It's not easy as the visible overseer of a community to subject yourself to criticism. Last Sunday I invited people to please speak their minds without fear of repercussion. I even told the people that if at the end of the month they decide it's time to trade me in for a better model, then I'd resign. If March is the month of discovery for us, then we need to get everything out and on the table. So, I've been receiving criticism... criticism for the way I've done things, for my style, for my preferences, weaknesses and so on. I've been receiving affirmation too. But somehow that tends to get drowned out by the criticism. In fact, most the time the affirmations are embedded in ways I can do the good things I do even better, which sometimes sounds like criticism... like saying, "You look great! Imagine if you lost 10 more pounds!" You get my drift. But I must confess that I've discovered that there's something liberating in open analysis. When a safe environment is provided for people to express their views, even if dissenting, they have a sense of liberation and involvement. Their place in the community has meaning. But it's been surprisingly liberating for me too. Today, while I was having a meaningful and sometimes difficult conversation with a member of our community about serious issues concerning the community, I realized that I was okay with it. I realized that somehow the burden of the community wasn't all mine, but shared by all those concerned. I realize, as the one supported by the community to prioritize care for the community above all else, that open dissent can be a healthy thing. This is not to say that one leads by majority opinion or consensus, but that somehow the spirit of the community is discernible by the community and the community participates in the overall health of itself. Perhaps strong leadership encourages this to happen. Perhaps strong leadership isn't autocratic rule, even with the endorsement of the people, but round-table oversight. My expertise, educationally and experientially, is engaged in gently but firmly cultivating a community that is healthy... a community that does justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly. Believe me, this isn't to say I'll enjoy criticism. But I do know that it is a necessary ingredient in a healthy relationship, including community. The photograph is the creation of my friend Mark Hemmings. The cactus symbolize for me the prickliness of criticism. Nevertheless they are beautiful, alive and an integral member of desert life. If you want to purchase my cartoons or other nakedpastor artworks, go HERE. I'm open for requests too!