Managing Our Image: Our ‘Deflate-Gate’

©pzphotos/ Dollar Photo Club

What do you manipulate to gain an edge? It’s doubtful that you instruct an employee to deflate a football – and the things we do are likely not even clearly cheating. But, there are things we do or don’t do to impact people’s perceptions of us; Author and Pastor John Ortberg calls this image management.

If you don’t follow the NFL, last year’s Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady has been accused and punished by the NFL for directing that his footballs be deflated to an air pressure that makes them easier to throw. I won’t use this blog to weigh in on the controversy or make judgments on Brady, but “Deflate-Gate” has caused me to consider what we as church leaders do in order to appear better than we are.

Why would we do this? Why do we try to manage our image?

  • We forget about God’s immense love for us.
  • We fall in love with people being in love with us.
  • We feel the pressure of the encore problem… e. each time I perform, I have to be better than the last.
  • We forget our reward is not on earth, but in Heaven.
  • We feel pressure to have all the answers.
  • We link our performance to our self-worth.

What’s your equivalent to deflating footballs? How do you try to get ahead in the game?

How do you manage the situation or your image in order to be someone you’re not?

No doubt, our manipulation of facts, personality, or performance is more subtle than having a ball boy deflate footballs prior to a championship game. But maybe they look like this:

– We try to sound busier than we really are.

– We angle for the credit spotlight.

– We leave out the “whole” truth in stories.

– We one-up for fellow staff members.

– We make our spiritual life sound more spiritual than it really is.

While not true of everyone, many church-members put their ministers on a pedestal. They assume we have our stuff together, and have presuppositions about how we should live. And often with pure motives, we seek to not disrupt that image – but instead of working hard to become better, we simply misrepresent reality.

Daily image management gets difficult. So difficult, it can cause spiritual and relational implosions. My guess is that a lot of people already know we’re not everything we seem to portray – so this kind of inauthenticity is not only a sin that hurts you, but also your church.

Decreasing your image management may require some hard conversations. It may lead to accountability or development plans. Unfortunately, it also may lead to a loss of certain relationships. I have no tricks to simply stop managing your image. But, I can tell you that God created you to be the person He wanted you to be… And that’s enough. Work to fulfill His expectations, and the rest will work itself out.

For more on image management, see previous post on ministers and image management.

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