Speak the truth in love,” and “see that none of you repays evil for evil,” exhorts St. Paul. Which is easier said than done. Consider the situation of a pastor who is told after a worship service, “The next time you preach on that subject, give me a call so I know not to come!” Or consider the situation of a female pastor who gets a prolonged and unwanted hug from a male parishioner. These are the kind of everyday situations that can generate anger and a knot in the stomach. How does one respond to such behavior in truth and love?
The problem is real for all of us and perhaps especially critical for church leaders who interact with a wide variety of people and who are likely to face personal criticism. Pastors are also often called to intervene in problematic situations, and they want to do so without destroying relationships.
Allan Rohlfs, a psychotherapist, is an adjunct faculty member at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a trainer in nonviolent communication certified by the Center for Nonviolent Communication.