I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl

Being vulnerable on a blog post can be tough. I’m not sure how everyone will receive my thoughts. My tagline for the blog is “Random thoughts from a transparent pastor.” This is me being transparent. This isn’t a post that you can just skim. It’s a post that every word matters to the story I’m trying to tell.

I don’t get to talk to everyone who reads my blog on a daily basis. If I have talked to you this week, and you asked, “How are you doing?” I would most likely have responded with, “This has been a tough week, but I’m doing okay.” Or I might have even responded by saying, “I’m sad, but tomorrow is a new day.”

What’s going on?

I’ve had trouble sleeping. I don’t have a problem falling to sleep, but for a week I’ve been waking up exhausted, but not able to fall back asleep. I also have this tingling in my fingers that comes and goes throughout the night.

I’m not a doctor, but according to the Internet I either have the early symptoms of the Bubonic plague or my body is having a negative reaction to stress. I haven’t seen any Bubons on my body, so I’m pretty sure my body is stressed. The Internet is a scary place to self diagnose. I’m kidding about the Bubonic plague, but you get the point.

More specifically I’m sad. I believe the sadness has fatigued my body and it’s reacting funky.

I’m not depressed. I’ve been that before and this isn’t that. This is a sadness that comes and goes. It’s a sadness that I believe will pass in time. It’s a sadness that I hope will move closer to going away as I write about it.

What am I sad about?

I think the great poet Gwen Stefani sums it quite well.

“I heard that you were talking poo (pastoral edit for this post)
And you didn’t think that I would hear it
People hear you talking like that, getting everybody fired up.” – Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani

Now, I’m not sad because people are talking negatively about me. I get negative comments on the regular. Between my blog, reviews for my book, and being a pastor I pretty much expect to let someone down daily.

I love the quote by Dan Allender,

“A good leader will, in time, disappoint everyone.”

I don’t even consider myself a good leader yet. I’m still learning. I’m in progress. But I do know that leading equals disappointment for someone. I hate that fact, but I’ve embraced it.

I believe that even if I was perfect someone would crucify me. I’m not sad because someone is upset with me. I ain’t no hollaback girl. I don’t even know what a hollaback girl is, but I don’t want to be one. I try to forgive. I try to not hold grudges. I try to show grace because just like I’m not perfect I know others aren’t either.

I’ve known for weeks some of the things people have said about me behind my back and I’m choosing to believe the best. I’m choosing to believe that they don’t know how their words have impacted.

What’s made me sad are my thoughts that have come with this specific round of negativity.

It has made me feel, as a pastor, I cannot let people in. It’s made me feel that friendships are so fragile I am better off keeping people at a distance.

I’ve said often that I am a dirty rotten sinner. I’m not perfect. I’m not Jesus. I will let you down. I will misspeak. I will forget. I will be insensitive. I do get angry. I like to argue my point. I’m sensitive at times and stone cold at others. I’m human.

This situation has made me sad because I’ve worked hard at teaching on how to handle conflict.

Here are some things I’ve taught on in the last couple of months…

  • A frustration is never content until it’s expressed. They key is to communicate your frustration early in the process. “The longer you wait to communicate your frustration the madder you will be, and when things are eventually confronted you may over communicate.” – Andy Stanley
  • Tolerance is granting people the right to be wrong. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:3
  • I will talk to the person and not about the person.“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” Matthew 18:15
  • When you talk about someone else you are communicating I care more about being right then I do about this relationship.
  • “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:17-18
  • When you are more concerned with being right then solving a problem you are wrong.
  • “Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18

I taught on those things not because there was conflict. At the time that I taught them I didn’t know of any conflict. I taught on those things because conflict is inevitable. Every church I have ever been a part of had one thing in common…conflict. I taught on those things because I was hopeful that when conflict did happen we would handle it better.

My sadness comes because I feel hopeless. If we, as Christians, are not going to handle conflict Biblically then for the rest of my life people will leave as soon as I let them down.

It seems my only options are to become so afraid of leading that I never make a move or I become jaded to people. I hate both of those options.

I’m sad because whenever someone asks to go to lunch with me the thought in my mind is “I wonder how I’ve upset them.” I literally sit waiting for the proverbial bomb to drop.

Forgiveness isn’t just for sin. For Christians it’s how we protect ourselves from becoming bitter. I’m sad because until people bring their frustrations to me I can’t ask for forgiveness.

I’m sad because when we disagree we should be able to still be friends.

So what’s my goal for writing all of this.

For one, it’s to feel better. I’m tired of bringing my sadness home to Monica. It’s time to buck up and I need to get this out. Writing helps me process and feel better.

For two, I hope that everyone who reads this will do the hard work of talking to the person and not about the person.

For three, it’s my attempt to not become jaded. I want to trust people. I want to know that friendships aren’t going to end every time I make a mistake. I want to believe when I make a decision others don’t agree with we can still be friends. I want to believe that together we can follow the teachings of Scripture. I want to believe the the world is a safe place for me to be myself. I want to believe that my friends will love me enough to show me my blind spots, and be patient with me as I grow.

As I sit here typing I’m scared to hit publish. Maybe it’s best to keep this stuff private. But this is who I am. I wear my feelings on my sleeves. I process out loud. To not share feels disingenuous to me.

So I share and I hope it won’t stir up more of anything. I share and I hope it will open up lines of communication. I share and I hope, somehow God shines bright even through my mess.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Rob Shepherd

I am the full-time husband of a wonderful woman! I love being married! We are proud parents to twins, Hayden and Reese. In my spare time I am the pastor of Next Level Church. I have a relationship with God and it is an adventure. Oh and I wrote a book. It's called Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You.

48 Comments

  1. Kim
    February 4, 2016

    I’m praying for you, Rob. I greatly appreciate your transparency and sharing your heart. I have learned a great deal about communication and how to handle issues from you over the past few months and have used them to improve my relationships. I’ve had hard conversations, ones I didn’t want to have, but in the end it was better for me and the relationship. They weren’t pretty or eloquent, but the happened and things are better because of them. I’m not the best at trusting people. I’ve been hurt deeply in the past and instead of assuming the best, I always jump to conclusions. Thank you for equipping us with the tools we need to have healthier relationships with one another. My prayer is that the necessary conversations come about in your life so that there can be resolution and healing.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Kim, what I valued so much from your comment was how you took the part in the post about things I’ve taught and you referenced it here. That truly gives me hope. Thanks for the comment and for the encouragement.

      Reply
  2. February 4, 2016

    I have been jaded. Jaded sucks. Jaded is ugly, bitter, and suspicious. I don’t ever want to be that again. I don’t ever want you or anyone else to be that. I’m sorry that you are experiencing this stuff, but I’m glad that you are communicating about it. I look forward to doing lunch with you soon. So we can talk about… lunch. And blogs. And kids. And sermons. And school. And movies. And whatever else may come up.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Rob, looking forward to some sushi with you. Thanks for the invite to lunch without a bomb dropping.

      Reply
  3. Sherry C.
    February 4, 2016

    I’m sad that you’re feeling sad.
    I appreciate you and your commitment to your people and your love for Jesus and for all people and your authenticity. I personally know folks who aren’t even totally sure about the whole Christianity thing, but who read your blog regularly because you share your thoughts with such humbleness and love.
    Praying for you to know how much of a difference you make in the lives of others and be released from your sadness. And for sleep. We all need that. 🙂

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Thanks Sherry! I greatly appreciate your words.

      Reply
  4. February 4, 2016

    Rob, I always appreciate how you keep it real. Your vulnerability is refreshing in a culture where so many shenanigans are pulled in Jesus name. It isn’t easy, but don’t lose hope. You’re one of the good guys.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Thanks Chad! That’s kind of you. Now if I could just beat you in Words With Friends. Haha.

      Reply
      • February 8, 2016

        Not happening. 😉

        Reply
  5. Scott Hunt
    February 4, 2016

    I love you Rob, let’s grab lunch soon. I promise no bombs, just Chipotle and chit chat.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Scott, I’m down with that. Always enjoy our conversations. Send me a text with a couple of options for when you are free for lunch.

      Reply
  6. Kevin
    February 4, 2016

    Rob, I really appreciate your honesty here. I think that this is something that so many of us struggle with. It seems conflict is inevitable in everything we do, but it is how we handle the conflict (early and often!) that really makes the difference in our lives.

    I had never heard the quote that good leaders will disappoint everyone at some point, but that seems to be true. It comes with the territory and we need to be resilient. I do not deal with criticism very well and take things personally too often. As humans, we tend to let one criticism outweigh 100 compliments.

    I hope that those who need to live out the principles you’ve been teaching see your blog and take it to heart. Your sermons have definitely made me stop and think days, or weeks after you’ve given them.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Kevin, thank you for your words. I greatly appreciate knowing God is using a sermon to draw people to Himself and help them think. This one was tough for me to share because I do not think my sadness comes from someone talking bad about me. It comes from feeling like it’s not safe to have friends as a pastor. I don’t want to become a politician who preaches. It made me sad because I see now why so many pastors have facades. It’s just easier and that makes me sad.

      Reply
      • Kevin
        February 4, 2016

        I think most people expect their pastor to have a facade in the same way most people who show up to church have a facade themselves. It is a difficult unconscious expectation to break because people don’t even realize how much better off they are without the facades. This is one of the things I appreciate about NLC in particular. It is a church for “dirty rotten sinners” as you often put it. It goes back to your series on wearing masks as well. We (and “the church”) have worn masks so long we don’t know how to take them off.
        Having friends means being open and the “perfect pastor” expectation puts more pressure on you than the rest of us. I hope you can find those who don’t expect that and gain close friends.

        Reply
  7. February 4, 2016

    This is one of your best blogs ever.
    This is transparency, this is authenticity, the is real life. I’m sorry you’re sad and that you’re going through this right now. I’ll tell you a few things I know for sure have helped me through sad times.
    1. God does so give you more than you can handle. It’s kind of his deal. Because when we reach the end of what we can handle, we reach for Him.
    2. There isn’t always a silver lining. Sometimes things just suck. He is with us in the suckage. He stands with us and holds our arms up.
    3. Yeah, yeah, He works everything together for our good. He definitely does, but sometimes we can’t see the good in it. I do know that He never lets our suffering go to waste.
    You’re a brave pastor, and you’re right. Christians should be amazing at confrontation and dealing with conflict and frustrations. Often Christians are the worst at it.
    Speaking up…being authentic like this…maybe that’ll help someone do a little better next time.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Thanks Chris! Your comment brought life to my soul.

      Reply
  8. Marsha Allen
    February 4, 2016

    Thank you for this gift of a blog post. I support you, I pray for you–regularly. Thanks for shining light instead of giving into isolation.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Thanks Marsha! I greatly value those prayers!!!

      Reply
  9. Karen
    February 4, 2016

    Sorry I am just reading this blog. I don’t know what you are going through but I am sorry that you are and it makes me sad. We the people can be so hurtful, even without knowing it sometimes. Thank you for being so transparent and for having such a heart for God’s people. No matter how it hurts, please don’t let the enemy steal your Joy. He doesn’t deserve it. Clearly, you are probably under attack, and probably Next Level, too. My calendar gives Galatians 2:11-21 as scripture. … he began to draw back and separate himself… because he was afraid. (Gal 2:12b). “We have a choice: either to be open, real and vulnerable, or to protect ourselves. It is easy to fear being hurt and so hold back from meaningful communication and relationships. Meaningful communication can only truly happen when people know each other and allow others into their world. To be open means to know and to be known-to share and know each other’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs and worries.” You are on point!

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Thanks Karen! I appreciate the verse and quote! Spot on.

      Reply
  10. February 4, 2016

    Fight. Too many pastors in your shoes let themselves get isolated. Fight. Fight. Fight.

    Reply
  11. Jim Williams
    February 4, 2016

    Rob, Thanks for being authentic and transparent! I value our relationship and your friendship. I often see you listening to others and wonder who listens you you? I’m down for lunch at Chipolte anytime!! I ain’t skeered!!!

    Reply
    • February 4, 2016

      Jim, that made me chuckle. I love Chipotle time with you. We need to make sure you make it into the Chipotle pic collage for February as well.

      Reply
  12. jebatthebeach
    February 4, 2016

    I second Larry’s comment!
    Rob, you are a good friend and pastor. You have too many people that love you as both for you to withdraw.
    So many of us lose friends due to different circumstances, unfortunately when you lose a friend that attends your church they (more than likely) leave the church and may take others with them.
    Please don’t stop being YOU.
    BTW, A Hollaback Girl is someone that fights words with words. Gwen is saying she fights back physically.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Joan, thanks for the encouraging words. Based off the lyrics to the song I guessed that’s what a Holdback Girl was, but when I looked it up it said something about being “easy.” That made no sense to me based off her lyrics, so I left being confused.

      Reply
  13. connie
    February 4, 2016

    Rob, I am so sorry you are feeling sad, You have been such an inspiration through your sermons and personal help you have given to me. I love the fact that you are so open because it allows me to feel it is ok to be open with you.
    You have even encouraged me to work out and I joined the YMCA last week.
    Rob, you are a wonderful Pastor, Father and Husband. Please stay positive and know you are loved and appreciated by so many people.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Connie, it really is okay. Life produces sadness sometimes. I am excited that you joined the YMCA! That is full of awesome! Thank you for taking the time to encourage me! You rock.

      Reply
  14. DP
    February 4, 2016

    Love. It’s what I have for you friend.

    Great post. I’ve always admired your transparency. Know that I am always willing to be there… Anytime. Also know you are a great pastor and leader. Know that I wouldn’t say that if I did not believe it.

    Mountains often get made of mole hills and people are people… They make mistakes and often are unwilling to put in effort to work through issues. It’s sad and that’s life, unfortunately one has little control over others.

    I think you know, but my friendship is anything but fragile. Anytime friend.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Dan, I greatly value you. Thanks for this and for the text conversation. I know text is not your favorite. Neither is pouring out gooey words of affirmation and you did both to help me. Thanks!

      Reply
  15. Laura Spiers
    February 4, 2016

    The words “sad” and “Rob Shepherd” almost do not even compute to me! Like an oxymoron. So sorry you are struggling. I hope that blogging about it is the cathartic healing you need.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Laure, it truly was. I was able to bounce back as soon as I hit send. Thursdays are sermon writing for me and with the funk I was in I needed to get this out. I was able to write the sermon and felt back to normal.

      Reply
  16. Randal
    February 4, 2016

    I don’t think I have adequate words to tell you how much I appreciate your transparency and authenticity, be it in a blog, a sermon or a conversation. Your willingness to lay bare your imperfections is part of what make you so safe for me to speak to. I know you won’t judge or condemn, but rather listen with compassion and grace. Your sermons are empowered as well by your self-inclusion as a “dirty rotten sinner”.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this season. I’m here for you. Whatever. Whenever.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Randal, thanks for sending me a text today! I greatly value you!

      Reply
  17. Mary
    February 4, 2016

    Rob,

    You are an amazing leader and you have taught me so much through your weekly sermons and through your blog posts. You have taught me how to handle conflict and how to love myself. You have taught me that it does not matter what people say about me because it only matters what God thinks about me. I am a sinner but you have taught me that God shows me grace even in my sin. Without you, I do not know where I would be. Of course I would still be surviving without you but there is a difference between surviving and truly living. You have taught me how much God loves me and and makes me love Him so much more. I have always loved people but I love them better. It makes me sad that you are sad. I wish I had the wise words to help you like you help me when I need your wise words.

    I am praying for you Rob.

    Mary

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Mary, thanks! I really am okay. The sadness was not end of the world sadness. It just was sadness that I wanted to kick. I hated talking about it with Monica for three days in a row and still feeling this sadness. Writing the thoughts out and having great encouragement from friends like you helped a lot! Thank you.

      Reply
  18. Deedie
    February 4, 2016

    Rob,
    Your transparency is what I love about you & your ministry. I was drawn to your “spirit” & emotional messages. Sharing situations & revealing that you struggle with the same issues we all do, is indicative of a great leader…thanks for this humbling blog…

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Deedie, I miss you and Courtney. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Reply
  19. Lindsay Enzor
    February 5, 2016

    Rob,

    It’s amazing how every time I hear you preach or read your blog you become even more and more transparent. In a world where everyone has a mask affixed, I am drawn to Christian authenticity. This blog is just adding to reason 350,456,768,354 that I am so thankful to God for leading me to next level. Praying for a rejuvenation of your spirit, rest, and some delicious chipotle.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Lindsay, you had me at Chipotle! Thanks for the kind words! I love that God has led you to Next Level.

      Reply
  20. February 5, 2016

    For what its worth Rob, your heart and willingness to express it in this blog but mostly in your book have changed the lives of myself and the community around me that I have shared it with. You have had a significant and lasting impact on thousands of people who you do not even know. It reminds me of when Elijah says to God “and I, even I only, am left”. I have felt that way many times. God reveals to Elijah that there are 7000 in Israel who have remained faithful to God. I know it must be frustrating to speak life to some people who clearly do not get it. But rest assured that there are thousands, tens of thousands who have heard the voice of God through you and it HAS CHANGED our lives forever. I am one of them and I personally know 13 others who would amen this comment! Think on those and rest my friend.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016

      Thanks Andy! I greatly appreciate your words. I told my wife about your email to me. So amazing! Thanks for being full of awesome.

      Reply
  21. Lauren Cory
    February 5, 2016

    Rob, one of the #1 things I admire and respect about you the most is your vulnerability as a pastor and as a Christian, and this post just reinforces that. I am praying for you and Next Level all the time, and will continue to do so.

    Reply
  22. February 5, 2016

    Rob
    Thanks for “hitting publish” my friend. So many pastors are afraid to hit publish because they haven’t – or haven’t been allowed to – created a safe place to be transparent. I love the way you lead. Keep pushing through!

    Reply
  23. September 16, 2016

    Rob.. I came over to read this blog after I read your post regarding Pastor Pete Wilson. It is truly heartbreaking when pastors have to be careful of everything they say or do and even harder for you to make friends. It really isn’t fair when people expect you to be perfect just because you chose to go into ministry and lead people. I agree whole heartedly with you on every word.
    We have friends who are pastors of a church about 2 hours away. We have known them for many years and we make extraordinary effort to spend time with them because they need time with people who will treat them as FRIENDS and not as anything else. We laugh, cut up and minister to each other and do our best to help fill their energy tank with “friendship fuel”. Something extremely vital to those who run on empty sometimes.
    I think pastors sometimes fall into the trap of believing they are infallible to temptation and that ironically makes them the most vulnerable.
    Thank you for writing such a poignant piece and hopefully bringing the awareness of “pastors are people too” to light! God Bless you and your family! 🙂 <3

    Reply
    • September 17, 2016

      Thanks Kim! I greatly appreciate your comment!

      Reply
  24. Deb
    March 11, 2017

    Rob, keep being real. And hang on to the Lord! My dad was a pastor for over 50 years, so I have seen him experience some of these same struggles in this blog. Thank you for your commitment to your calling no matter what comes. God is pleased!

    Reply

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