Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct. Men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty. Female accomplishments come at a cost. ― Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
A friend posted this quote as her Facebook status this morning. Upon reading it, my gut clenched with rage. There's simply no other word to describe that hot, angry rush of emotion that churned quickly upward from my gut to my heart to my throat. Rage.
And naming it helps me admit that I am still very VERY angry about being forced out of two ministry positions. Yes, TWO.
The first was a part-time position while I was in seminary. The pastor was new to the church and had his own agenda (don't we all?) that didn't really line up with the mission or vision of the church. Though long-time staff and members tried to warn him about some of his changes, he moved ahead. An introvert who claimed to be an extrovert and a serious avoider of conflict, he simply didn't know what to do with me - a screaming extrovert who confronts things head-on. After I pissed off one of my committee members (who didn't talk to me about it but triangled the pastor into the situation to "deal with it"), he called me into his office without warning and proceeded to list all the things I had been doing wrong. The icing on the cake? "Your personality is acceptable in man, not a woman. This is just the reality of working in a church. We all have weaknesses and your aggressive nature is just something you'll have to work on if you want to succeed in ministry." I just sat there, stunned. I mean, what the hell was I supposed to do with that information?
There were other things at work in that particular system that ended up pushing me out. Granted, I left willingly because I was miserable there (an "aggressive", "liberal" woman serving in a conservative military town? Not the best fit)...but my resignation letter was met with barely hidden relief. Talking to other staff years later, they all admitted that though it wasn't intentional, I was set up to fail.
The second situation was more recent and stings a great deal more. I think perhaps because I was gut-wrenchingly honest in my initial interview about my wounds from the first situation and was reassured that my "out-of-the-box" thinking and personality was why they were hiring me.
All churches, organizations, companies, hiring entities do. They don't mean to (or maybe sometimes they do) and they're not aware they're lying but they are. Just like churches who swear they want to bring in young people and homeless folks and addicts and teenage moms and GLBTQ folk and that everyone is welcome. No really! EVERYONE! The thing is, that kind of community is messy and unpredictable and grace is sometimes just too hard because we're just too different.
But I digress.
The details are different but the story is the same. At the end of the day, my personality, theology, hobbies, and "stupid mouth got me in trouble" (to quote John Mayer). I was told it was based on poor performance but that was bullshit. And in the end, I was quietly ushered out the back door (while on maternity leave no less!) and no one batted an eyelash. Well...that's not entirely true. I know of one dear woman who confronted my previous supervisor about it but it went nowhere. I *love* the good ole' boys club, don't you?
Before this goes too far, I am well-aware of my personal shortcomings. I recognize that there are two sides to every story (maybe even more than that) and one's perceptions become one's reality. Seeing as how this happened TWICE, I could certainly be the "common denominator" in the equation and it really could be all my fault. I'm willing to have a conversation about that because I try to be a healthy individual who can admit her flaws and learn from her mistakes.
But reading that quote this morning tore off the (barely-formed) scabs over these wounds and the only thing I can articulate is a gaping-mouthed howl of rage.
And if I'm honest...really REALLY honest...
I'm done with ministry.