Jumping Off the Pedestal

by Editor on November 6, 2015


I live in fear of disappointing people. Supporters, our church, our organization, family, friends.

I know how messy my life is, I know the things I struggle with, I know where I stumble, I know how often I mess things up, and now I worry others will know too.

I have always been a pretty transparent person. I am a wholehearted believer in being who you are and being real. I have never really had an issue with pretending to be someone I am not. I usually openly admit to my mistakes and the issues I have; I am fairly aware of my poor habits and sin. I have a sweet husband who shows me areas of my life I need to work on, and he does it in a gentle way, even if I am sassy when he’s telling me.

But, I have never been put on a pedestal for being an “exceptionally good person.” Given the line of work my husband and I chose to enter about two years ago, we are now the recipients of undue praise and adoration for our “sacrifice” and “service.”

It’s a weird feeling. I don’t like it. It makes me feel like I have to pretend to be someone I am not in order to live up to their lofty idea of who I am. My default being in this position is to hide my sin, shove the issues I have aside, and not disappoint the people who now use me as a “great example” of a follower.

It started out okay. It was just at church where people would come and shake my hand and commend me for the work we are doing. Now, every single person in our lives: distant friends, former coworkers, and long-lost relatives are coming out of the woodwork to be encouraging and supportive. I love the support and encouragement, and we definitely need it. However, we now receive praise and adoration from most people in our lives. Somehow, what we chose to do makes us amazing people. They couldn’t be more wrong.

I was just willing, not exceptional. I didn’t want to go, I tried not to go, I resented going and was reluctant for a long time even after conceding.

Basically, not an awesome person at all. I would tell every single person the exact same beginning if I had the opportunity, but I don’t get the chance to tell that to everyone. So it leads to a disproportionate amount of amazement and revere for our decision. If they only knew I was on the losing end of an argument with God.  I was never going to win, because His plans will always succeed over mine, and I am grateful for that to be the case. I never want to be outside of God’s will, and that’s why we are overseas. His will was for us to be here, so here we are.

Now, back to the issue of trying not to be fake, while at the same time trying not to disappoint. I didn’t give the fear of disappointment much thought until my husband and I had a huge argument one evening. I wanted to call and chat with my close friends and family, but then I was overwhelmed with this huge sense of fear of letting them down. I want to be who they think I am, but I am not. I am stuck in this reality where everyone thinks I am someone I am not, and I am trying to play catch up to be that person. Meanwhile, I still have all the same struggles, sin issues and bad habits. God is working those things out in me, but they weren’t immediately eradicated when we boarded our plane in San Francisco.

I am not sure how common fear of disappointment is for overseas workers, but for this girl it has become quite a hurdle.

I wonder what people would think if they knew what I am really like. I wonder if they would think I am even worthy to support or send. It’s so much pressure to live up to an unrealistic ideal of who I am suppose to be. I began to wonder if that’s why people leave the field with broken marriages, torn-apart lives, and messed-up families. Is it because these people were trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of who they are? Is it because they were trying to achieve an unattainable ideal?

I totally think that the fear of disappointing supporters, sending churches, organizations, friends and family could lead to shoving issues aside and not working through things that need to be dealt with. I think the pressure of trying to live up to what others think of you and trying to be worth the investment of time and resources people have poured into you, would cause you to sweep things under the rug and hope that nobody notices.

I think that pushing problems aside, not dealing with issues as they arise, and living under unrealistic expectations could produce a catastrophic event that forces you to leave the field brokenhearted. If we don’t work through hardship and complications as they come, those issues aren’t going to go away.

Just like life back in the States, we have to deal with marital lows and hardship. We have to work through tough family obstacles at times. We have to face stress and anxiety at work and figure out healthy ways to deal with it. We have to tackle difficult relationships and resolve them. Life isn’t easy back in our home countries and it’s definitely not easy in a foreign country.

After thinking about fear of disappointment and how it’s affecting my life and decisions, I decided it was time to be real. To be honest and genuine, to be the person I am, imperfections and all. I don’t want to lead a dishonest life, I don’t want to be adored (especially for someone I am not), and I want to be free from fear.

I want to be able to say things like: I almost got hit by a taxi crossing the street two days ago and yelled a bad word at the top of my lungs while jumping out of the way. I want to be able to argue with my husband and be incredibly ticked at him and feel free to share it with people close to me who love me and can encourage us to keep working at marriage, because it’s hard. I want to be accountable for who I am and not who other people think I am.

To the best of my ability I am going to shove aside the fear of disappointment. I will address the issues, deal with the hard stuff, and be okay with the idea of being knocked of my pedestal, because I shouldn’t be up there in first place.


Originally published here.

Kristin and her husband are experiencing life on the other side of the world, where traffic lights are suggestions and people are the friendliest. You can usually catch her with her mouth full of food or talking away with her newest friend. She is a California girl in the heart of South Asia and people often dub her as the tallest girl they have ever seen (she’s 5’10). She never wants people to feel alone and loves sharing and hearing about the adventures of following God wholeheartedly. You can read more about her at www.soulfulshenanigans.com.

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  • karph63

    I totally agree with this!! I’m also one who is learning that I will disappoint others, and some may not even like me! When you are in the “limelight”, every error and every choice seems to stick out for all to see. I’m not enjoying the limelight very much, especially now. I have been diagnosed with something that I don’t want to share with everyone. There are some who think that somehow they have the ‘right’ to know. I’m sure that I am disappointing them since I’m withholding information, but I’m learning to have boundaries!

    • Kristin

      Yes, the limelight can be a difficult place to be, but it is a faster route to learning healthy boundaries at times. Thank you for sharing.

  • Casey

    Thank you for this piece! It is so true in our life.

    • Kristin

      Yes it is!

  • Sherri Dodd

    This is one of the additional pressures people in churches back home don’t realize. Thank you for being so honest! God is still using “plan A” – sending out flawed human beings as His witnesses. We are not superhuman ninjas. We each benefit from having people in our life with whom we can be real. As my second career in this field, I love being that safe place for others.

    • Kristin

      I love what you said about plan A – so true! Thank you for being a safe place for others – I think that’s a wonderful way to love other people in the field well.

  • Kris

    I greatly appreciate your honesty and willingness to share realities on the mission field. Pastors and spiritual leaders everywhere face being put on a pedestal. Few realize that it’s a cold and lonely place and it’s a long way down if one should fall. We just started a website for missionary support (supportministriesinternational.com), which is something we’ve been doing for over 30 years, and we would like to add more links and resources for those in the field. May we add a link to this blog? Do you have any suggestions for other excellent web links and/or references?

    • Kristin

      That’s awesome you started a website to help support missionaries, pastors and spiritual leaders! There is such a need for it!
      Yes, you can definitely link to this blog and my personal blog (I write about this kind of stuff from time to time) – soulfulshenanigans.com
      Unfortunately, I don’t know a ton of resources or web links at this point on this subject, but I am bookmarking your website and if I come across any I will send them your way!
      Thank you for all you do in helping support ministry workers!

  • “I began to wonder if that’s why people leave the field with broken marriages, torn-apart lives, and messed-up families. Is it because these people were trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of who they are? Is it because they were trying to achieve an unattainable ideal?”

    Thanks for this. You may be on to something here. The whole supporter-worker model is something I mull over a lot. We have never lived under it, at least not as “the supported,” but as a long-term full-time Christian who lives expat and often serves them, I see aspects of artificiality and stress it brings into relationships. So many misconceptions. But I had not thought of this aspect.

    Prayers for truth and healing, for freedom, to emerge. For you, for all of us.

    • Kristin

      Thank you for loving and serving the expats (we so need it)!! Yes, I think that trying live under these expectations and ideals can crush the normal people we are. I think there a lot of positive and negative ways in which overseas workers are supported. One of the reasons we chose the sending organization (Global Fellowship) we did is there focus on the missionary above the mission work with a motto of “a healthy missionary produces a healthy ministry.”
      Thank you for caring for the expats and your prayers!

  • Jody

    Oh sister! Thank you for your transparency! After 20 years I still struggle with not wanting to disappoint people, wondering if I should say how I’m struggling and on and on! I, too, consider myself an open person until the fear strikes and I wonder where my transparency might end me…

    • Kristin

      Yeah, I totally understand the “am I going to disappoint people if I am as transparent as I usually am?” struggle! You are not alone, sister!

  • don ansley

    Ditto on the pedestal thing Tracy. Several suggestions, some for us, and some for our supporters…Firstly, for us, on the sins of omission, if we don’t have a consistent prayer life, for example, because we are “too busy”… Then, rather than being a hypocrite and PRETENDING we do, CHANGE, ReArrange, whatever, you can’t give out what the Holy Spirit hasn’t put I …then, on sins of Commission, if, for example, the eye gate is allowed to wander over movies and TV shows it should not, don’t excuse and pamper (because we are tired, or need a break, or are feeling sorry for ourselves) take the plug out of the wall if you have to! Well you get it, don’t Fake, grow up in Christ….now as to our supporters….well make sure we are communicating the Truth and choose them wisely. For example, if you are in Germany and need a cheap old car, choose the kind of supporters that won’t freak out if it is a Mercedes or Audi. Well, what kind of fifteen year old reliable cheap to buy car did they expect you to find in Germany? Choose people who are real themselves….that sort of thing…people you can tell the truth to, who will pray for you with all your foibles. After all, you NEED brothers and sisters who are not carried about by every wind of change, who might, out of emotion pledge huge amounts, and then, just as quickly, cut you off when some glitzy TV preacher is exposed as a fraud. All the above scenarios have happened to my friends. Doctors and nurses working in refugee camps had funding cut by 40% when the Jim and Tammy debacle happened. Supporters who said if Jim and Tammy are fakes, everybody must be fakes.! Avoid such supporters by keeping real, for, that ‘pedestal’ is even narrower than the ones Presidents and movie stars stand on. Pray for REAL supporters and give them the Truth of your struggles so they can pray for you. After all, they, and we, serve The One who IS the Truth and we can’t base our service on artificial images.

    • Kristin

      Thank you for sharing. Good points on what we and our supporters and we can be doing. Great perspective.

  • Ellie

    Love this post, thank you!

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