Early on in my ministry, which is now past its first decade, I began to notice a certain pattern. A style of feedback that was so common that I realized it was more than even a mere archetype. It was in fact a culture that defined the way many people functioned. It was so frequent, in fact, many did not even realize how much it was affecting everyone and everything around them.
I have come to call this mindset “shame culture.” And it is quite simply defined: giving feedback for the purpose of tearing someone down. Making them feel bad. Smashing them under your boot. This is not constructive criticism that might actually bring useful change or learning. This is hurtful refuse meant to cause injury.Frankly, it is quite similar to, if not a synonym for, gaslighting, but I digress.
Many people seem to think that this type of verbal swill will somehow make themselves feel better. That they have avenged themselves of the barely significant slights that were hardly of any consequence except in their own minds. However, in their vengeance, they have taken what was something that might have been easily fixed or discussed, and made the offense entirely their own.
For causing shame is always, always the greater harm.
Shame culture is the bane of every profession, but especially pastors. And even I am sad to say I have experienced it in just about every church of which I have been a part. It is not healthy. It is not appropriate. It is not acceptable.
The only way to combat it is to choose the better way: healthy communication.
That means actively talking about what you need when you need it. If you have a problem, talk to the person who has caused it, face to face, and in a timely manner. Pick kindness and compassion over spite and malice as your main modus operandi. Remember that everyone has a battle they are fighting that you know nothing about.
And more than anything, especially if you are a part of the church, remember to test everything you say and do through this question: would Jesus want you to think, say or do this?