I suspect that cynicism is a universal human trait. Cynicism is that part of us that is distrustful of human nature, motives, and authority. Cynicism causes us to think that people are motivated by self-interests. Thankfully, for most of us, cynicism is only a small and healthy part of our personality.
Most of us are not cynical enough to be a danger to ourselves. Most of us trust the other person will stop when the traffic light turns from yellow to red. We assume the grocer is honest when they list a freshness date on their products. We typically don’t doubt the automobile mechanic when they tell us are brakes need repair.
A person with no cynicism is dangerously naïve. Society sometimes laughs at such persons because of their gullibility and takes advantage of the naïve person’s worldview, leaving the non-cynic feeling like a doormat.
A person who has too much cynicism is dangerously critical and pessimistic. Society usually avoids these persons altogether, depriving the cynic of the feeling of community that is so desperately needed, leaving them feeling isolated and lonely.
My observation is that persons who have experienced a forced termination from a church staff discover a dramatic increase in their own personal level of cynicism. You realize that prior to the forced termination you were more trusting. After the termination, you become more suspicious and begin to think you can count on no one, and betrayal is a part of the job description for deacons and official board members.
After experiencing a forced termination, you find yourself wondering what people really mean when you hear “You’re doing a great job, Jim” and “Jim, can you come to my office?” Learning how to trust again and whom to trust are two of the biggest hurdles that await those who have gone through forced termination.
The damage of trust for ministers who experience forced termination has long-term effects that persons responsible for the forced termination seldom consider. A forced termination has an immediate effect on the staff member and their family. They may become suspicious of everything said and done. Suspicion may stay with them for years.
A forced termination also has an impact on the unsuspecting church members who were not part of the termination process, but were blind-sided by the actions of a small group. The average church member has a hard time reconciling how people in a position of authority and leadership could act so un-Christ like.
I’m grateful for the on-going work of Ministering To Ministers (MTM). One of the many good things that MTM does for those who have gone through a forced termination is to set a foundation for learning to trust again. Deciding to trust again and learning how to trust are two things that MTM teaches those who have gone through forced termination. I’ve discovered that the wellness retreat, the retreat reunion, and the frequent reality-checks that Charles Chandler provides, have helped my family and me recover more quickly from the devastation we suffered four years ago during a forced termination. The staff and the church members where I currently serve also helped our family recover from our wounds.
Author’s name withheld by request – Editor