Beyond Spinach in Our Teeth

I shared with someone last week that she had spinach in her teeth.  She was grateful, as I would have been if it had been me.

Life is about personal relationships and I hope we all have friends who will tell us about the spinach because . . .

  1. We want to spare people embarrassment.
  2. We know what it’s like to realize that we’ve been smiling with a chunk of green covering our incisors all day and nobody said a word.
  3. Most of us don’t want to gross people out when we smile.

I’ve been thinking about sharing awkward information in terms of behaviors.

A piece of spinach or a poppy seed or smeared lipstick is easily verified with a look in the mirror.  But giving someone feedback about behaviors that are impacting their relationships negatively is much more difficult.

  • Is she mean because of her drinking?  Or does she simply have an abrasive personality?
  • Does he know that he comes off as a mansplainer? Or is he simply an older man who wants to remind us that he used to run a company?
  • Is she aware that she needs to have the last word at every meeting?  Or does she simply remind me of a former supervisor I didn’t like?

Imagine having such trusting relationships that we could share uncomfortable things with our colleagues and friends, and that they would appreciate the heads up.  Imagine having relationships in which we hold each other accountable for the sake of community.

This is Church – in a perfect world.  I so appreciate it when someone tells me that I talked too much at yesterday’s meeting or I was harsh to someone.  It works when I trust the person who is sharing the feedback.

Imagine a congregation in which giving honest feedback is safe and encouraged:

  • That the newly divorced wedding coordinator needs to take a break from that role because she is alternately weepy or cranky at other people’s weddings.
  • That the man who’s been working with children for decades clearly doesn’t like kids.
  • That the church lady who has taken casseroles to new parents for as long as anyone can remember needs coaching on what not to say to new moms (because “it looks like you still have quite a bit of baby weight” is not helpful.)
  • That the guy who volunteers to patch up every maintenance issue in the church building for free is costing them a lot of money because the pros have to come behind him and re-wire the kitchen.
  • That the pastor of ten years needs to take a preaching class, attend a leadership workshop, or get coaching on bedside manner. (Ouch.)

For so long, even churches that call themselves “a family” have hesitated to give helpful feedback for the sake of the congregation.  Niceness is killing us.

I’m not talking about offering cruel comments.  I’m talking about nurturing the kind of deep relationships that welcome accountability and spiritual growth.  And this is not about self-improvement.  It’s about being the people we were created to be so that we can build a healthy congregation.

It’s helpful to understand how we are coming across to others, especially when we are presenting as mean/arrogant/snarky and we were hoping to come across as clever/helpful/amusingly sarcastic.

This might be a huge culture shift for your congregation but part of being the church together means sharing the feedback that behavior detrimental to the Body needs to stop. And also you have spinach in your teeth.

Image of Kristen Wiig.

3 responses to “Beyond Spinach in Our Teeth

  1. So true! And so difficult to do, right? Thanks Jan.


  2. This is one hopeful vision. This kind of candor would transform communities of faith. Love it Jan! Thank you


  3. Pingback: Friday Festival – RevGalBlogPals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.