us, and so that’s a loss.

Remember, loss always leads to anger. You need to identify the loss and own the anger if you want to grieve the loss and move on and out of exile.

What are some ways you experience invalidation (pastor or not)? What are the secondary losses that come with it?  I’d love to get your feedback. I find the comments to be much more interesting than what I’ve got to say.  Thanks for dropping by.

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4 thoughts on “Out of Exile: Day Thirteen – Invalidation

  1. Lisa

    Invalidation is a nice word for bullying. We were “schooled” by one particular congregation about work-place bullying. http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/bully.htm . You expect bully tactics from the unbelievers but not from you’re own tribe. Intentional friendly-fire feels the same as betrayal. Which stings worse dealing with the permissive, cowardly by-standers or taking the violence from the well-practiced abusers?

    Have you heard statements from congregations like: “We own you” or “The Lord will keep you humble, we promise to keep you poor.”

    It’s hard to identify the primary from the secondary because they both hurt the same. Am I understanding this correctly, the primary or the key is at the surface? For example, like the kid’s toys in the yard example? But the secondary loss goes all the way down to play with old triggers you thought you “died to” like fear of poverty, rejection, abandonment and lack of respect? The secondary losses are the real anger issue like genuine unmet desires of love, respect, mutual understanding and concern?

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      Sounds like some toxic people in your past there Lisa.

      You’ve got it right about the two kinds of loss. The primary loss is the visible loss: a death, loss of job, criticism, etc. The secondary loss is the invisible loss: respect, control, peace, safety, etc. People tend to stick with what’s visible while it’s the invisible that really does the damage. The Twin Towers falling in New York was devastating (along with all the deaths), but the is also the loss of security, faith, control, etc. that might follow that tragedy for years. To fully grieve the loss, you have to look at the FULL loss and not just the visible loss.

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