It catches me off-guard whenever it happens. And it happens in varying degrees to all pastors’ wives. What is it? I call it the Pedestal Syndrome. It’s the belief by some that the pastor’s wife is, or should be, perfect. They’re shocked to discover that you and the pastor fight … struggle spiritually … can’t do or don’t know everything.
When comparing this attitude between younger and older Christians, age isn’t necessarily a factor. Although, older parishioners may believe this myth more because of the silence that was common between ministers and laity in the past. Decades ago, pastors suffered in silence (and died young) for their stoicism.
As much as it dismays me to find parishioners who want us on a pedestal, I’m even more concerned when I meet a pastor’s wife who believes it’s her obligation to be perfect. I’m saddened to think about the struggles and pain she’ll face alone. For one of the tragedies you’ll endure by placing yourself on a pedestal is isolation.
Pedestals are lonely places. They don’t lend themselves to horizontal sharing. They circumvent emotional access between you and your sisters. When you live on a higher plane, you can’t admit: “I’m depressed, please pray with me,” or “I’m struggling with my kids, can you help?” It also works against you by forcing your parishioners to keep a distance. They’ll avoid sharing their battles because they assume you can’t understand their problems.
Pedestals also become a spiritual stumbling block. Just as some people may not come to you for help because of your perfect ness, conversely others may come to you for the solutions to all their situations, circumventing seeking God’s answer for them. They may look to you for approval and accept it as God’s approval. It has happened before when people followed their earthly shepherds, even into heresy, because they didn’t have their eyes on the Great Shepherd or their feet firmly grounded in God’s word.
You can check your pedestal position every once in awhile by asking yourself these pertinent questions:
1. Am I acting honestly in my relationships?
2. Do I serve people in order to point them to God or to gain their approval?
Just something to ponder,
[Reprinted from 1998 TPW]